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Are you practicing “Dryuary”? Turning January in to Dryuary (abstaining from alcohol during the month) has become a trend during the last few years for a variety of reasons. Some do it to simply take a break after a lot of holiday fun in November and December, while others do it to lose weight or address other health concerns.

Whatever the reasoning, OneWorld wants to help people manage their alcohol use responsibly all year long. With that in mind, during medical visits, we screen for substance and alcohol use, a process called Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT).

SBIRT is an evidence-based practice used to identify, reduce, and prevent problematic use, abuse, and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs. The SBIRT model was spurred by an Institute of Medicine recommendation that called for community-based screening for health risk behaviors, including substance use.

The damaging effects of alcohol

Alcohol often has a strong effect on people, and throughout history we’ve struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power. Why does alcohol cause us to act and feel differently? How much is too much? Why do some people become addicted while others do not?

What we do know is that alcohol’s effects vary from person to person and depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • How much you drink
  • How often you drink
  • Your age
  • Your health status
  • Your family history

The impacts and risks of alcohol

Alcohol enters your bloodstream as soon as you take your first sip. Alcohol’s immediate effects can appear within about 10 minutes. As you drink, you increase your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, which is the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream. The higher your BAC, the more impaired you become, which can cause:

  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Slurred speech
  • Motor impairment
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Coma
  • Breathing problems
  • Death

The bigger risks of drinking extend beyond your own body’s reactions and can include:

  • Car crashes and other accidents
  • Risky behavior
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicide and homicide

People who drink too much over a long period might experience alcohol’s longer-term effects, which can include alcohol use disorder, health problems and increased risk for certain cancers.

While drinking alcohol is itself not necessarily a problem, drinking too much can cause a range of consequences and increase your risk for a variety of issues. That’s why we screen our patients – to help head off these issues or address them if they’ve started.

For more information about SBIRT, visit www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/sbirt.

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