How’s Your Drinking? How to Know if You Have a Drinking Problem

Do you have a drinking problem? Are you an alcoholic? How can you know, and what do these terms mean anyway?

If you go to the doctor, and she says you have cancer – shows you the MRI pictures, and you see a tumor – you believe it, and start thinking almost immediately about how to get better. It’s black and white, cut and dry – and for the most, the decision to get treatment is an easy one.

Not to belittle the challenge of cancer, but – if only it were that easy for someone with a drinking or drug problem!

People diagnosed with cancer can understand their diagnosis, most will accept it as accurate, and most will accept of the need for treatment. People don’t tend to understand the true meaning of terms such as alcoholic, substance abuser or chemically dependant – although they tend to have a misguided idea in their heads about what these things mean. And they won’t tend to believe a doctor, or anyone else, if they are told that they suffer the disease of addiction.

The term alcoholic is not a medically accepted diagnosis, yet has wide cultural connotations and understanding. It’s a tough and problematic word. People don’t tend to understand it, yet think they do, and since two hallmarks of the disease are delusion and denial – it’s all too easy to self-define alcoholism in such a way so that you don’t meet the criteria – no matter how bad your problem becomes.

For example

You believe that alcoholics are homeless bums – and since you still work, ergo you are not an alcoholic, no matter what drinking is doing to other areas of your life.

The addicted mind, as a defense mechanism preserving the drinking, defines alcoholism as whatever you are not. And that tricky addicted mind can shift those definitions as it needs to, always ensuring that your self-definition of "alcoholic" is anything but what you yourself are.

So Let’s Forget About the Word "Alcoholism"

Just for a second, let’s forget about the term alcoholism. It is a useful term, and understanding the disease of alcoholism can help you to get better, once on a road to recovery – but if you’re still drinking, don’t think you’re an alcoholic, but have a small nagging voice inside your head saying there’s a problem…lets look at things in a different way.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

People without drinking problems almost never experience problems because of their drinking. If drinking causes you some problems, in any area of your life, yet you still drink – then you have a drinking problem.

There – it’s as simple as that. If drinking causes you problems, you have a drinking problem. If you have a drinking problem, you should change your behaviors.

While drinking, we tend to associate with others that also drink. While drinking heavily, we associate with others that drink heavily – and we use our associates as a way to gauge our own problem. Not a great diagnostic technique, obviously, but it’s human nature to peer model, and it’s also a great defense mechanism for the addicted mind.

It is not normal to get drunk a lot. About half of Americans basically don’t drink at all.

Forget about comparing yourself to your friends. It’s tempting, but it doesn’t offer you any real insight into yourself. Keep it simple. If drinking is causing you any problems, you have a drinking problem.

Not sure?

Write it down. On a piece of paper, make two columns describing your drinking – one for benefits, and one for costs. Start with the benefits, and in the benefit column, write down anything and everything positive that you can think of about drinking.

You might say: It relaxes me I enjoy the taste of…. I enjoy socializing with friends at the bar.

Whatever, be thorough, and make a full list of everything good that you can think of about drinking. Now – do the same for costs, but this time, do it in a more structured way, and be honest – there is little point in the exercise of you are not being honest with yourself.

Firstly, write down how many drinks you have a week. No lying, is it, 20 – 50 – 150?

Photo: PescatelloHealth

Now think about health, and think of any influence your drinking has on your health. Has your drinking affected your weight, your fitness, your heart, your blood pressure, your liver, your energy or your mind? Do you think that if you keep drinking at the level you are drinking now, you will start to experience any health problems?

Social/Relationships

Has drinking ever caused you personal problems? Has it ever affected your relationship with your spouse, friends, children or family? Has your drinking ever caused you to miss an important social event? Would you like to see your children drink as much as you do? Would your spouse/mom/brother be happier if you drank less?

School/Career

Has your drinking ever caused you to perform poorly at work or school? Do you go to work with a hangover on a regular basis (more than once a month)? Do you perform as well at work when you are hung-over? Have you ever been noticed for being hung-over or drunk at work? Do you sometimes call in sick to work due to a hang-over? Would you be a better employee if you didn’t drink? Have you ever lost a job or been reprimanded due to alcohol?

Legal

Have you ever had any contact with law enforcement as a result of your drinking?

Now Take a Look

OK, that’s it. Now you should have two columns. What do your columns look like?

