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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Ibelema, MD

How Do I Know If I Have A Drinking Problem?

We know that each individual mind and body is different. You may see someone else drinking responsibly without negative impacts to their health or lifestyle. That does not mean that the same may be true for you.

Alcohol is legal, socially acceptable, and widely available. This makes it easy to overuse, and difficult to recognize the line that exists between "casual drinking" and a "drinking problem". If you're worried that you may have a problem, the concern is likely valid.

A drinking problem is not an official diagnosis. It's a label used to indicate that a person misuses alcohol. A person with a drinking problem may or may not meet the medical criteria for an alcohol use disorder.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

Drinking to the point where you no longer have control of your actions or the language coming out of your mouth is unhealthy. If your alcohol use prevents you from maintaining your physical and mental safety, it's likely time to reflect on your use.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), relates that your drinking may be considered concerning if you drink more the following amounts:

  • For men: Five or more drinks on a single day and more than 14 drinks during any given week.

  • For women: Four or more drinks per day and more than seven drinks per week.

When Should I Be Worried About An Alcohol Problem?

It can be helpful to understand some of the other signs that might indicate a drinking problem. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Problem

  • Craving Alcohol

  • Consuming more alcohol than you planned

  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences

  • Drinking in hazardous situations

  • Experiencing frequent intoxication

  • Physical signs of excessive alcohol consumption such as broken capillaries in the face and weight loss due to excessive drinking

  • Regularly engaging in heavy drinking

  • Thinking about alcohol and planning activities around drinking

What Should I Do If I Have A Problem?

If you think that you have a drinking problem, you should reach out to a physician or healthcare professional. Abruptly quitting alcohol can result in alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Patients with chronic alcohol use or abuse could develop a life threatening state of alcohol withdrawal. These patients require medically supervised detoxification to detox safely. Once one has safety detoxified from alcohol there are a variety of treatment options available. Options include individual therapy, group therapy, 12 step support groups and prescription medication management.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.


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