Terms to Know
Physical dependence on alcohol.
ASAM levels of care
The most widely used and comprehensive set of guidelines for placement, continued stay and transfer or discharge of patients with addiction and co-occurring conditions. Established by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
The purpose of an assessment is to gather the detailed information needed for a treatment plan that meets the individual needs of the person. It is a clinical process for defining the nature of the problem, determining a diagnosis and developing specific treatment recommendations for addressing the problem or diagnosis. Please note: Recover Alaska and Alaska 2-1-1 do not provide assessments.
BAC or blood alcohol concentration
The concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream. A BAC of .10 means the individual’s body has one part alcohol for every 1000 parts of blood. In Alaska, as in most U.S. states, you are considered legally drunk if your BAC is .08% or greater.
NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours.
Quitting alcohol completely without weaning off and without any medical help.
The ability of one drug to prevent withdrawal signs and symptoms of an individual’s physical dependence on another drug.
DTs or delirium tremens
A severe form of alcohol withdrawal. Individuals may have a fever, severe hypertension with a rapid heart rate, agitation and inability to remain still. Other symptoms can include drenching sweats, visual hallucinations, and extreme confusion. DTs can be fatal and require hospitalization.
Detox or detoxification
The process of abstaining from and ridding the body of alcohol.
Individuals diagnosed with both an addictive disorder (such as alcoholism) and mental health disorder (such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia).
The fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by providers to diagnose mental disorders, including addiction.
Assessment and education for at-risk individuals who have not been diagnosed with a substance use disorder
Medical treatment that takes place within a hospital or residential treatment facility. Inpatient rehab programs generally range from 28 days to 90 days or more.
A planned, professionally directed interaction in which family or friends confront an alcoholic and share their concerns.
Treatment that combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders.
Medical treatment without admission to a hospital or residential treatment facility.
A live-in health care facility that provides treatment for substance abuse disorders.
The purpose of a screening is to determine whether a person needs an assessment. It is a process for evaluating the possible presence of a problem by asking questions carefully designed to determine whether a more thorough evaluation for a particular problem or disorder is warranted.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s considered a “standard drink” of alcohol?
A standard drink contains about .6 fluid ounces, or 14 grams, of pure alcohol. Each of the drinks pictured here contain approximately the same amount of alcohol and are considered to be a “standard drink.”
Is beer or wine “better for you” than hard liquor?
No. The amount of alcohol you consume matters more than the type of alcohol you are drinking. Drinking enough of any alcohol will make you sick, whether it’s wine, beer or liquor.
Why do some people seem to be able to drink more alcohol without showing signs of intoxication?
The effects of any amount of drinking are dependent on more than just the alcohol itself. Factors such as medication, our diet, sleep habits and gender can influence alcohol tolerance. Two people of roughly the same weight and sex can consume the same amount of alcohol, with one appearing very intoxicated and the other showing no signs of being drunk.
How do I know if I have an alcohol problem?
Take our self-screening tool here. If you think you might have a problem, our information and referral specialist at 2-1-1 or Alaska211@ak.org is ready to help you. For a formal assessment, contact your health care provider.
I keep hearing that alcoholism is a big problem. How common is it really?
According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were 139.7 million current alcohol users aged 12 or older in the U.S. in 2014, with 23 percent classified as binge drinkers and 6.2 percent as heavy drinkers. About 17 million of these, or 6.4 percent, met criteria for an alcohol use disorder in the past year. In Alaska, approximately 58,716 Alaskan residents 18 years or older are abusing or are dependent on alcohol or drugs—that’s approximately one in every 12 Alaskans.
What happens in your body when you get drunk?
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol enters your bloodstream through your stomach and intestines and within a few minutes, reaches your heart, brain, muscles and other tissues. Ethanol, the component of alcohol that makes you feel drunk, has molecules that are small enough to pass into the gaps between brain cells. When they do, they interfere with the neurotransmitters that are responsible for all the brain’s activities. This affects the body’s functions, including slowing down your reaction time, making you less coordinated, impairing your vision and making it harder to think clearly and make good decisions. Alcohol also makes you less inhibited as it affects the parts of the brain responsible for self-control.