If you’re feeling really brave – have someone that knows you well complete the same "costs" exercise for you. See what problems they think your drinking is causing you. If you are a social drinker, with nothing to worry about – your "costs" column will be empty.

If that column aint’ empty – you have something to worry about.

Drinking should bring only pleasure – if it brings any kind of problem on a regular basis – and you don’t stop drinking, then you have a drinking problem, and you either need to quit on your own, or get some help so that you can. When self-diagnosing the problem, forget about the term alcoholic – and just decide if you have a drinking problem or not – and if you do – think about how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep on drinking.

 

Do you have a drinking problem? Are you an alcoholic? How can you know, and what do these terms mean anyway?

If you go to the doctor, and she says you have cancer – shows you the MRI pictures, and you see a tumor – you believe it, and start thinking almost immediately about how to get better. It’s black and white, cut and dry – and for the most, the decision to get treatment is an easy one.

Not to belittle the challenge of cancer, but – if only it were that easy for someone with a drinking or drug problem!

People diagnosed with cancer can understand their diagnosis, most will accept it as accurate, and most will accept of the need for treatment. People don’t tend to understand the true meaning of terms such as alcoholic, substance abuser or chemically dependant – although they tend to have a misguided idea in their heads about what these things mean. And they won’t tend to believe a doctor, or anyone else, if they are told that they suffer the disease of addiction.

The term alcoholic is not a medically accepted diagnosis, yet has wide cultural connotations and understanding. It’s a tough and problematic word. People don’t tend to understand it, yet think they do, and since two hallmarks of the disease are delusion and denial – it’s all too easy to self-define alcoholism in such a way so that you don’t meet the criteria – no matter how bad your problem becomes.

For example

You believe that alcoholics are homeless bums – and since you still work, ergo you are not an alcoholic, no matter what drinking is doing to other areas of your life.

The addicted mind, as a defense mechanism preserving the drinking, defines alcoholism as whatever you are not. And that tricky addicted mind can shift those definitions as it needs to, always ensuring that your self-definition of "alcoholic" is anything but what you yourself are.

So Let’s Forget About the Word "Alcoholism"

Just for a second, let’s forget about the term alcoholism. It is a useful term, and understanding the disease of alcoholism can help you to get better, once on a road to recovery – but if you’re still drinking, don’t think you’re an alcoholic, but have a small nagging voice inside your head saying there’s a problem…lets look at things in a different way.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

People without drinking problems almost never experience problems because of their drinking. If drinking causes you some problems, in any area of your life, yet you still drink – then you have a drinking problem.

There – it’s as simple as that. If drinking causes you problems, you have a drinking problem. If you have a drinking problem, you should change your behaviors.

While drinking, we tend to associate with others that also drink. While drinking heavily, we associate with others that drink heavily – and we use our associates as a way to gauge our own problem. Not a great diagnostic technique, obviously, but it’s human nature to peer model, and it’s also a great defense mechanism for the addicted mind.

It is not normal to get drunk a lot. About half of Americans basically don’t drink at all.

Forget about comparing yourself to your friends. It’s tempting, but it doesn’t offer you any real insight into yourself. Keep it simple. If drinking is causing you any problems, you have a drinking problem.

Not sure?

Write it down. On a piece of paper, make two columns describing your drinking – one for benefits, and one for costs. Start with the benefits, and in the benefit column, write down anything and everything positive that you can think of about drinking.

You might say: It relaxes me I enjoy the taste of…. I enjoy socializing with friends at the bar.

Whatever, be thorough, and make a full list of everything good that you can think of about drinking. Now – do the same for costs, but this time, do it in a more structured way, and be honest – there is little point in the exercise of you are not being honest with yourself.

Firstly, write down how many drinks you have a week. No lying, is it, 20 – 50 – 150?

Photo: PescatelloHealth

Now think about health, and think of any influence your drinking has on your health. Has your drinking affected your weight, your fitness, your heart, your blood pressure, your liver, your energy or your mind? Do you think that if you keep drinking at the level you are drinking now, you will start to experience any health problems?

Social/Relationships

Has drinking ever caused you personal problems? Has it ever affected your relationship with your spouse, friends, children or family? Has your drinking ever caused you to miss an important social event? Would you like to see your children drink as much as you do? Would your spouse/mom/brother be happier if you drank less?

