Do I Have an Alcohol Problem?

You’ve probably heard of “alcohol abuse,” "alcohol dependence,” or “alcoholism.” Maybe you know the new term doctors use, “alcohol use disorder.”

Warning Signs

You may have an alcohol use disorder if you:

  • Drink more, or longer, than you plan to
  • Have tried to cut back or stop more than once and couldn’t
  • Spend a lot of time drinking, being sick, or hungover
  • Want alcohol so badly you can’t think of anything else
  • Have problems with work, school, or family because of your habit (or because you're sick after having alcohol)
  • Keep drinking even though it has caused problems for you or your relationships
  • Quit or cut back on other activities that were important to you in order to drink
  • Have found yourself in situations while drinking or afterward that made you more likely to get hurt
  • Keep having alcohol even though it made you depressed or anxious, hurt your health, or led to a memory blackout
  • Have to drink more than you used to for the effect you want
  • Found that you had withdrawal symptoms when the buzz wore off, like trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, a seizure, or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren't there.

If you've had two or three of those symptoms in the past year, that’s a mild alcohol use disorder. It’s a moderate disorder if you've had four to five. If you've had six or more, that's severe.

How Much Is Too Much?

Keep in mind that a serving of alcohol is:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 3-4 ounces of fortified wine (such as sherry or port)
  • 2-3 ounces of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif
  • 1.5 ounces of brandy, cognac, or 80-proof distilled spirits

Many places over-serve booze. It’s easy to do, even at home, if your wine or beer glasses are big.

An alcohol use disorder isn’t just about how much you drink. It’s also about:

  • How often you drink
  • What the effects are
  • What happens when you try to cut back

If I Think I Have a Problem

If you're worried that you might have alcohol use disorder, don’t try to quit cold turkey on your own. The withdrawal can be dangerous. You can get help.

Talking with your doctor is a good first step. He can:

  • Tell you if you need assistance
  • Work with you to put together a treatment plan, possibly including medication
  • Refer you to a support group or counseling.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 01, 2017

Sources

SOURCES: 

Psychology Today: "What Are the Eleven Symptoms of "Alcohol Use Disorder"?

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM-IV and DSM-5," "What Is A Standard Drink?"

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