Alcohol is a problem if it affects any part of your life, including your health, your work and your life at home. You may have a problem with alcohol if you think about drinking all the time, if you keep trying to quit on your own but can't, or if you often drink more than you plan to or more than is safe for what you are doing (such as driving a car).
Not all signs are obvious. Many people find it hard to admit when alcohol is a problem. Often, people around you may see your problem before you do. Think about what your friends and family say to you about drinking. Then talk with your family doctor about your concerns.
You are drinking too much if one of the following statements is true. You are:
*One drink = one 12-oz bottle of beer (4.5 percent alcohol), one 5-oz glass of wine (12.9 percent alcohol) or 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits.
You are drinking heavily if one of the following statements is true. You are:
You are taking risks with alcohol if one or more of the following statements are true. You:
Your drinking has become a habit if you drink regularly to:
Alcohol has become a problem for you if one or more of the following statements are true. You:
Yes, if you:
The causes of alcoholism are not fully known. A history of alcoholism in your family makes it more likely. Men seem to be more at risk than women. Some drinkers use alcohol to try to relieve anxiety, depression, tension, loneliness, self-doubt or unhappiness.
Quitting is the only way to stop the problems alcohol is causing in your life. It may not be easy to quit. But your efforts will be rewarded by better health, better relationships and a sense of accomplishment. As you think about quitting, you may want to make a list of your reasons to quit.
The decision to stop using alcohol or other drugs is very important to your health. Talk with your doctor if you’ve decided to quit. He or she can guide your treatment, help you find support and monitor your condition as you recover.
The first step is realizing that you control your own behavior. It's the only real control you have in your life. So use it. Here are the next steps:
As you drink, your body tries to make up for the depressant effects of alcohol. This built-up tolerance to alcohol can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms when people who drink a lot quit.
Serious withdrawal symptoms include seeing things, seizures and delirium tremens (confusion, seeing vivid images, severe shakes, being very suspicious), and can even include death. This is why you need your doctor's care if you've been drinking heavily and are trying to quit.
Alcohol has many effects on your health. It can cause cirrhosis, a disease of the liver. It's a major cause of deaths and injuries because of accidents. It can have severe effects on a baby during pregnancy. It can also cause stomach pain due to a bleeding ulcer or irritated stomach lining.
Problem Drinking and Alcoholism: Diagnosis and Treatment by MA Enoch, M.D., M.R.C.G.P. and D Goldman, M.D. (American Family Physician February 01, 2002, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020201/441.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff