Do you drink regularly?
Do you drink in binges?
Do you have a criterion/measure for getting drunk?
How often are you unsafe to drive?
Does the amount of alcohol you drink seem to be enough to call your drinking a problem or not?
The following questions are a guide to deciding whether you think you may have an alcohol problem.
Do you think your drinking is out of control?
Does the prospect of missing a drink make you anxious or worried?
Do you worry about your drinking?
Do you wish you could cut down, or stop?
How difficult would you find it to cut down, or stop?
Do you need increasing amounts of alcohol to get the same effect from it?
Do you start to withdraw or hang out for it if you go without alcohol?
Have you ever been sweaty, shaky or confused when you have gone without alcohol for any length of time?
Do you have to drink throughout the day to keep your body physically stable?
Do you ever have to have a drink as soon as you wake up to stop the shakes (this is sometimes called an ‘eye opener’)?
In these ways, does it now seem that your body is controlling your drinking?
Some people may never drink above accepted safe limits and may never become hooked either psychologically or physically.
Alcohol can cause a number of disruptions or problems in many areas of life.
Some of these include:
Legal problems, eg, trouble with the police through drinking, or drink-driving charges.
Relationship problems, eg, with your partner, friends, or other family and whanau members, or at work.
Family problems, such as violence, disruptive relationships, financial difficulties through drinking.
Social problems, eg, social embarrassment because of drunkenness.
Occupational problems, eg, time off work, poor work performance, job loss.
Physical health problems. Moderate drinking can be protective for middle-aged men and women who are at risk of some forms of heart disease. However, alcohol affects every part of the body, the heart included, and excessive amounts of alcohol can cause physical damage and a wide range of physical diseases.
Other health problems. Alcohol can cause brain diseases (eg, a dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease); it can trigger illnesses like depression and schizophrenia, and its use can make the management of almost all psychiatric problems more difficult.
Think, then about any problems that might be caused by, or through, your drinking. Is your drinking causing problems for people you love or care about? Are you in legal or money trouble because of your drinking? Is your drinking causing any kind of health problem? Is your drinking endangering your job? Are you concerned about how much you drink?
It is useful to draw up a list of the good things and the less good things that you experience with your own drinking. Write down all the good things you can think of, eg, that drinking alcohol makes you feel better; that it means you have a good time with your friends, or whatever. Make up your own list and include everything good you can think of.
In terms of the less good things, consider any of the negative effects that might be affecting your life. Consider what your family or whanau is saying about your drinking. Consider the effect your drinking might have on them. Consider any effects that alcohol might be having on your health.
Look at the balance of the good things and the less good things. Is your drinking a problem for you or for other people? Do you need to change something about it? If your drinking is causing problems in your life, are you ready to do something about it?
What you do about your drinking may depend on your answers to the above questions.
A number of factors can contribute to alcohol problems. There can be a genetic component to severe alcohol problems, that is, we can inherit a tendency to develop them. This does not mean it will always happen, but severe alcohol problems do tend to run in families and, if you have a family member who has been dependent upon alcohol, you are at greater risk of developing a problem with alcohol yourself.
Certainly, our physical make up can contribute to the development of drinking problems as life progresses. People who become very sick when they first drink alcohol (or who cannot hold their drink) are unlikely to go on and develop a regular drinking pattern. On the other hand, people who drink heavily and who can hold their booze are more likely to carry on drinking and therefore to possibly develop problems.
Social patterns are important too. You are less likely to drink heavily if no one in your peer group, family or social group drinks heavily.
How we are conditioned towards alcohol is important. If we grow up in a family or society that drinks, we are more likely to drink. If we get drunk at a party and make fools of ourselves in front of our friends, we might not drink so much the next time. Advertising can have powerful effects on our thinking, attitudes and behaviour.
Some people develop drinking problems simply because they develop an unchanging regular pattern of drinking. They always drink at the same time and place, every day, rarely changing the type or amount of drink. Others drink because they are stressed, depressed, or they have some other kind of problem in their life. Drinking can start as a way of coping with problems or trauma but, unless properly controlled, it can develop into a problem in its own right.