Sunday, July 19, 2009

Doc, do I need to stop...?

How much is too much? Well, it depends. Are we talking about alcohol? Tobacco? Cigars? Sweets? The occasional recreational pot use? (For the record, if it’s illegal or tobacco, I think any amount is too much!) There are many definitions of substance abuse, but I have a favorite one that a wise attending physician taught me during medical school. He said that when patients ask him if they need to cut back on something, he would reply, “ If I tell you that you absolutely cannot have it for the next thirty days, what would you say?”
It’s really a great gut check. If your doctor tells you no wine with dinner for the next month, and you feel an immediate panic or protest, perhaps you’ve become too dependent on that habit. Now, before everyone tells me that we believe a glass of red wine per day enhances your health, let me say that as long as you have no medical issues precluding alcohol (liver issues, medications that interact with alcohol, etc.) I happily agree! BUT, what we think is healthy is a 4 oz glass of wine. When is the last time you poured yourself only 4 oz in a lovely red wine glass? And do you stop at one?
The point of this blog entry is not at all to pick on wine at dinner, which happens to be my own favorite vice, but to point out that it’s healthy to occasionally step back and look at our indulgent habits and see if we’re becoming too dependent upon them.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s TOO MUCH if the thought of giving it up for a week produces anxiety!

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