Have you got a drink problem?
Alcohol causes all sorts of different problems to different people in different ways - There's no single entity as 'the drink problem', 'alcoholism' or 'an alcoholic'.
So we'll have to look at a wide range of things to get a good idea about where you fit in.
A good place to start is to ask yourself the following questions…
The effect of your drinking on your life
Is your drinking causing you problems with:
- Your physical health? (eg liver disease, eating badly, losing weight, beer belly, accidents)
- Your mental health? (eg feeling depressed, anxious, bad-tempered)?
- Work? (getting in late, not doing your job properly, getting sacked, your business failing)
- Relationships?(with your partner, friends, family, colleagues)
- The police or the courts?
The way you drink
- Do you often find yourself thinking about when you will be able to have your next drink?
- Is drinking more important than anything else you might do during the day?
- Do you plan your day around getting hold of and drinking alcohol?
- Do you drink morning, afternoon and evening?
- Do you want to drink more when the effect starts to wear off?
- Do you find it difficult to cope with life without drink?
Control over your drinking
- Can you control when you start drinking?
- Can you stop drinking once you've started?
Finally, is it worth it..?
- Do you think drinking is adding something to your life, or taking something away?
I don't think you need me to interpret your answers. But please don't think that answering no to any of them means you haven't got a problem. Answering yes to any of these is cause for concern.
What most of us do when faced with problems that we've created is to minimise the significance of our role in it. Maybe blaming other factors or even other people. It's a psychological self-defence mechanism that drinkers in particular often use.
So it might be a good idea to ask someone who knows you well what they think your answers should be.
The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test
If you'd rather tick boxes and get a score that tells you if you have a drink problem, then there are a couple of excellent ones. These have been carefully designed and tested to come up with accurate results - as long as you answer honestly.
The first one is the AUDIT questionnaire (The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test), which you can complete online here.
It'll indicate if your drinking is:
- HARMFUL: You're drinking too much, and although you haven't run into problems yet, it's probably only a matter of time…
- HAZARDOUS: You're drinking too much, and it's already damaging you.
- DEPENDENT :You're driven or compelled to drink and you're having trouble controlling it - despite the trouble it's causing you. Severely dependent drinkers may have physical withdrawals when they stop.
The Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire
You can complete the SADQ on this page. - it digs deeper to find out the degree of dependence on alcohol. It's routinely used to predict the need for medication in alcohol detox.
This information & advice in this guide is primarily for dependent drinkers - but there's advice in here for anyone who wants to stop drinking.
Read more about alcohol dependence here.