Alcoholism: Do You Have It?

My dad My father was a lively, warm hearted man. He was also an alcoholic, and he died far too early of advanced alcoholic cirrhosis (complete liver collapse). I see alcoholism as a big issue not only in my life but also, unfortunately, for a lot of expats and their families. I think it’s partly a disinhibition while living in a foreign land, to “burn bright” and enjoy a bit more personal excess than you would allow yourself back at home. Whatever the case, the consequences of alcohol abuse can be devastating to families and relationships.

Do You Drink Too Much?

The CAGE questionaire is a useful screening test to see how serious is your drinking. All you do is answer the following questions:

  1. Have you ever felt you needed to Cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
  4. Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

If you said “yes” to 2 or more, then you may have a serious problem and should think seriously about your drinking habits, or even discuss this with a doctor.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

This is a tricky question, because moderate alcohol actually helps cut down on heart disease! But moderate alcohol means one drink a day for a woman, two drinks a day for a man. Anything more than that starts to cause heart and liver disease. And this needs to be a steady, daily drink to be effective; binge drinking (at least 3 drinks in one sitting) is always bad for your heart and liver.

Who Can Help?

The hardest step is even admitting you may have a problem. Fortunately, there are support groups here in Beijing. You should start with the famous international support group Alcoholics Anonymous Beijing branch. They also mention a hotline number:13911389075, and email: [email protected] If you need to detox, I am told that the best local Chinese hospital is Anding Hospital, the Beijing psychiatric hospital. Their telephone is 5830-3193. They have english-speakers available, from 7-11:30am and 12-4pm. Also, if your insurance covers it, Beijing United Hospital has a Family Counseling unit that may be able to arrange an inpatient stay to detox. You’d have to first consult with one of their Family Counseling doctors and discuss this; the main appointment number is 5927-7000.

Can Doctors Help?

There are a couple new prescription medicines that can mildly help decrease the cravings and keep you off alcohol. But even more valuable are expat clinic psychologists and psychiatrists, who can be wonderful assets to help you cope with this issue as well as guide you — and your loved ones — through your recovery.

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