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Thursday, August 21, 2008

"How To" Article Can Help Prevent Alcohol Problems

This morning I was awakened by a phone call of congratulations on my letter to the editor, which I had not realized was published yesterday in the San Diego Union Tribune. The caller was an enthusiastic parent and activist who supports a ban on booze on Ocean Beach. Several beach communities in the area have already taken this step, which makes it much more pleasant and safe to enjoy the beautiful beaches nearby.

I had responded to yesterday's Union Tribune Health feature called "Sober Assessment," which gave succinct practical information on how much alcohol various drinks contain. It gave good guidelines on how to tell if one is too much affected by alcohol to drive with good judgment, and reported on heading off alcohol problems before they become severe.

Color photos of various drinks showed how much volume it takes to get one ounce or "one shot," a basic measure of alcohol. An ounce of whiskey, 6 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer contain the same amount of alcohol. Many people who drink a six-pack of beer in a couple of hours are amazed that they have had the equivalent of six shots of hard liquor.

Another part of the article asked doctors to query their patients routinely about how many days recently they have had at least one drink. That simple question can lead to taking alcohol use seriously as part of health care. Many medications become harmful or deadly when they combine with alcohol.

It made me very uneasy to read that drinks served in bars are usually stronger than people realize. An ounce and a half of, say, gin, in a fruity mixed drink, or a beer glass that holds 16 ounces or more, starts impairing a person faster than the person expects. Relaxing and socializing shouldn't make a person sick.

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