How do you respond when you are living with the idea that people say I have a drinking problem? How even to respond? Denial is often the first reaction. How can people say I have an alcohol problem when everyone I know drinks alcohol?
When people say I have a drinking problem, I need to start looking at what is making them come to this conclusion. If you are living with this, you should take the time to understand what is motivating others to say this.
It should become apparent to me that they are seeing something about me that I do not see when people say I have a drinking problem.
What defines a drinking problem? What are the symptoms of a drinking problem? How do I decide if it is true when people say I have a drinking problem?
When does Alcohol Use become Alcoholism?
Drinking alcohol is considered a normal and even healthy feature of adult life in the United States. Even drinking to excess is generally viewed as a harmless indulgence. Getting drunk is either an accident, or it is a way to let things go for a special occasion.
However, alcoholism is a serious problem with serious consequences. The line between being a person who drinks alcohol and being an alcoholic can be a difficult thing to pin down.
In general, the mere fact that you have begun to suspect that you may have a drinking problem is often a sign that you do. The bottom line here is, if alcohol is causing problems in your life, then you probably have a drinking problem.
Normal drinkers can stop drinking when they decide to stop. They generally do not binge drink or allow drinking to impact their home or work life. If you are experiencing problems at home, at work or school, or if you have begun to experience medical or legal problems as a result of drinking, then you are likely an alcoholic.
The common term for a drinking problem is alcoholism.
Addiction specialists now use the term alcohol use disorder to describe the complex of symptoms that define dependence on alcohol.
Alcohol becomes alcoholism when someone develops a dependence on alcohol and cannot function without drinking. When you move from indulging in some drinks with friends to drinking because you cannot imagine not drinking, you have crossed the line to alcoholism.
There are a number of signs and symptoms which define alcoholism from a clinical perspective. Feeling the need to drink, being unable to control how much you drink, and experiencing personal and professional problems as a result of drinking generally define alcoholism.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
One way to evaluate whether you or someone you know is an alcoholic is to know the signs of alcohol abuse. Drinking too much on occasion can happen to anyone who drinks. To over-indulge is not in and of itself a sign of a problem. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, consists of some identifiable features.
Addiction treatment professionals provide a list of crucial signs of alcohol abuse.
- Inability to cut down or control drinking, even after frequent attempts to stop.
- Strong cravings for alcohol.
- Inability to limit the amount you drink.
- Spending a lot of time doing alcohol-related activities.
- Your job or school performance suffers due to drinking.
- Difficulties with personal relationships because of alcohol.
- Growing tolerance for alcohol and drinking more as a result.
- Giving up important social or recreational activities in order to drink alcohol.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking.
It is possible, and even likely, that some people will demonstrate some but not all of these signs. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) offers a general guide to the severity of alcohol abuse based on how many of these signs an individual may experience.
The DSM-5 designates three levels of alcohol abuse disorder based on the signs above:
- Mild: 2-3 symptoms
- Moderate: 4-5 symptoms
- Severe: 6 or more symptoms
Here again, these are general rules. Diagnosing alcohol abuse and alcohol abuse disorder is difficult. What one person considers normal drinking may be a severe problem for another.
However, the DSM-5, which is the diagnostic tool for mental health professionals, insists that experiencing any 2 of the above signs within a 12-month period constitutes the standard for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder. The hard and fast medical and psychiatric standards offer little grey areas for alcohol abuse.
What are the risks of Alcohol Abuse?
There are serious risks to alcohol abuse. Excessive alcohol use contributed to approximately 88 thousand deaths from 2006 – 2010. Life spans are cut by an average of 30 years by alcohol abuse. In fact, alcohol abuse caused 1 in 10 deaths among working adults between the ages of 20 and 64 years during this time period. Far from being a harmless indulgence, alcohol abuse represents a serious health problem.
There are also economic costs of alcohol abuse. In 2010, the estimated costs attributed to excessive drinking was approximately 249 billion dollars. These costs include medical and legal costs and losses in the workplace.
The short-term risks can be moderate to severe. Because alcohol abuse causes such mental and physical impairments, many of the short-term risks can be from injuries.
Short-term risks include:
- Injuries from automobile crash fall, drownings, and burns.
- Violence, including homicide and suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
- Alcohol poisoning
- Risky sexual behaviors can lead to STDs, including HIV/AIDS.
- Miscarriage and stillbirth. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
In the case of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, it is critical to understand that there is no safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women to consume. In addition, drinking during pregnancy at any stage can potentially lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Since women may not know they are pregnant for 4- 6 weeks in the earliest phases, women who are trying to become pregnant are counseled to abstain from drinking alcohol.
