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Alcoholism and drug abuse

Some people should not drink at all, including:
  • Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • People who plan to drive or do other things that require alertness and skill (like using high-speed machinery)
  • People taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines
  • People with medical conditions that can be made worse by drinking
  • Recovering alcoholics
  • People younger than age 21

Even though Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are less likely to drink alcohol than many other groups, they have high rates of abuse. Binge drinking and alcohol dependence are big problems for this population. Alcohol abuse has been linked to increases in injuries, violence, and mental health problems, including suicide. These problems are some of the top health concerns for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

Alcoholism is a pattern of drinking that is harmful to the drinker or to others. It is a disease that includes the following:

  • Craving: a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control: can't stop drinking once drinking has started
  • Physical dependence: having withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after a time of heavy drinking
  • Tolerance: need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to "get high"

For women, heavy drinking is consuming an average of more than one drink per day. Binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks on a single occasion, generally within two hours. Both heavy and/or binge drinking can lead to alcohol problems, including alcoholism. Binge drinking can raise a woman's risk of being hurt or raped.

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have some of the highest rates of illegal drug use among minority groups. Drug abuse also plays a role in many major community problems. These include car crashes and deaths, violence, stress, and child abuse. Drug abuse can lead to homelessness, crime, and missed work or problems with keeping a job. It harms unborn babies and destroys families. There are different types of treatment for drug abuse.

If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drugs, get help. Talk to your doctor or locate a drug or alcohol treatment program near you.

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More information on Alcoholism and drug abuse

Explore other publications and websites

  • Alcoholism: Do You Have a Drinking Problem? (Copyright © Mayo Foundation) - Take this alcohol use self-assessment to better understand your drinking habits. This assessment can't diagnose you with an alcohol use or abuse problem, but it can help you evaluate your drinking and understand whether you may benefit from treatment.
  • Concurrent Illicit Drug and Alcohol Use - This report provides statistics on the number of illicit drug and alcohol use incidents by various drugs and amounts of alcohol. It also addresses prevalence rates by race.
  • Drinking and Your Pregnancy - This brochure explains how alcohol can cause problems during pregnancy and lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. It also provides a list of resources for more information and where to get help.
  • Impaired Driving - This resource provides statistics on the number of impaired driving incidents. It also talks about risk factors for impaired driving and how to prevent it.
  • National Health Observance — Alcohol Awareness Month Online Toolkit - Alcohol Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of alcohol abuse and encourage people to make healthy, safe choices. This toolkit can help you keep track of your drinking, set a drinking limit, and cut back if necessary.
  • Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health - If you drink alcohol, this pamphlet can help you determine how much is too much and what to do if you're thinking about a change. It offers statistics on alcohol use, a checklist of symptoms for an alcohol use disorder, and a list of further resources.
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator - This website will help you locate a substance abuse treatment facility in your area.
  • What Is Substance Abuse (Copyright © New York Online Access to Health) - This website provides a list of resources and links to online publications with useful information on substance abuse. It addresses substance abuse in children, teens, and older individuals.
  • What You Need To Know: The Effects of Alcohol on Women - This fact sheet provides data and statistics on women and drinking, including associated health risks and the effects of drinking during pregnancy and nursing. It also provides resources for additional information about alcohol and women.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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