Alcoholism: How to Know If You Are an Alcoholic? …Take the Alcohol Quiz
What is Alcoholism?
Alcohol Use Disorder, which includes the term Alcoholism, is often considered to be a disease that is chronic and, if not treated, can get progressively worse over time.
It is viewed by the medical community as either mild, moderate or severe depending on a person’s symptoms.
How Do You Know if You Are An Alcoholic?
Generally speaking if your craving for alcohol preoccupies you or you have been asked to stop or reduce your consumption by friends or family members you probably have some form of Alcohol Use Disorder.
Typically people who drink too much find that they really can’t control their drinking. They may say otherwise but too often have found themselves either too drunk to drive, occasionally unable to conduct themselves appropriately in social or work situations or even simply sick from abusing alcohol.
This is not a one-time event but a pattern which continues to repeat itself.
Symptoms of Alcoholism?
Some of the most common symptoms of alcoholism are:
- Often feeling that you need or crave a drink
- Inability to control the amount you drink
- Finding yourself thinking about drinking and often preoccupied with thoughts of drinking
- Will often opt to have a drink almost regardless of what the occasion might call for
- Failed attempts at cutting down your consumption of alcohol
- Social or work related situations have been negatively affected by your drinking
- Driving under the influence
- Realizing that you need more alcohol to get the same effect as before when you needed less (building a tolerance)
- Drinking despite physical consequences such as feeling sick afterwards or having symptoms of withdrawal.
Is Alcoholism Inherited?
Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism does indeed run in families. The genes a person inherits partially explain this pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor.
Currently, researchers are working to discover if there is an actual gene that puts people at risk for alcoholism. Typically however, alcoholism develops as a result of several factors in a person’s life.
What Are the Risk Factors for Alcoholism?
Risk factors include such things as your tendency to rely on drugs or alcohol to relieve stress, whether you surround yourself with people who tend to use alcohol in excess and what you may have learned from your family or culture about using alcohol as a tool or crutch.
Risk is not destiny however. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families doesn’t mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem.
Knowing you are at risk is important. Recognizing your tendency to overuse any substance helps you to take steps to protect yourself.
How is Alcoholism Treated?
Because alcoholism (or alcohol abuse) can be mild, moderate or severe, treatment depends upon what level a person has reached.
For example, if someone has been drinking too much and realizes that he needs to stop or cut down, he may benefit from some therapy helping him with that very strategy.
On the other hand if a person’s drinking has been: interfering with him taking care of his family or work responsibilities; putting himself or others in harm’s way as a result of his drinking; making him sick or depressed but despite this he continues to drink; drinking more than ever before, he has a far more serious problem and needs a higher level of care.
If a medical detoxification is necessary, that would be the first step before either an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or an inpatient rehabilitation program is recommended. The IOP is designed for people who may not need or want to go inpatient. It typically consists of several hours a day or evenings, several days a week of group meetings.
The inpatient programs can last from 1 or 2 months to several months. They both recommend individual treatment and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings upon discharge.
Along with counseling, a range of medications is used to treat alcoholism.
Benzodiazepines (Valium, Librium, Ativan) are sometimes used during the first days after a person stops drinking to help him safely withdraw from alcohol (detoxification). These medications are not used beyond the first few days, however, because they can be highly addictive.
Other medications help people remain sober. One medication used for this purpose is naltrexone.
When combined with counseling naltrexone can reduce the craving for alcohol and help prevent a person from returning, or relapsing, to heavy drinking. Another medication, disulfiram (Antabuse), discourages drinking by making the person feel sick if he or she drinks alcohol.
Though several medications help treat alcoholism, there is no “magic bullet.” In other words, no single medication is available that works in every case and/or in every person.
What You Should Know About Alcoholism
Alcohol Use Disorder cuts across all lines: gender, race, and nationality. Nearly 14 million people in the United States–1 in every 13 adults–abuse alcohol or are alcoholic.
In general, though, more men than women are alcohol dependent or have alcohol problems. And alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18-29 and lowest among adults ages 65 and older.
People who start drinking at an early age – for example, at age 14 or younger – greatly increase the chance that they will develop alcohol problems at some point in their lives.
The older a person gets the more likely they will be sensitive to the effects of alcohol on their system. Aging reduces the body’s ability to tolerate alcohol and can cause the person to become impaired more quickly.
It is also more likely that an older person will be taking other prescribed medications along with drinking alcohol which could cause a negative drug interaction.
Do you have an alcohol problem?
What follows is a list of questions that require a yes or no answer. Please answer all the questions. You can rate yourself at the end.
Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
Has a friend or relative ever asked that you cut down or stop drinking?
Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
Have you ever had a DUI?
Is there a history of alcoholism in your family of origin?
Do you think about drinking often?
Do you often drink yourself into intoxication?
Have you ever not attended an important social event because you were intoxicated?
Have you ever not gone to work because of a hangover.
Do you drink more than 1 or 2 drinks each time you drink?
Do you drink more often than you used to?
Do you mostly choose to be with people who drink?
Has anyone told you that you become very different when you drink?
Do you have medical problems or take medications where alcohol has been contraindicated but you drink anyway?
Do you smoke cigarettes?
Have you ever been in treatment for alcohol abuse?
If you have answered Yes to 5 or more questions you are probably a problem drinker. If that is the case it is time for a serious look at your habits and a change in perspective. Your well-being and the well-being of your family may depend on it.
Some helpful resources for more information are:
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA)
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
FAQ’s and other information provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers and intimacy. He also specializes in treating alcoholism, addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work life balance.