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At-risk Alcohol Use

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

At-risk alcohol use occurs when the amount of alcohol you drink increases your risk of health problems. You may be drinking alcohol regularly or all at once (binge drinking). In men, at-risk alcohol use is having more than 14 drinks per week, or more than 4 drinks at one time. For women, it is more than 7 drinks per week, or more than 3 drinks at one time.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

At-risk alcohol use may lead to alcohol abuse or dependence if left untreated. You may have high blood pressure or liver and heart disease. You may also have problems with your mood or with relationships. You also increase your risk of injuries from accidents or harming others.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Intake and output:

Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Medicines:

  • Glucose: This medicine may be given to increase the amount of sugar in your blood.

  • Vitamin supplement: Alcohol can make it hard for your body to absorb enough vitamin B1. You may be given vitamin B1 if you have low levels. It is also given to prevent alcohol related brain damage. You may also need other vitamin supplements.

Tests:

  • Blood and urine tests: Samples of your blood or urine are tested for alcohol. Tests can also show signs of liver, kidney, or heart damage caused by alcohol. You may need to have these tests more than once.

  • Neurologic exam: This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show caregivers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Caregivers will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

  • EKG: This test records the electrical activity of your heart. It will be used to check for damage or problems caused by alcohol.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your brain. The pictures may show damage caused by alcohol abuse. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

Treatment:

  • Brief intervention therapy: A caregiver meets with you to discuss ways to control your risky behaviors, such as drinking and driving. This therapy also helps you set goals to decrease the amount of alcohol you drink.

  • Detoxification: Your caregiver may need to put you in an alcohol detoxification program. This is done to flush out the toxic residues of alcohol present in your body. During detox, medicines are given to help prevent withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol. As you improve, your caregiver may slowly change how much detox medicines you are given.

  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about At-risk Alcohol Use (Inpatient Care)

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