How long does it take to sober up?
On average, it takes about one hour for your body to break down one standard drink. A standard drink contains about .6 fluid ounces, or 14 grams, of pure alcohol. This translates to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
How am I supposed to know what my blood alcohol level is and if it’s safe to drive?
Good question. Unless you have access to a breathalyzer, there is really no way to know your blood alcohol level. A BAC of .08 or lower is the point of legal intoxication; it’s illegal to drive if your BAC is over .08. However, the ONLY guaranteed safe level for driving is .00. If you’ve been drinking, the only way to get your BAC to .00 is to wait at least 45 minutes per drink.
What are Alaska’s alcohol laws?
In the state of Alaska, driving under the influence is a crime and applies to the operation or physical control of a vehicle, boat or plane while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or drug (defined in AS 11.71.140-190). You are under the influence of alcohol if your BAC is higher than .08. For more information about Alaska’s alcohol laws, visit the state’s Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office.
What does it meant to quit alcohol ‘cold turkey’ and is it safe?
Quitting alcohol “cold turkey” means stopping alcohol consumption completely without slowly weaning off of it. Quitting “cold turkey” can be dangerous for chronic drinkers. If you have a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder, you should seek a medically supervised withdrawal. If you or someone you know needs help quitting alcohol, we are here to help. Call us at 2-1-1 or email us at Alaska211@ak.org.
My friend got alcohol poisoning last weekend and ended up in the hospital. Is that the same thing as alcohol overdose?
Alcohol poisoning and alcohol overdose are not the same thing. You can think of an overdose as drinking enough to compromise your safety. The higher the blood level of alcohol, the higher the level of impairment. Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone continues to drink despite clear symptoms of overdose (speech impairment, trouble walking, impaired judgement), consuming a toxic amount of alcohol. Alcohol poisoning can be life threatening; symptoms include seizures, trouble breathing and unresponsiveness, among others. If you thinking someone might have alcohol poisoning, it’s important to get medical help immediately by calling 9-1-1.
Does alcohol increase your risk of getting cancer?
Research indicates that there is a strong correlation between drinking alcohol and several types of cancer. The more alcohol someone consumes, the higher his or her risk of developing one of these alcohol-related cancers, which includes head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast and colorectal cancer.
Is it okay to drink every day?
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women don’t exceed one drink per day while men don’t exceed two drinks per day. The guidelines also state that the following individuals should never drink alcohol:
- Children and adolescents
- Individuals of any age who cannot limit their drinking to low levels
- Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant
- Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination
- Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol
- Individuals with certain medical conditions
- Individuals recovering from alcoholism
What is considered binge drinking?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08 percent or more. This usually corresponds with five or more drinks on a single occasion for men or four or more drinks on a single occasion for women, generally within about two hours.
What is considered heavy drinking?
The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy drinking as five or more drinks on one occasion on five or more days in the past 30 days.
Can alcoholism be inherited?
Scientific studies have shown that a vulnerability to alcoholism can be inherited; however, there are many factors that increase someone’s risk, including coming from a home with an actively alcoholic parent, or a home in which there is domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Children are also at higher risk if their parents do not actively supervise them and if their friends drink.
I’ve heard the saying “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” Is that true?
Yes. Alcoholism can be treated, but it cannot be cured. Even if an alcoholic has been sober for a long time, he or she can still relapse. Cutting back on alcohol doesn’t work for an alcoholic; it must be avoided completely for a successful recovery.
What is the difference between alcoholism and alcohol misuse?
Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is now referred to as “Alcohol Use Disorder.” It is defined as the use of heavy doses of alcohol with resulting repeated and significant distress or impaired functioning. While most drinkers sometimes consume enough alcohol to feel intoxicated, only a minority (less than 20 percent) ever develop Alcohol Use Disorder defined by the following criteria:
- A strong need or craving for alcohol
- The inability to cut down or control alcohol use
- Larger amounts over a longer period than was intended
- A great deal of time is spent in obtaining, using and recovering from alcohol
- Continued drinking despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by using alcohol
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol
- Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
Some people say that drinking a little bit of alcohol while pregnant is safe. Is it?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. advises that there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. When you drink alcohol, so does your growing baby. Alcohol can pass from the mother’s blood into the baby’s blood, affecting the growth of the baby’s brain and spinal cord cells. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) describes the range of effects alcohol can have on a growing baby, from mild to severe. Drinking alcohol while pregnant may cause a child to have mental or physical problems that can last a lifetime.
