It’s no secret that substance abuse is a problem in the US, and if there’s one substance that takes precedent, it’s alcohol. Believe it or not, over 12 percent of the US population meets the criteria for alcohol use disorder, and the problem is only getting worse with rising rates of mental illnesses and social isolation.
However, a lot of people don’t even realize when they have a problem with alcohol, as there are too many blurred lines on the topic. Luckily, there are ways to figure it out.
Determining whether or not you are an alcoholic is a serious feat, and if you believe you have a drinking problem, then it’s important to know the risks of ignoring the problem.
Around 10% of deaths among those aged 15 to 49 and over half of all chronic misuse deaths are directly attributable to alcohol. The longer a drinking problem like binge drinking, problem drinking, self-medicating, and alcoholism persists, the more likely these deaths are to occur.
However, it isn’t just spontaneous death or overdosing that should worry you. Without taking any liberties with the term, alcohol is a poison, and your body treats it that way.
Alcohol rapidly deteriorates liver functions, kidney functions, brain functions, and more important processes throughout your body. When consumed excessively over a longer period, it’s essentially a ticking time bomb for your body.
It’s important to remember that middle-aged or older people are not the only ones who can be called “alcoholics”. There’s no age, gender, or other qualification for the term beyond your dependency on the substance.
The signs of alcoholism, like many other conditions, are often easier to spot in others than ourselves. Paying attention to our own wrongdoings and flaws is not a skill humans commonly share.
However, that is not to suggest the skill isn’t important. Here are some signs of alcoholism to watch out for:
Long-term alcoholism is not the only type of drinking problem, and all others will eventually lead to alcoholism. For example, binge drinking is very common for men between the ages of 18 and 25, and studies show that those who binge drink during this age are more likely to develop alcoholism.
Binge drinking is defined as infrequent but excessive drinking. Going on “benders” or getting drunk to the point of sickness or blacking out on the weekend are examples of this.
Also, binge drinking is extremely dangerous to a person’s health. The risk of alcohol poisoning, overdose, and complications with other medications or drugs are extremely high, especially with a fluctuating tolerance.
However, binge drinking isn’t the only problem. There’s also “problem drinking” known as self-medicating, which is another extremely dangerous type of drinking that can easily lead to dependency.
Those with an underlying mental illness, trauma, or extreme negative feelings may drink as a form of escapism, which leads to many complications, including alcoholism. Unfortunately, the transition doesn’t take that long in most cases.
When we say “blurred lines”, we’re specifically talking about the line between alcoholism and casual drinking. For many people, enjoying a drink after a hard day’s work may never cause a problem in their life. For others, it becomes a problem.
Learning to understand where you fit on this spectrum is the only way to determine if you have a problem or not, which is the first step to addressing it if so.
First, we must understand key distinctions like the difference between drinking socially and only spending social time drinking. Another example is drinking to have some fun on the weekends and spending all of your free time drinking.
To understand these distinctions and apply them to your own circumstances, it’s time to ask yourself some questions.
Okay, now that you know the signs and the dangers of alcoholism, it’s time to apply this to yourself. Here, we will offer a short quiz for alcoholism to help you reflect on your actions to learn the truth about your situation.
Remember, none of these questions will help you if you aren’t honest with yourself. When we feel guilty about our actions, it’s often more comfortable to breeze over a question.
Instead, after you answer one of these questions and read our descriptions for them, we strongly suggest reconsidering your answers.
First, ask yourself how you feel about drinking. Does it help you relax at the end of the day or is it difficult to relax without it? Do you enjoy having one drink after work or does it always turn into more?
More importantly, how do you feel about not drinking? If you go the whole day without drinking, does it make you feel anxious, overwhelmed, bored, or any other negative feeling?
If you feel anxiety or fear over not drinking, that’s a reason for serious concern. It’s easy to say you can stop whenever you want, but how do you actually feel about stopping?
Of course, an important question to ask yourself is how often you drink more than just “a couple of drinks”. Let’s briefly define “excessive drinking”.
When we say excessive, we mean to the point of becoming drunk. Some people may get drunk on the occasional weekend and just sip on a beer during the week, but if you find yourself getting drunk on a daily basis, then this is a cause for concern.
Also, ask yourself how many drinks you think you have in a week. Remember to think critically about this. Your brain may throw out a number like “sixteen” and you may move on.
However, you should go through your typical week, day by day, and add them up. The true answer may shock you.
Have you ever felt sick from not drinking? Anxiety, “the shakes”, nausea, vomiting, irritability, headaches? If any of those ring a bell, ask yourself if they happen at a certain time of the day without alcohol.
Also, have you ever gotten sick from excessively drinking? Did you realize it was the drinking or did you blame it on something else?
If any of these questions sound painfully familiar, then it’s likely that you have a physical addiction to alcohol and will require a medical detox treatment.
Has anybody ever criticized your drinking habits before? Have they ever accused you of talking or caring too much about drinking?
It doesn’t have to be a direct criticism of your regular drinking. Have you ever suggested to your friends that you go out for drinks and they seemed upset that you kept asking?
If so, how did you feel in these situations? Did you feel personally attacked or any resentment toward them? If you did, then you likely have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
When alcohol interferes with our daily obligations because we’re too drunk, sick, hungover, or distracted to perform them correctly, this is a serious red flag.
Now, we said “work” but let’s use a disclaimer here. While few will admit it, not everybody cares about their job.
Apply this to whatever responsibilities, hobbies you have, side business, passion, family obligations, or work obligations you have. Do you find your drinking interferes with these, and does it cause you guilt?
If you find yourself feeling guilty over drinking because it interferes with the most important aspects of your life, then it’s likely time to seek help.
If you’re serious about taking a hard look at your situation, then open your credit card statement. How much money do you spend at the bar or liquor store in a given week or month?
Do you find yourself going broke due to an indifference to work obligations and spending too much money on alcohol? That’s another serious red flag, if so.
Calm your nerves, cure a hangover, or “function” throughout the day? Even if you were simply trying to have fun, how many times have you done this in the last few months?
If you find yourself drinking in the morning to accomplish any of these goals, that’s a major red flag and we recommend seeking help immediately.
If you believe you fit the description of an alcoholic, you are unsure, or you believe you have a problem with drinking that may lead to alcoholism, there is help available. The sooner you get help, the better. The longer you wait, the longer you stay at risk of complications.
Fortunately, there are plenty of different treatment programs available. However, if you have never quit drinking for longer than 30 days, then we highly recommend an inpatient rehabilitation program.
Outpatient programs like support groups and therapy are fantastic for ongoing support, but the early stages are very difficult. Consequently, inpatient treatment is available to offer everything an outpatient program would offer with the added benefit of a substance-free, controlled environment.
Once you are through the early stages, ongoing outpatient treatment is appropriate to help you maintain abstinence. Having access to around-the-clock medical oversight, especially during detox, is best for the early stages.
However, any treatment is better than no treatment. Take the first step and find the right treatment to help you today. Contact Inland Detox in Riverside County for a consultation.