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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Rethinking Drinking

Rethinking Drinking

Do you enjoy a drink now and then? Many of us do, often when socializing with friends and family. Drinking can be beneficial or harmful, depending on your age and health status, and, of course, how much you drink. For anyone who drinks, Rethinking Drinking is for you. And your loved ones.

People Drinking Alcohol

Rethinking Drinking is an easy-to-use Web site ( and publication from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). It is designed to help people reduce their risk for alcohol problems. Rethinking Drinking helps you analyze your own drinking and offers the latest, research-based information on the most effective ways to cut down, if necessary. Why not take a look now at your drinking habits and how they may affect your health? Rethinking Drinking can help you get started.

Alcohol and your health

Most adults who drink alcohol drink moderately and responsibly without complications. At the same time, alcohol-related problems—which result from drinking too much, too fast, or too often—are among the most significant public issues in the United States and worldwide. An estimated 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder, a term that includes both alcoholism and harmful drinking that has not reached the level of dependence. Short-term, alcohol causes someone to feel high, relaxed, or sleepy. Long-term, excessive use can change brain circuits, so that the urge to drink becomes as compelling as hunger. Genetic makeup and environment contribute to the risk for severe alcohol use disorder, which is characterized by:

  • Craving—a strong need, or compulsion, to drink
  • Loss of control—inability to stop once drinking has begun
  • Dependence—withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and negative emotional states, such as anxiety, after periods of heavy drinking
  • Tolerance—need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get "high"

However severe the disorder, many people can benefit from treatment. Talk with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.

Find Out More

  • MedlinePlus
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) World Services
  • Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters
  • National Association for Children of Alcoholics
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
  • Do You Have a Problem with Drinking?

    Ever felt you should cut down on your drinking? Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? Feel bad or guilty about your drinking? First thing, have you drunk to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover? If you answer "yes" to any question, you should see your healthcare provider right away. Even if you answered "no," if you are having drinking-related problems with your job, relationships, health, or the law, you should still seek help.

    Spring 2014 Issue: Volume 9 Number 1 Page 20