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How to Tell If You Have a Drink Problem


It can be difficult for people to assess if they have a drinking problem. The reality is that the individual will tend to play down any signs of excesses, and attempt to rationalise away any of the symptoms. There is also the reality that most problem drinkers tend to socialise with other individuals who also drink heavily, so this means that their consumption levels appear normal to them. The fact that the individual does feel worried about their drinking though is usually a sign that this is an area of their life that needs investigating.

Do I Have a Drink Problem?

There are many definitions used to describe people with drink problems, and this can make things a little confusion. Some of the descriptions that you are likely to hear would include:

  • Problem drinker – this is an individual whose life would be better if they did not drink alcohol. When they are inebriated they may get into trouble, and this behaviour is generally a negative part of their life.
  • Alcohol abuser – this person drinks above the recommended levels of safe consumption. There is disagreement about what the exact cut of point should be, but those who regularly drink above 21 units per week (with one unit being a glass of beer or a shot of spirits) would be considered an alcohol abuser. Safe drinking is 21 units spread across the week and not consumed in one sitting.
  • Binge drinking – this is the individual who consumes large quantities of alcohol in one session. The person may only drink once a week, but they consume a large amount in one sitting. This is the most dangerous pattern of drinking there is, and unfortunately, this pattern is very common in places like the UK and Ireland.
  • Alcohol dependence – this means that the person has developed a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. To say that they are physically dependent means that they have developed increasing tolerance, and that they suffer withdrawal symptoms should they try to stop or slow down their intake. To say that the person is psychologically dependent means that they experience cravings and feel unable to cope with life without alcohol.
  • Alcoholism – this word can be used interchangeably with alcohol dependence. It is usually used to describe alcohol dependence as a disease.

Symptoms of a Drink Problem

The symptoms that a person will have if they are dealing with a drink problem will vary depending on the extent of their problem. The following symptoms would indicate that the individual is likely to have a serious problem:

  • The person feels that their life would be better if they did not use alcohol.
  • The individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop or reduce their intake of alcohol (this indicates alcohol dependence/ alcoholism)
  • The person feels unable to cope with alcohol (psychological dependence/ alcoholism)
  • The individual suffers from blackouts – this means that there are periods of time while drinking that they cannot remember (usually a sign of alcoholism/ alcohol dependence).
  • The person needs to take time off work because of morning after symptoms – hangovers.
  • The individual needs to drink more to get the same effect. This is a sign that they have developed tolerance for alcohol (physical dependence/ alcoholism)
  • They experience cravings for alcohol (psychological dependence/ alcoholism)
  • The individual does not like to go places if there is not going to be alcohol involved (alcoholism/ alcohol dependence)
  • They have lost interest in activities they used to enjoy.
  • The person’s personality changes when they consume alcohol.
  • They have developed financial problems.
  • The individual is performing less well in work or school because of drinking.
  • The person is unable to take care of their work/ social/ family responsibilities because of their alcohol consumption.
  • Other people have expressed concern about the person’s drinking.
  • The individual becomes defensive if other people question their alcohol consumption levels. This could mean that the person is experiencing denial (alcohol dependence/ alcoholism)
  • The person has tried in the past to reduce their intake or stop, but they failed to maintain this (alcohol dependence/ alcoholism)
  • The person feels uncomfortable when they do not have access to a supply of alcohol
  • Loss of interest in personal hygiene and grooming
  • Relationship problems because of the drinking
  • The person does things that they later regret while under the influence of alcohol
  • They regularly drink above the recommended levels for safe alcohol consumption
  • Once the person starts to drink they find it difficult to stop until they are inebriated

If the person has any of the above symptoms, it could indicate that they have a drink problem.

How to Deal with Alcohol Problems

The treatment for alcohol problems depends on the severity of the problem. If the individual has not yet developed physical or psychological dependence, they may be able to return to social drinking. If they continue with the behaviour though, they are highly likely to become physically dependent. Once the individual has become dependent on alcohol the only real solution will be for them to become permanently abstinent – they will not be ever able to drink safely again. It can be difficult for people who are dependent on alcohol to quit without help, so they will usually need to spend time in a rehab.

It is vital that those who have alcohol problems quit the behaviour as soon as possible. This is because the individual will be in a downward spiral, and the longer they continue with the behaviour the more they will end up suffering. This is a life threatening condition, and if the person is unable to stop, it will kill them. The good news is that once the individual is able to walk away from the addiction they can then go on to live a full and happy life.

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