Category Archives: Alcohol

Are You an Alcoholic? Here’s the Test


If you find that alcohol may be a problem in your life and your drinking habits are causing problems with and for other people you may have an alcohol problem. If you have ever wondered if you were an alcoholic you can get a very private answer here. We don’t track who takes the test so take it in the privacy of your home and if the results are negative, do something about it. You have control if you are willing to take it.
This blog was first published several years ago. I have updated it and published it again because of the demand for answers to the question, “Am I an alcoholic and how do I find out?”

Bob's NewHeart

By Bob Aronson

devil cartoonAlcohol, Drugs and Tobacco can have deadly effects on your organs and constitute one of the leading contributors to the need for organ transplantation.  I have long contended that while organ donation is important we just aren’t making enough headway under the current system.  Too many people are dying because of the organ shortage.  One way of reducing the organ shortage is to diminish the demand.   Healthier living could help achieve that goal. Look at this listing of the short and long term effects of alcohol.

Depending on how much is taken and the physical condition of the individual, alcohol can cause:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Coma
  • Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)

Long-term…

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What Alcohol Can Do to Your Liver


Bob Aronson, the author of this blog, is a recovering alcoholic (since 1982), a former smoker and a 2007 heart transplant recipient.  He wrote this blog about two years ago  but because of  hundreds of  inquiries about how alcohol affects the liver he is re-posting it.

I think it is important to point out here that while I am a recovering alcoholic I am not anti-alcohol.  There are, though, some instances where abstinence is absolutely necessary.  Such is the case with liver disease.

According to the American Liver Foundation (ALF), (http://www.liverfoundation.org/education/info/alcohol/)

the liver breaks down alcohol so it can be eliminated from your body. If you consume more alcohol than the liver can process, the resulting imbalance can injure the liver by interfering with its normal breakdown of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

The ALF says there are three kinds of liver disease related to alcohol consumption:

Fatty liver is marked by a build-up of fat cells in the liver. Usually there are no symptoms, although the liver may be enlarged and you may experience discomfort in your upper abdomen. Fatty liver occurs in almost all people who drink heavily. The condition will improve after you stop drinking.

Alcoholic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Up to 35 percent of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and tenderness, fever and jaundice. In its mild form, alcoholic hepatitis can last for years and will cause progressive liver damage. The damage may be reversible if you stop drinking. In its severe form, the disease may occur suddenly, after binge drinking, and it can quickly lead to life-threatening complications.  In some cases a liver transplant is the only life-saving option.

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most serious type of alcohol-induced liver disease. Cirrhosis refers to the replacement of normal liver tissue with scar tissue. Between 10 and 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, usually after 10 or more years of drinking. Symptoms of cirrhosis are similar to those of alcoholic hepatitis. The damage from cirrhosis is not reversible, and it is a life-threatening disease. Your condition may stabilize if you stop drinking.

Many heavy drinkers will progress from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis and finally to alcoholic cirrhosis, though the progression may vary from patient to patient. The risk of developing cirrhosis is particularly high for people who drink heavily and have another chronic liver disease such as viral hepatitis C.

The ALF makes it very clear that if you have any liver disease you must stop drinking, period!   “Your doctor may suggest changes in your diet and certain vitamin supplements to help your liver recover from the alcohol-related damage. Medications may be needed to manage the complications caused by your liver damage. In advanced cases of alcoholic cirrhosis, the only treatment option may be a liver transplant. However, active alcoholics will usually not qualify as suitable organ recipients.”

Once people become aware of the dangers alcohol poses to the liver, the first question they ask is, “Can I drink at all?  Is there a safe level of drinking?”  Here’s ALF’s response:

“For most people, moderate drinking will not lead to alcohol-induced liver disease. Moderate drinking means no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. (A standard drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine or one 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits.) However, for people with chronic liver disease, especially alcohol-induced liver disease, even small amounts of alcohol can make the liver disease worse. Patients with alcohol-induced liver disease and those with cirrhosis from any cause should stop using alcohol completely.

Women are more likely to be affected by alcohol-induced liver disease because women can be affected by smaller amounts of alcohol than men.”

Finally The American Liver Foundation says:  “Serious complications from alcohol-induced liver disease typically occur after many years of heavy drinking. Once they do occur, the complications can be serious and life-threatening. They may include:

  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
  • Bleeding from veins in the esophagus
  • Enlarged spleen
  • High blood pressure in the liver
  • Changes in mental function, and coma
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver cancer”

The basic philosophy behind this blog is to advance organ donation but because there is such an organ shortage it is important, too, to protect our organs.  Steps can be taken to avoid needing an organ transplant.  Moderation of alcohol consumption is one of them.

Please view our two brand new video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on You
Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifyRsh4qKF4  This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for it’s use.

Another important video is “A Transplant for Nurse Lori” this brave woman has Multiple Sclerosis and needs help paying her share of the bill for a procedure that can halt the disease in its tracks and even reverse some of it.  Watch the video at http://www.OrganTI.org.

Also…there  is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues.

We would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater  our clout with decision makers.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or  positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Are You an Alcoholic? Here’s the Test


By Bob Aronson

devil cartoonAlcohol, Drugs and Tobacco can have deadly effects on your organs and constitute one of the leading contributors to the need for organ transplantation.  I have long contended that while organ donation is important we just aren’t making enough headway under the current system.  Too many people are dying because of the organ shortage.  One way of reducing the organ shortage is to diminish the demand.   Healthier living could help achieve that goal. Look at this listing of the short and long term effects of alcohol.

Depending on how much is taken and the physical condition of the individual, alcohol can cause:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Coma
  • Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)

Long-term effects of alcohol

Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health problems, including:

 

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crash, falls, burns, drowning
  • Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence
  • Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
  • Increased family problems, broken relationships
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual problems
  • Permanent damage to the brain
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer of the mouth and throat
  • More info available at http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/short-term-long-term-effects.html

I am a recovering alcoholic (since 1982) and know first hand how Alcohol another drunk cartoonprobably caused me to need a heart transplant and cigarettes left me with serious Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD).   Since I began Blogging in November of 2007, I have published six posts on alcohol’s deadly effects on internal organs.  They are Alcohol and Drugs – Cunning, Mysterious, Deadly; Alcohol May Have Ruined My Heart, How Much Do You Drink; Think Outside the Bottle; Should Alcoholics Get Liver Transplants and How Alcohol Can Kill Your Liver and You. 

These posts have generated numerous responses and questions.  The most common question, though, is, “How can I tell if I am an alcoholic?  A simple answer  is, “If Alcohol is causing problems you  have an alcohol problem!” 

The “Gold Standard” of the treatment industry is the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST).  The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence at  http://www.ncadd-sfv.org/downloads/mast_test.pdf  is a great resource  if you want more information.   I have copied the test and printed it below.  You can take it in the privacy of your home and grade yourself according to the instructions which follow the test.

In order for the results to be accurate your answers must be absolutely truthful, you do no good by lying to yourself so BE HONEST!  I hope you find this information helpful.  

If you take the test and determine that you  need help a good starting point is the Substance Abuse and  Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Government (SAMHSA)  http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/links/

 MICHIGAN ALCOHOLISM SCREENING TEST (MAST)

 

Please check one response for each item.

 

1. Do you feel you are a normal drinker? (“normal” – drink as much or less than most other

Yes

No

2. Have you ever awakened the morning after some drinking the night before and found that you could not remember a part of the evening?

Yes

No

3. Does any near relative or close friend ever worry or complain about your drinking?

Yes

No

4. Can you stop drinking without difficulty after one or two drinks?

Yes

No

5. Do you ever feel guilty about your drinking?

Yes

No

6. Have you ever attended a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

Yes

No

7. Have you ever gotten into physical fights when drinking?

Yes

No

8. Has drinking ever created problems between you and a near relative or close friend?

Yes

No

9. Has any family member or close friend gone to anyone for help about your drinking?

Yes

No

10. Have you ever lost friends because of your drinking?

Yes

No

11. Have you ever gotten into trouble at work because of drinking?

Yes

No

12. Have you ever lost a job because of drinking?

Yes

No

13. Have you ever neglected your obligations, your family, or your work for two or more days in a row because you were drinking?

Yes

No

14. Do you drink before noon fairly often?

Yes

No

15. Have you ever been told you have liver trouble such as cirrhosis?

Yes

No

16. After heavy drinking have you ever had delirium tremens (D.T.’s), severe shaking, visual or auditory (hearing) hallucinations?

Yes

No

17. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking?

Yes

No

18. Have you ever been hospitalized because of drinking?

Yes

No

19. Has your drinking ever resulted in your being hospitalized in a psychiatric ward?

Yes

No

20. Have you ever gone to any doctor, social worker, clergyman or mental health clinic for help with any emotional problem in which drinking was part of the problem?

Yes

No

21. Have you been arrested more than once for driving while under the influence of alcohol?

Yes

No

22. Have you ever been arrested, even for a few hours, because of other behavior while drinking?

Yes

No

About Scoring this Alcoholism Test Questionnaire

This quiz is scored by allocating 1 point to each ‘yes’ answer — except for questions 1 and 4, where 1 point is allocated for each ‘no’ answer — and totaling the responses.