School/Career

Has your drinking ever caused you to perform poorly at work or school? Do you go to work with a hangover on a regular basis (more than once a month)? Do you perform as well at work when you are hung-over? Have you ever been noticed for being hung-over or drunk at work? Do you sometimes call in sick to work due to a hang-over? Would you be a better employee if you didn’t drink? Have you ever lost a job or been reprimanded due to alcohol?

Legal

Have you ever had any contact with law enforcement as a result of your drinking?

Now Take a Look

OK, that’s it. Now you should have two columns. What do your columns look like?

If you’re feeling really brave – have someone that knows you well complete the same "costs" exercise for you. See what problems they think your drinking is causing you. If you are a social drinker, with nothing to worry about – your "costs" column will be empty.

If that column aint’ empty – you have something to worry about.

Drinking should bring only pleasure – if it brings any kind of problem on a regular basis – and you don’t stop drinking, then you have a drinking problem, and you either need to quit on your own, or get some help so that you can. When self-diagnosing the problem, forget about the term alcoholic – and just decide if you have a drinking problem or not – and if you do – think about how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep on drinking.

 

The NIAA Says There Are 5 Kinds of Alcoholic

An epidemiological study by the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, that evaluated data on almost 1500 people who met the criteria for alcohol dependence, has subdivided the different types of alcoholics into 5 distinct subgroups. By better understanding the different types of alcoholism and how it afflicts diverse groups of people, interventions and treatments can hopefully be designed better suited to the needs of individual alcoholics.

The study reveals that more than half of all people that meet the criteria for alcohol dependence have no familial history of alcoholism, and that those most likely to ever seek out treatment were the most antisocial and most dependent of drinkers. Only about 25% of all alcoholics ever seek any form of treatment for their drinking, and much fewer than even that number succeeds in successfully conquering the disease.

What we know is that only a fraction of people with alcoholism are ever getting better; and while this may seem a very pessimistic view for the future, the fact that 75% of alcoholics avoid treatment for life means that we have a great opportunity to effect change by designing interventions and better treatments to get those people never treated into treatment, and onto the road to sobriety.

The five sub groups of alcoholics as classified by the NIAA are:

The Young Adult Alcoholics 31.5%

These people have a very low percentage history of family drinking, and a low rate of other substance use or dependency. These people are very unlikely to seek out treatment for their alcoholism.

The Anti Social Young Alcoholic

This group representing 21.5% of alcoholics started drinking heavily early, more than half have a family history of alcohol abuse, and more than half present with some form of co present psychiatric disorder (often anti social personality disorder). This group is very likely using other drugs with alcohol and about 33% of these people will seek out help for their drinking

The Functional Alcoholic

This group of alcoholics represents 19.5% of the sample, and these people are normally well educated and professionally and stably employed. About half of these people will have experienced a major psychiatric disorder at some point, and these people are unlikely to seek help for their drinking.

Intermediate Familial Alcoholics

Representing 19% of alcoholics, these people are not as successful as the functional group. About half come from families with a multigenerational history of alcohol abuse, and more than half will have suffered from a depressive disorder. About 25% of these people will ever seek out treatment.

Chronic Severe Alcoholics

This last group, representing 9% of drinkers, are mostly middle aged, and have a long history of alcoholism, normally starting out in adolescence. 80% of these people have a multigenerational history of alcoholism and also present with a high degree of criminality and other substance abuse. This group of people is the most commonly seen group in alcohol treatment, with more than 75% of these people initiating alcohol treatment at some point.

How does this information help?

Examining the classification data, we can see that very few people are ever seeking out treatment help, and that the two groups most likely to ever seek out treatment are the two group displaying the most severe alcoholism and criminality. We know that the earlier treatment is attempted the better the eventual outlook, but it seems that the vast majority of treatment is only ever initiated on people with very severe and long lasting histories of alcohol abuse and dependency.

Those people who do suffer from alcoholism but do manage to hold down jobs, and lead more "normal" lives, are the most likely to benefit from treatment, are the largest group of alcoholics by the numbers, and are also by far the least likely to ever seek or receive appropriate interventions and treatment.

Because alcoholism is a progressive and destructive disease, we need to effect better change in the people most likely to benefit from treatment, and at the earliest possible opportunity. Young adult and functional alcoholics very rarely get the treatment that they need, and interventions and outreach need to do a better job at convincing these reluctant addicts of the need and the benefits of rehab or other appropriate treatment opportunities.

