You might only think of alcoholics as jobless and alone, watching their lives fall apart. But this isn’t always the case when it comes to alcoholism and alcohol abuse. If you’ve ever asked yourself “Do I have a drinking problem?” or “Am I an alcoholic?” chances are you have a problem with alcohol. Having concerns or trouble with alcohol does not necessarily make you an alcoholic, but you should know the warning signs.
“Alcoholism” and “alcohol abuse” are terms usually used interchangeably. But they are not the same. Alcoholism is an alcohol addiction or dependence. It is the actual the body’s physical need for alcohol, not just the addiction to drinking it for its effects. Alcohol abuse is a pattern of behavior where a person drinks heavily despite the outcomes.
There is a new clinical definition for alcoholism and alcohol abuse is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). A survey done by the CDC in 2015 found that 15 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from AUD. This term encompasses the many misuses of alcohol including “heavy drinking” and “binge drinking.”
- Heavy Drinking – Women having more than 3 drinks a day or 7 a week. Men having more than 4 drinks a day or 14 drinks per week.
- Binge Drinking – Consuming a large amount of alcohol at one time. For men having 5 or more drinks in an hour. Women having 4 or more an hour.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism
- Alcohol Cravings – Alcohol is an addictive substance, some even argue it’s a drug. Consuming a lot of it for long periods of time can create a physical dependence. Alcoholism is dependence on alcohol and cravings can be strong even months after sobriety.
- Increased Alcohol Tolerance – Alcohol tolerance is the body’s ability to tolerate large quantities of ethanol. Since alcoholics consume large amounts of booze, it takes a lot more drinks for them to feel the effects of the average drinker. Increased frequency of drinking from a few times a week to daily use also increases tolerance.
- Drinking Alone – Having a drink at home by yourself doesn’t make you an alcoholic. Drinking alone on occasion and in moderation is fine. However, if the frequency and quantity of solitary drinking increases, it can be a sign of alcoholism.
- Mood Swings and Irritability – Mood swings is one of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Alcoholics can have mood changes even if they don’t have a mood disorder. Alcoholism can also lead to patterns of delusional thinking.
- Loss of Interest or Depressed Mood – New studies show that alcoholism can cause depression. While alcohol temporarily reduces symptoms of depression, it can worsen them over time.
- Continuing to drink despite the outcomes – Drinking despite poor health or financial trouble is a very strong indicator of alcoholism. Neglect of responsibility and damaging relationships is a red flag for AUD.
- Drinking first thing in the morning – Drinking in the morning is usually touted as a cure for a hangover. The constant need for a little “hair of the dog” to start your day is sign of alcohol dependence and alcoholism.
- Taking Risks – Alcohol lowers inhibitions. While this can be enjoyable, it can also lead to trouble with relationships or even legal trouble. If you drive while intoxicated on a frequent basis, chances of being arrested are increased.
- Inability to stop drinking – Trying repeatedly to stop drinking and failing is a telltale sign of alcoholism. If you can’t quit, treatment and support are the best option for real recovery.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a better definition of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. It encompasses misuse of alcohol in a new way. We are now starting to understand the addictive and damaging effects of alcohol abuse in a way that helps with alcohol treatment.
If you or someone you are close to is struggling with alcohol, help is available. Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida can help with next steps. Call our 24-hour helpline or chat live with us now.
Here are some self-tests and resources that can help determine if you have an alcohol addiction:
NCADD “Am I an Alcoholic?” Self-Test
Am I an Alcoholic? Test for Alcohol Use Disorder
Are You a High-Functioning Alcoholic?