So in other words, please score one point if you answered the following:

1) No

2) Yes

3) Yes

4) No

5-22) Yes

(Note that this is the current revised version of the MAST; the original MAST included 25 questions and used a more complex scoring method.)

Your Alcoholism Test Score

0-2 = No Apparent Problem

3-5 = Early or Middle Problem Drinker

6+ = Problem Drinker

Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors.  On-line registration can be done at www.donatelife.net  Whenever you can, help people formally register.  There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance.  If you convince one person to be a donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives.  Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  

You are also invited to join Facebook’s Organ Transplantation Initiative (OTI) a 3,400 member  group dedicated to providing help and information to donors, donor families, transplant patients and families, caregivers and all other interested parties.  Your participation is important if we are to influence decision makers to support efforts to increase organ donation and support organ regeneration, replacement and research efforts. 

 bob minus Jay full shotBob Aronson is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder and primary author of the blogs on this site and the founder of Facebook’s over 3,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative group.

Now retired and living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Robin he spends his time advocating for patients with end stage diseases and for organ recipients.  He is also active in helping his wife with her art business at art festivals and on her Rockin Robin Prints site on Etsy. 

Bob is a former journalist, Governor’s Communication Director and international communications consultant.

 

Should Alcoholics Get Liver Transplants?


This is a “think piece.”  I’m hoping this blog will challenge your thinking and cause you to comment.  I am taking no position on this issue, I am simply asking some very important questions.

 

Heavy drinking or alcoholism can severely damage our organs and the liver seems to be the most susceptible to such damage.  So – if you were to ask the average person if alcoholics should be eligible for liver transplants the answer would likely be a resounding, “NO!”

 

As with most things in life, though, nothing is that simple.  If transplant eligibility depended on us living healthy lifestyles then there would be no organ shortage because few people would qualify for the life-saving procedure.

 

According to a study, published in the April 25th edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, led by Mathew J. Reeves who is the lead researcher and epidemiologist at Michigan State University, only 3% of Americans lead a healthy lifestyle.   Reeves says a healthy lifestyle that includes not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and a diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables lessens the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.  http://www.qualityeldercare.com/healthy.html

 

Back to the question on heavy drinking and liver transplants.  Just what is heavy drinking?  You may be surprised to learn that population-based surveys indicate that 68 percent of adult Americans drink at least one alcoholic beverage per month. About 10 percent consume more than two drinks per day, which is a commonly used definition of “heavy drinking”.  Two drinks a day! http://www.enotalone.com/article/11240.html

Let’s ask the question again, “Should alcoholics or heavy drinkers be eligible for liver transplants?”  Well, I am an alcoholic and had a heart transplant eighteen months ago.  It Is likely that my alcoholism contributed to the disease that destroyed my original heart.  I quit drinking in 1982 and have had no relapses but I am an alcoholic and always will be.  Should I have been denied a transplant?

Should the obese person suffering from diabetes be denied treatment?  Driving too fast is one of the top killers of American men, should the person with a speeding record be denied a transplant because they are likely to kill themselves?  What about people who have anorexia, bulimia and other lifestyles that could be considered self destructive?  Should prisoners be denied transplants even though they might someday be released?  I fear that once we go down this road it is unlikely we would treat or transplant anyone. 

I am not trying to justify transplanting livers into practicing alcoholics, but if you accept the American Medical Association (AMA) position that alcoholism is a disease, should the patient be punished because of it?  Do we punish cancer patients because they have cancer?  There is a school of thought based on limited research that suggests a liver-transplant recipient was statistically more likely to reject a new liver than to destroy it from continued drinking.  The fact is that most transplant programs around the world require at least six months of alcohol abstinence before they will consider a transplant.  But if two drinks a day is heavy drinking, the average person may be only a few drinks a week away from being a member of that group. 

I began by saying that this is a “think piece.”  I wrote it because I want to hear from you.  Where do we draw the line on who is and who is not eligible for a transplant?  The medical community has some solid guidelines, for example cocaine use in most cases will automatically eliminate a person from being considered for a transplant.  The public however, as was evidenced in the Mickey Mantle case, may not agree with the medical professionals.  What do you think?  Being as there is a shortage of organs and thousands die each year because of it, should we more severely limit who is eligible for a transplant?   

Please comment here or email your comments to me at bob@baronson.org. 

 

Please read and comment on my World Wide Issues blogs on http://blogsbybob.wordpress.com.   Also…visit and join my Facebook site, Organ Transplant Patients, Friends and You at  http://tinyurl.com/225cfh  OR — my Facebook home page  http://www.facebook.com/home.php

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