The fact that we are only treating a quarter of alcoholics over their lifetimes can be presented as a great opportunity to better treatment participation percentages, and to enact real positive change for a group of people that are very likely to benefit from these offered treatments.

Interfere!!!

Families, employers, clergymen, friends and co workers, we all need to do a better job at intervening in the lives of those people that desperately need treatment, but who are statistically so very unlikely to ever initiate it. We hate to stick our noses where they don’t belong, but the benefits of intervention far outweigh a perception of interference, and we have a great opportunity to do some real good.

Be nosy, interfere, and do some real good amongst groups of people that could really benefit from available therapies.

An epidemiological study by the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, that evaluated data on almost 1500 people who met the criteria for alcohol dependence, has subdivided the different types of alcoholics into 5 distinct subgroups. By better understanding the different types of alcoholism and how it afflicts diverse groups of people, interventions and treatments can hopefully be designed better suited to the needs of individual alcoholics.

The study reveals that more than half of all people that meet the criteria for alcohol dependence have no familial history of alcoholism, and that those most likely to ever seek out treatment were the most antisocial and most dependent of drinkers. Only about 25% of all alcoholics ever seek any form of treatment for their drinking, and much fewer than even that number succeeds in successfully conquering the disease.

What we know is that only a fraction of people with alcoholism are ever getting better; and while this may seem a very pessimistic view for the future, the fact that 75% of alcoholics avoid treatment for life means that we have a great opportunity to effect change by designing interventions and better treatments to get those people never treated into treatment, and onto the road to sobriety.

The five sub groups of alcoholics as classified by the NIAA are:

The Young Adult Alcoholics 31.5%

These people have a very low percentage history of family drinking, and a low rate of other substance use or dependency. These people are very unlikely to seek out treatment for their alcoholism.

The Anti Social Young Alcoholic

This group representing 21.5% of alcoholics started drinking heavily early, more than half have a family history of alcohol abuse, and more than half present with some form of co present psychiatric disorder (often anti social personality disorder). This group is very likely using other drugs with alcohol and about 33% of these people will seek out help for their drinking

The Functional Alcoholic

This group of alcoholics represents 19.5% of the sample, and these people are normally well educated and professionally and stably employed. About half of these people will have experienced a major psychiatric disorder at some point, and these people are unlikely to seek help for their drinking.

Intermediate Familial Alcoholics

Representing 19% of alcoholics, these people are not as successful as the functional group. About half come from families with a multigenerational history of alcohol abuse, and more than half will have suffered from a depressive disorder. About 25% of these people will ever seek out treatment.

Chronic Severe Alcoholics

This last group, representing 9% of drinkers, are mostly middle aged, and have a long history of alcoholism, normally starting out in adolescence. 80% of these people have a multigenerational history of alcoholism and also present with a high degree of criminality and other substance abuse. This group of people is the most commonly seen group in alcohol treatment, with more than 75% of these people initiating alcohol treatment at some point.

How does this information help?

Examining the classification data, we can see that very few people are ever seeking out treatment help, and that the two groups most likely to ever seek out treatment are the two group displaying the most severe alcoholism and criminality. We know that the earlier treatment is attempted the better the eventual outlook, but it seems that the vast majority of treatment is only ever initiated on people with very severe and long lasting histories of alcohol abuse and dependency.

Those people who do suffer from alcoholism but do manage to hold down jobs, and lead more "normal" lives, are the most likely to benefit from treatment, are the largest group of alcoholics by the numbers, and are also by far the least likely to ever seek or receive appropriate interventions and treatment.

Because alcoholism is a progressive and destructive disease, we need to effect better change in the people most likely to benefit from treatment, and at the earliest possible opportunity. Young adult and functional alcoholics very rarely get the treatment that they need, and interventions and outreach need to do a better job at convincing these reluctant addicts of the need and the benefits of rehab or other appropriate treatment opportunities.

The fact that we are only treating a quarter of alcoholics over their lifetimes can be presented as a great opportunity to better treatment participation percentages, and to enact real positive change for a group of people that are very likely to benefit from these offered treatments.

Interfere!!!

Families, employers, clergymen, friends and co workers, we all need to do a better job at intervening in the lives of those people that desperately need treatment, but who are statistically so very unlikely to ever initiate it. We hate to stick our noses where they don’t belong, but the benefits of intervention far outweigh a perception of interference, and we have a great opportunity to do some real good.

Be nosy, interfere, and do some real good amongst groups of people that could really benefit from available therapies.