Liver disease up 300% …
Worried discussions with physicians …
What to do?

Being active in the SUD recovery field means I hear a lot about trends from health care providers:

  • OBGYN – Many more patients discuss concerns about drinking too much.
  • Liver Specialist – 300% increase in liver disease since 2019, many in their early 30s.

As for me? Calls and e-mails coming in from families and friends worried about excessive alcohol and drug use by the men and women in their lives.  Apparently, the one or two glasses of wine at the end the day is now morphing into three or four (or maybe more – it’s hard to keep track).  And the corkscrew is being activated earlier in the day.

Reports that women are drinking 30% to 40% more alcohol compared to last year confirm the anecdotal information from callers and colleagues.  One response, when concerns are raised, is “What’s the big deal? Wine is my stress reliever; I’ll cut back when COVID’s over!

But the question is: Can you? And, what are the risks in continuing on?

While it may be a great relief to relax and numb out a bit as the day drags on or winds down, persistent use can take you to the edge of losing control.  For most people, loss of control over how much to drink or when to drink is crossing the line from recreation and relaxation to dependence. 

Regaining mastery over that bottle is a familiar struggle for all us alcoholics.  “Damn, why can’t I drink like I used to?  Too bad, that horse is out of the barn.”

Rather than engage in this frustrating struggle, better to face facts (unpleasant as they may be).

Fact #1: Different Bodies – Variable Impact

Not everyone processes alcohol or is affected by alcohol the same way. As reported in the LA Times*, hospitals are reporting a significant increase in liver disease in 40-year-olds who are unexpectedly susceptible to the toxins in alcohol processed in this vital organ.  (Yes, alcohol is a poison.)  

  • Some people deteriorate rapidly; some go on seemingly forever. 

Why risk drawing the short straw?

Fact #2: Alcohol Kicks our Butts as we Age

As we age, we are less able to process alcohol through our system, meaning at age 40 we can’t drink as much as in our younger years. 

Fact #3: Check out These Signs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

  • Having trouble caring for your children and being present for them
  • Feeling tired, irritable, and unmotivated
  • Experiencing headaches and noise sensitivity
  • Being depressed and anxious
  • Increasing conflict in relationships
  • Hiding alcohol use from loved ones

(The two-by-four of reality can no longer be disregarded so easily.)

Fact #4: Jeopardizing Children’s Safety

  • Common Complaint:  Drinking and driving with the kids in the car.

Are you dropping your kids off at practice and then attending Parent Practice at your local pub while you wait to pick them up???  (AKA drinking and driving?) If you are caught, you will face a DWI and a possible child protection referral.

  • Another problem:  Spouse out of town for work.  Stay-at-home drinking parent is unable to respond to child’s request for help or other nighttime emergency.

And sometimes there is a medical emergency.  (Being a CD counselor means I hear a lot of horror stories.) Children do remember not being able to wake you.

Fact #5: Good Times Around the Corner

COVID downtime may be an excuse to drink, but what happens when we can all go out and party like it’s 1999?  We will celebrate by going to restaurants, bars and friends’ houses.  No way you are going to cut back. ‘

  • Now is the time to limit yourself to one glass a day and see what happens.

If you have trouble doing so, watch for my blog post later this week, “Five Steps to Stopping On Your Own,” based on suggestions from Harvard Health.

Five percent or so of American’s suffer from liver disease.  You don’t want to join this club, face a DWI, suffer an accident with your kids in the car, or be the stereotypical wasted parent!

*”As Alcohol Abuse Rises Amid Pandemic, Hospitals See a Wave of Deadly Liver Disease,” LA Times, Feb. 8, 2021

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