What does it mean to be a functioning alcoholic?
A functioning alcoholic is someone who abuses alcohol but appears to be just fine in other areas of his or her life. A functioning alcoholic might have a great job, home or social life, while continuing with his or her alcoholism. Aside from the long-term health impacts of being a functioning alcoholic, it is important to consider the other personal and safety impacts that alcoholism is having on an individual’s spouse, family members, finances and community. The risks of being a functioning alcoholic can be just as serious as they are for someone with a more obvious addiction to alcohol.
What is low-risk drinking?
For women, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.
Who should never drink?
Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including those who:
- Plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery
- Take medications that interact with alcohol
- Have a medical condition that alcohol can aggravate
- Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
Frequently Asked Questions: Helping a loved one
I think my loved one might have an alcohol problem. What kinds of signs should I look for?
Here are ten common signs that alcohol might be a problem for someone: They are lying about drinking or hiding alcohol. They have intense mood swings based on drinking patterns. They have developed health problems related to excessive alcohol intake. They have developed problems at work or school, such as showing up late or poor performance. They are dealing with legal issues due to behavior while drinking. They drive while intoxicated. They are having problems managing tasks at home. They are isolating themselves from family members or friends. They regularly promise to cut back or quit drinking. They are unable to quit drinking for any period of time, no matter the consequences. Watching someone struggle with an alcohol problem can be isolating and can make you feel helpless. Take our screening tool to help you better understand the effects that alcohol may be having on your nephew. If you are interested in talking to us about your nephew, call us at 2-1-1 or email Alaska211@ak.org. We are ready to help.
I’m worried, but how do I make sure I say the right thing? I don’t want my friend to get angry, or to feel hurt.
It’s hard to be a friend to someone abusing alcohol or other drugs, yet this is the time when your friend needs you most. As a friend, you may have far greater impact—especially since most people prefer to confide in a friend when they have a problem.Learn how to talk about addiction.
This is overwhelming, where do I start?
Helping a friend or family member struggling with alcohol or drugs can be heartbreaking. But, with help, it can also be rewarding. Here are some resources that can help.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
What kind of support options are there for loved ones of alcoholics?
What is Al-Anon?
The Al-Anon Family groups are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope, in order to solve their common problems.
Welcome to Alaska Al-Anon
Things you might hear: It’s my problem and you can’t help me.
You’re not the only one struggling, and each individual struggling with substance use and misuse requires a wide range of resources and solutions. Here are some of the resources we have compiled from partners that can help.
An international fellowship of men and women who have struggled with a drinking problem
A professional web guide that can connect addicts and families with recovery and treatment options.
Substance abuse among veterans is a growing problem. Addiction Resource has a guide that discusses the causes, warning signs and statistics around substance abuse among veterans.
For individuals and families needing information about any aspect of preventing, treating, or recovering from addiction. For those in search of answers, and those who don’t yet know which questions to ask—this is a place to start.
Helping men, women and adolescents who are struggling with addiction and mental health disorders.
This guide written by Oliver Clark is meant to raise awareness for Al-Anon and help you navigate through the resource.
A support group for friends and family of problem drinkers.
Providing “Services for Families” that include substance abuse & mental health screenings, assessments, and outpatient treatment for adults, youth & children.
Fire service professionals that provide ongoing wellness resources that are needed in the fire service and for emergency responders.
A network of organizations and agencies across sectors working toward solving complex social problems and promoting a healthy, just and resilient Alaska.
An online handbook for teens and young adults covering laws pertaining to those age groups, including alcohol laws for minors.
A collection of resources from the United States National Library of Medicine about issues that affect the health and well-being of Native Americans and Native Alaskans.
