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How to Tell If Excessive Drinking is an Addiction

How to Tell If Excessive Drinking is an Addiction, Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is not uncommon. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 5.8% or 14.4 million adults in the U.S. had this disorder in 2018.

It can be difficult to know if a person just likes to drink alcohol or has developed dependence or an addiction. To be clear, no amount of alcohol consumption is considered completely safe. There is also no way to know what will happen when a person begins to drink alcohol.

So, How Do You Know if a Problem Exists?

If you suspect that yourself or a loved one might be using alcohol to the point of addiction, answer the following questions as honestly as you can. 

  • Is excessive drinking somewhat common?

Many people with alcohol use disorder will use excessively. Instead of just one drink after work or one glass of wine, they will have several drinks. Some people binge drink, which includes drinking five or more servings in a two-hour sitting. Doing that several times a month puts you at a higher risk for developing an addiction.

If you regularly drink more than you intend to drink, that could be an indication of addiction. 

  • Do you understand the risks and continue to drink anyway? 

This may be something to ask yourself. For example, do you know that you could be putting people at risk with drunk driving and yet still do so?

You or your loved one may understand the risks – to health, relationships, and mental well-being – but continue to engage in excessive drinking. If your loved one is at this stage, you may become overwhelmed and frustrated with their failure to keep promises. 

  • Is your need for alcohol increasing? 

Alcohol use disorder often results in tolerance. A person will need to drink more to achieve the desired level of relaxation or relief. Sometimes, people will combine alcohol with other drugs as a way to reach the desired feeling.

As tolerance builds, physical limitations occur. The kidneys and liver can only handle so much of the toxins in alcohol. You may feel like you have everything under control, but the body does not have unlimited resources. Overdoses can happen when alcohol levels become toxic. 

  • Why do you drink?

If your loved one is drinking alcohol all of the time, you may think you know why. But you cannot know what is happening in their mind until and unless they tell you.

If you are questioning your own addiction, be honest with yourself. Do you drink because of:

  • Relationship problems?
  • Emotional pain?
  • Past trauma you do not want to think about or feel?
  • Stress that you cannot control?
  • Depression or anxiety?

Often, mental health conditions lurk behind the alcohol consumption. This makes it very hard for someone to stop using on their own.

Other Key Questions to Ask

The signs of alcoholism are not always so clear. You may need to dive deeper to see the changes happening. Here are a few more questions to consider.

  • Does drinking continue despite existing health problems? 
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop using for a short amount of time?
  • Have overdoses occurred previously?
  • Do you think about drinking often?
  • Do you hide the amount you are drinking from your friends and family?
  • Do you drink at work?
  • Do you feel pain, nausea, anxiety, or shakiness when you stop using?

It’s hard to admit when you or your loved one has a problem. Yet acknowledging your situation is the important first step in getting the treatment you need. Our team at Highland Hospital can help you assess your drinking habits and find the therapy options that fit your needs. We’ll help you understand the importance of addressing any trauma and stress in your life. We can also help you know how to help a loved one who may have an addiction. The key is to recognize the signs and then take action.

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