The long-term risks for alcohol abuse can be direr. The WHO states that excessive alcohol use accounts for approximately 5 percent of the disease burden across the globe. In addition, the long-term risks of alcohol abuse include:
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Cognitive problems, memory loss, and dementia.
- Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
- Social problems such as lost productivity, family dysfunction, and unemployment.
- Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism.
The risks of alcohol abuse are many, and they impact virtually every aspect of life. What is more, many of these risks negatively affect not just the person with alcohol use disorder, but also those around them.
Questions to ask a person abusing Alcohol
How to approach someone you think may be abusing alcohol can be uncomfortable. Choosing the right words and asking the right questions does not come easy.
There is a process called an intervention in which family and friends approach someone in a structured and organized fashion in order to convince them that they have a problem. Since many people with alcohol abuse problems are adamantly opposed to discussing the problem, interventions can be emotional and tense. There is a process to an intervention. You can see an addiction or mental health counselor to find out how to properly stage an intervention.
Barring something as dramatic as an intervention, there are questions you can pose to someone you think may have a drinking problem. These questions may cause discomfort, and the person with the problem may well resist your good intentions. However, if phrased properly, these questions may reach them and get them moving toward the help they need.
Since alcohol abuse affects all aspects of life, the questions to ask someone you know with regard alcohol abuse can break down into different areas.
Addiction counselors suggest you focus on specific areas of concern. The home or personal relationships may be the primary areas in which a person’s drinking is having the most negative effects. It may be the case the person you want to talk to is a co-worker. In this case, focus questions on work issues.
The questions depend on where the points of concern are most pronounced.
First, ask about patterns that indicate a problem with alcohol abuse.
- Do you ever drink alone?
- Do you feel the need to drink in order to sleep?
- Do you drink every day?
- Have you ever experienced blackouts or memory loss as a result of drinking?
Personal Relationships inevitably suffer from alcohol abuse.
- Has your drinking negatively affected the relationships in your life?
- Do you ever drink in order to feel accepted in social situations?
- Do you feel that you need to drink in order to participate in social occasions?
- Have you ever lied to a partner or family member about your drinking?
Alcohol abuse will invariably have a negative effect on work or school.
- How has work or school performance suffered as a result of alcohol?
- Do you find that you cannot finish important projects because of drinking?
- Have you been disciplined at work or school as a result of your drinking?
- Have you missed work or school as a direct result of drinking too much?
It is common to experience difficulties in social life because of alcohol abuse.
- Do you find yourself drinking even though you know it causes problems?
- Have you had to seek medical attention because of drinking?
- Are you experiencing health problems due to drinking?
- Have you ever used another drug to compensate for the effects of drinking?
- Do you find that you cannot handle your responsibilities anymore?
Finally, you may ask about legal troubles.
- Have you had problems with the law, a DUI, for example?
- Have you ever consumed alcohol in the car, at work, or in public?
- Are you doing anything illegal in order to obtain alcohol (stealing, for example)?
Again, none of these are easy questions to ask. This is why they are broken down into specific areas. If someone answers yes to more than two of these questions, you may suggest they consult their doctor or a treatment professional to find out more about alcohol abuse.
Where to get help?
There are now many options for treating alcohol abuse. Treatment options have progressed considerably over the last few decades.
If your alcohol abuse problem is serious enough, you should consider a medical detox. Alcohol detox can be dangerous and is, in rare cases, fatal. If you suspect this may be a problem for you or someone you know, consult a physician.
Beyond the medical detox, there are behavioral programs designed to change your drinking behavior. These are led by health and addiction professionals, and these programs are evidence-based treatment systems with proven results for success.
There are some medications to help with alcohol abuse. Disulfiram, for example, blocks the breakdown of alcohol in the body. This leads to unpleasant symptoms when you do drink. Nausea and flushing of the skin are common. Disulfiram is designed to make you not want to drink. Consult a physician or addiction treatment specialist for these medical treatments.
Support groups have been around for decades. Beyond the usual 12-step groups, treatment centers can guide you to support groups that will speak directly to your needs and concerns. Studies have shown that support groups can be essential to recovery from alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse treatment has kept pace with contemporary medicine. The forms of treatment now available are grounded in science and are extremely effective.
Riverwalk Ranch provides a full medical staff with 24-hour nursing on staff. They also provide physicians in the case of serious issues. Riverwalk Ranch can provide a full medical detox should you require it.
The treatment modalities at Riverwalk Ranch are designed to meet your specific needs. There is a range of treatment methods. These include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Mindfulness therapy, all of which have clinically proven results for alcohol abuse problems and alcohol abuse disorder.