Ask.Listen.Learn provides youth ages 9-14, their parents and educators with information about the dangers of underage drinking. The program’s new digital resources were created to teach what the brain does, what alcohol does to it, and what that does to you.
A campaign dedicated to preventing and reducing underage drinking in Alaska.
A grassroots organization seeking to remove the social stigma associated with addiction treatment and being in recovery, working to build a community banding together to share powerful, personal stories of transformation that will inspire others to pursue help.
The Center for Motivation and Change (CMC) is a group of dedicated clinical psychologists committed to the treatment and understanding of addiction issues.
A Salvation Army program that offers comprehensive recovery services.
An interactive website created by NIAAA for kids 11-13. Content includes healthy coping strategies, refusal skills, and how to identify peer pressure.
A state of Alaska council that sponsors 20 victim service programs offering emergency shelter, safety planning and community-based advocacy to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
A video series produced in collaboration between Recover Alaska and Koahnic Broadcast Corp. featuring Alaskans’ stories of recovery from alcohol.
A web resource dedicated to the treatment of addiction, substance abuse, eating disorders and mental health issues.
Facing Addiction has launched a comprehensive resource hub for anyone in search of support or guidance in the addiction conversation, fostering hope and building connections through one searchable resource. This resource hub is the first-ever independent, not-for-profit, digital asset map that brings together a vast collection of addiction resources in one place.
Facing Addiction Over Dinner is a toolkit to plan, host and moderate a conversation about alcohol, drugs and addiction.
Fallen Up Ministries offers peer support, community connection and helps people in or seeking recovery get connected to the resources they need.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual prenatally exposed to alcohol. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities with lifelong implications.
Hello, Sunday morning builds technology that supports any individual to change their relationship with alcohol. Whether it is taking break from drinking or simply cutting back- the app works to support you and your choice.
Intervention.com provides regional resources and direct services to those struggling with substance use, mental health needs and eating disorders.
The first step to a productive conversation around addiction starts with listening. Listen offers support through connected resources, and eliminates blame, shame and stigma by amplifying the stories of millions of Americans whose lives are affected by addiction.
A federal organization dedicated to leading the U.S. in bringing the power of science to issues of drug abuse and addiction.
A list of resources for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome support and information in Alaska.
An overview of mental health from the National Institutes of Health’s MedlinePlus website.
Prevention Action Alliance offers several programs that give parents, coalitions, colleges and universities, and other community members the information, education, and support they need to make a positive change. Programs include “Parents Who Host Lose the Most”, “Know!”, and “BUZZKILL”.
Raise Your Voice addresses teen traffic issues through student created media. Issues include underage drinking, seatbelt use, and distracted driving. Young people listen to their friends and other teens far more than they do to adults so student-to-student messages can be more powerful than adult-to-student messages.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance behavioral health in the U.S.
SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. Congress established the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 1992 to make substance use and mental disorder information, services, and research more accessible.
A national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation addiction causes families. We help families find trusted, evidence-based resources to support a loved one struggling with addiction. We invite families to join us in advocating for policy change both on the state and federal level.
Statewide information resource for, about and by Alaskans.
The world’s leading online treatment resources, providing drug counseling and therapy through a digital treatment method.
List of providers and associated services including but not limited to: Detox, Medication Assisted Therapies, Substance Use Disorder Assessment, Alcohol & Drug Information Schools, etc.
A new federal report that calls for a shift in the way America addresses substance addictions.
SAMSHA’s underage drinking campaign that helps parents and caregivers start talking to their children early about the dangers of alcohol.
Authoritative mental health information and resources for veterans and their families.
Programs that meet the needs of children, adolescents, families and seniors in need.
A helpful guide on How to Prevent High School Students from Experimenting with Drugs and Alcohol
Binge Drinking and Alcohol-Related Problems by Region – Map (PDF)
Dashboard Print Out (PDF)
Alcohol Use Among Alaska Adolescents, (YRBS Webinar, 02/27/18)
The Economic Costs of Alcohol Abuse in Alaska
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