Alcohol use disorder which includes a level thats sometimes called alcoholism is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol related problems. It also includes binge drinking a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks within two hours or a female downs at least four drinks within two hours. Binge drinking causes significant health and safety risks. If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. It can range from mild to severe. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important…


   A Different Kind of Alcoholic

A functional alcoholic might not act the way you would expect. You might think hes responsible and productive because he works every day. He could even be high achieving or powerful. In fact, his success might lead people to overlook his drinking…

What is heavy drinking? Women who have more than three drinks a day or seven a week are at-risk drinkers. For men, the limit is four drinks a day or 14 a week. If you drink more than either the daily or weekly limit, youre at risk. Youre not alone one in four people who drink this much already has a problem or is likely to have one soon. Overall, as many as 20% of alcoholics may be highly functional. A drink count isnt the only way to tell if you or someone you care about needs help. Here are some other red flags. Someone who needs help may:

  • Say he has a problem or joke about alcoholism
  • Miss work or school, get into fights, lose friendships, or have a DUI arrest
  • Need alcohol to relax or feel confident
  • Drink in the morning or when alone
  • Get drunk when he doesnt intend to
  • Forget what he did while drinking
  • Deny drinking, hide alcohol, or get angry when confronted about drinking
  • Cause loved ones to worry about or make excuses for his drinking

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many interconnected factors, including genetics, how you were raised, your social environment and your emotional health. Some racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans, are more at risk than others of developing alcohol addiction. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems. Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate.


   …Not all alcohol abusers become full-blown alcoholics, but it is a big risk factor. Sometimes alcoholism develops suddenly in response to a stressful change, such as a breakup, retirement or another loss. Other times, it gradually creeps up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If youre a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are greater…



Antidepressant medication, used under the guidance of a mental health professional, may relieve your depression symptoms. But antidepressants also come with side effects and dangers. Whats more, recent studies have raised questions about their effectiveness. At the very least, its clear that medication alone usually isnt enough – you also may need therapy and lifestyle changes. Learning the facts about antidepressants and weighing the benefits against the risks can help you make an informed and personal decision about whats right for you.

How effective are antidepressants?

Most mental health experts agree that when depression is severe enough to impact your ability to function in life, medication can be helpful – even lifesaving. However, research shows that antidepressants fall short for many people. A major National Institute of Mental Health study showed that fewer than 50 percent of people become symptom-free on antidepressants, even after trying two different medications. Furthermore, many who do respond to medication soon slip back into depression, despite sticking with drug treatment. Other studies show that the benefits of depression medication have been exaggerated, with some researchers concluding that – when it comes to mild to moderate depression – antidepressants are only slightly more effective than placebos. Medication may be right for you if depression is interfering with your ability to function in an important part of your life – work, school, or in your relationships, for example – and you think its worth the common side effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and loss of sex drive. Therapy, exercise and other lifestyle changes can work just as well or better than antidepressants – minus the side effects – but often depression can rob you of the energy and motivation to pursue these avenues. Antidepressants can take several weeks to take effect. If possible, use that time to explore self-help strategies, such as exercise, that can provide a more immediate mood boost. Alternatively, once the medication takes effect and your energy levels improve, consider therapy and lifestyle changes that can help you get to the bottom of your underlying issues and develop the tools to beat depression for good. So, while drug treatment can be beneficial, its by no means the only answer. There are other effective treatment approaches that can be taken in addition to, or instead of, medication.

Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain?

Youve seen it in television ads, read it in newspaper articles, maybe even heard it from your doctor: depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that medication can correct. According to the theory of chemical imbalance, low levels of the brain chemical serotonin lead to depression and depression medication works by bringing serotonin levels back to normal. The truth is that the causes of depression are far more complex than a simple deficiency in serotonin or other neurotransmitters. Since there is no test that can measure the amount of serotonin in the living brain, there is no way to even know what a low or normal level of serotonin is, or how depression medication can fix these levels. While antidepressant drugs increase serotonin levels in the brain, this doesn’t mean that depression is caused by a serotonin shortage. After all, aspirin may cure a headache, but that doesn’t mean headaches are caused by an aspirin deficiency.

What are the risk factors of antidepressants?

Anyone who takes antidepressants can experience side effects, but certain individuals are at a higher risk:

  • People over 65. Studies show that SSRI medications may increase the risk for falls, fractures, and bone loss in older adults.
  • Pregnant women. The use of SSRI’s late in pregnancy may lead to short-term withdrawal symptoms in newborns after delivery. Typical symptoms include tremor, restlessness, mild respiratory problems, and weak cry.
  • Teens and young adults. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all depression medications to include a warning label about the increased risk of suicide in children and young adults.
  • People who may have bipolar disorder. Antidepressants can actually make bipolar disorder worse or trigger a manic episode; there are other treatments available for those with bipolar disorder.

What are the side effects of antidepressant medication?

There are many different types of drugs used in the treatment of depression, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Side effects, such as weight gain or loss of sexual interest, are common. The most widely prescribed antidepressants come from a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Research suggests there is little difference in the effectiveness of newer antidepressants, but there may be differences in side effects, cost, and how long the medication takes to work. The SSRIs act on serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. Serotonin also plays a role in digestion, pain, sleep, mental clarity, and other bodily functions, which is why SSRI antidepressants cause a wide range of side effects including hostility, agitation, and anxiety. While some side effects go away after the first few weeks of drug treatment, others persist and may even get worse. SSRIs can also cause serious withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them abruptly.