VA Maryland Health Care System Offers Tips about Alcohol Awareness

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Alcohol and its misuse causes long-term consequences for all aspects of society, from the disastrous effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders to the susceptibility to strokes in those 65 years and older.

Alcohol is all around our lives. Its misuse and abuse doesn’t discriminate, and it can affect everyone," said Suzanne Greer, LCSW-C, at the VA Maryland Health Care System.

With the opioid epidemic now at the forefront, attention has shifted away from the devastating consequences of inappropriate or excessive levels of alcohol use. Alcohol and its misuse causes long-term consequences for all aspects of society, from the disastrous effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders to the susceptibility to strokes in those 65 years and older. In addition, there is the long term affects of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis that accounts for 4 percent of deaths in which alcohol consumption is a risk.

“Alcoholism is one of Maryland’s worst kept secrets,” said Suzanne Greer, LCSW-C, deputy director of the Mental Health Clinical Center at the Baltimore VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System. “Alcohol is all around our lives. Its misuse and abuse doesn’t discriminate, and it can affect everyone. One in four families is involved with alcoholism.”

For Veterans struggling with alcohol dependence, the VA Maryland Health Care System can help. Alcohol dependence can be treated. Effective treatments include individual counseling, group treatments, medications to reduce craving or prevent relapse, and inpatient or residential treatment. Veterans can talk to a member of their VA health care team about the available resources that can help.

Here are some tips for anyone struggling with alcohol dependence:

  •     First, know the signs. There’s a big difference between alcohol use, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism, which can take years to develop. Not everyone who drinks alcohol will become an alcoholic. Those with a family history of alcoholism might be genetically predisposed to becoming an alcoholic. Others who drink might become dependent simply because they are trying to change the way they feel as a result of stress, a relationship breakup, the retirement from a job after many years, or some other traumatic experience.

Here are signs of using alcohol to cope:

1.    Drinking to de-stress
2.    Neglecting responsibilities repeatedly
3.    Using alcohol in a dangerous situation
4.    Having legal problems due to drinking
5.    Continuing to drink despite relationship problems

A sign that drinking has gotten out of hand is that while intoxicated, a person becomes belligerent, aggressively hostile and unable to control their anger or rage while intoxicated. This is a sure sign that the individual no longer has control of his or her alcohol consumption.

If you’re drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some helpful strategies to cut back or stop drinking:

  •     Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
  •     Keep track of how much you drink.
  •     Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
  •     Don’t drink when you are upset.
  •     Avoid places where people drink a lot.
  •     Make a list of reasons not to drink.

Family members of veterans or veterans can call 410-605-7000, ext. 5570 for help.

Editor’s note: To schedule an interview with Suzanne Greer, LCSW-C, deputy director of the Baltimore Mental Health Clinical Center at the VA Maryland Health Care System, call Rosalia Scalia at 410-605-7464 or at Rosalia@scalia(at)va.gov .

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Rosalia Scalia
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