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Posted on Sat, Dec 31, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

U-M experts offer help for staying in control of alcohol intake

By Lisa Carolin

No holiday brings as strong a message to party as New Year's Eve, and the most popular party ingredient is alcohol. Knowing when to stop drinking for the sake of how you feel, for legally operating a motor vehicle, or because you want to stay in control of your intake, is a challenge facing many.

At the University of Michigan's Alcohol Management Program, people who want to improve their health by drinking less alcohol or none at all, can get help.

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Experts at the program say you can start by asking yourself how many alcoholic drinks you have per week. One drink is considered 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of table wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

"Most people call us because they feel like they're drinking too much and don't like the way they're feeling," said Teresa Herzog Mourad, coordinator of the Alcohol Management Program, which services U-M employees, members of the local community, and people around the country. "We help people who are not alcoholics either cut down or quit drinking, and refer alcoholics to U-M Addiction Services."

Who comes to the Alcohol Management Program? Herzog Mourad says it's often women who have an average of 19 alcoholic drinks a week and men who have an average of 21 alcoholic drinks per week.

"The vast majority of these people don't drink every day and tend to drink more on the weekend," said Herzog Mourad. "Are they getting to work on time? Are they parenting their children? It's amazing what people can do and still drink that much. Many people have tolerance."

Jeff, 42, of Canton, who has been part of the Alcohol Management Program for two years, said, "I learned what my body can take. I can stop at 2 to 3 drinks, but at 5 to 6 drinks, I'm not stopping. It's good to have someone to talk to about balancing alcohol in my life, and it's a completely nonjudgmental organization."

Herzog Mourad describes New Year's Eve as "an extended, culturally sanctioned drinking opportunity." She suggests that if you want to prevent problems on New Year's Eve and want to feel productive on New Year's Day, consider a prescription for your alcohol consumption. That means coming up with a plan for when and how much you are going to drink and sticking to it.

"What I do is to help people plan their drinking in a way that feels healthy," said Herzog Mourad. "Alcohol is a treat, not a treatment. It has to be limited. A man who doesn't want a hangover should not exceed five drinks, and a woman shouldn't exceed four drinks. That is considered binge drinking, and there is no such thing as risk-free drinking."

Mary, 31, of Ypsilanti, was arrested for drunk driving last year, and she pursued the Alcohol Management Program as part of her probation.

"I deserved wholeheartedly to get pulled over," said Mary. "Even though you think you can drink and drive, it's much better to plan around it and take the bus or a cab."

Mary says that with help from the Alcohol Management Program, she has learned to plan ahead.

"It's like a bottle of aspirin," said Mary. "You don't take more than a recommended amount."

For Susan, 62, of Washtenaw County, the Alcohol Management Program was integral in helping her set a goal to reduce the amount of drinking she was doing.

"It was quite gradual," she said. "I enjoyed a glass of wine, which evolved into the enjoyment of close to a bottle of wine. I was exercising and eating healthy food, so I asked myself why I wasn't paying attention to this one thing.

"What Teresa and I talked about was very reinforcing like taking the time to keep track and write things down. Knowing that every week or two I'd be facing Teresa, I wanted to give her an account of my success. The crazy thing about addiction is that you feel like it is something completely out of your control and you learn that your health and your behavior are within your control."

As far as New Year's Eve goes, Susan isn't worried. "I plan on enjoying tonight at home with my husband rather than out at a party. I will enjoy a glass of wine but not get drunk.

"It's not the alcohol itself but the abuse of it and the overuse of it that are the problems."



Mon, Jan 2, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

Risk-Free Alcohol Use : Thanks for that clarification from Ms. Mourad about the criteria for binge drinking and safe limits for consumption of alcohol as per the guidelines issued by US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the statement about risk-free alcohol use needs proper verification to establish its accuracy. Such statements have no practical value and make no sense. Kindly illustrate any human activity or behavior that is risk-free. Even the use of computer to read this story and post a response is not risk-free. How would her statement, if not established on fact or reality, be of use to address the problem of dependence on alcohol? During this holiday season, I read the scripture from the Book of John, Chapter 2, verses 1 to 10. It describes the miracle of transforming water into wine and it does not express any particular concern about risk-free alcohol use. When people consume alcohol, they are not taking a risk; it appears that they are in the pursuit of happiness, a natural right protected by the US Constitution.

teresa herzog mourad

Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Important corrections provided by the interviewee, Teresa Herzog Mourad, UMHS Alcohol Management Program Coordinator, about the above article: -It is incorrectly stated in the article that 5 drinks by a man, and 4 drinks by a woman, is a an upper threshold for avoiding a hangover. The correct statement is that BINGE drinking is 5 or more standard measure alcoholic drinks for men and 4 or more for women (National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). -the safer, lower risk choice for alcohol consumption is a maximum of 2 standard measure alcoholic beverages for men and 1 standard measure for women (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). -There is no such thing as risk-free alcohol use. Thank you


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Desire, gratification, and satisfaction : The desire to drink alcohol may not be gratified unless the mind experiences satisfaction. The issue is that of finding satisfaction with one or more drinks during a given drinking session. Unless we deal with the problem of finding satisfaction in life, a plan that sets limits to the number of drinks that we may plan to consume will never work. The same is true about pain relief medications like aspirin. Apart from the problem of alcohol consumption, the misuse and abuse of pain relief medication is a big problem in this country. Nobel Prize winner Dr. Konrad Lorenz described aggression as an innate human drive like feeding, sex, and flight. Human desires are driven by innate human nature. I describe spiritualism as an instinctive drive and it is expressed as compassion a instinct found in human nature. Under the influence of compassion, man finds satisfaction and experiences happiness in recognition of the satisfaction of his desires. The word spirit describes alcohol and it also describes the spiritual, corporeal substance, the vital or animating principle of the human body. This substance in its behavior displays characteristics such as cooperation, mutual assistance, devotion, sympathy, understanding, and functional subservience. By understanding the human nature of compassion, man gets the upliftment of his mood which makes him pain tolerant, and his desire for alcohol and other chemical substances is easily satisfied. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Les Gov

Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

&quot;It is really important I find to keep an ample supply of single malts, bourbons&quot; Me...I'm all bourbon......but clearly I didn't have enough last night or I wouldn't be positing comments at this hour.....the lesson...drink more bourbon....sleep later....


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 4:22 a.m.

It's too late for me! I've had two beers!


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 1:39 a.m.

What a great idea. And so progressive. Having been through a 12 step program in the last year, I find this a far more sensible solution than abstinence. So much of the present court ordered treatment is just pitiful. I will check out the sources mentioned in the article.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

I agree superron. The courts have bombarded the twelve step programs with little thought to the effects it has on those programs.I don't now if those in the judicial system aside from personal knowledge know how twelve step groups work; especially how they are self supported_ dumping people on them is unfair. A good twelve stepper will support whatever anyone tries to solve this issue.The fact is however if one is truly an addict or an alcoholic the twelve step folks are the one's that know the most based on there over seventy five year history_ good luck.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 6:31 a.m.

We thought we could find an easier softer way. But we could not. Half measures availed us nothing.


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 1:16 a.m.

Does it really take an &quot;Expert&quot; from UM to tell us when to say when? Happy New Year, remember no drinking and driving. Just use age old wisdom, which is Moderation!


Sat, Dec 31, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

&quot;Who comes to the Alcohol Management Program&quot; It is really important I find to keep an ample supply of single malts, bourbons and rums on hand. A nice bunch of cigars really helps to mello everything out. Go big or GO HOME!


Sat, Dec 31, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Sounds like you're on a mission.