Alcohol Assessment: Do I have a Drink Problem?
If you're reading this, you probably already suspect that you may have a problem with alcohol. The following alcohol assessment will help you to determine if you have a problem that requires help.
Alcohol assessment: Questions to find out if you have a drinking problem
Read through the following questions and answer honestly to get the most accurate picture of your own drinking.
If you answer “yes” to any of them you may have a drinking problem. If you answer “yes” to a few, it is very likely that you have an issue.
1. Alcohol assessment - Do you drink every day?
If you drink alcohol every day, you may have an alcohol problem. Typically, people who have a serious problem with drinking, drink every day of the week or drink huge quantities of alcohol within a relatively short space of time (binge drinking). As alcoholism progresses, drinkers may find that they also drink from when they wake up.
2. Alcohol assessment - Have you lost important relationships because of drinking?
If you have become disconnected from family members or friends due to fallings out you had while you were intoxicated, or because of things that you did while intoxicated, it is likely that you have a problem with alcohol.
You may have even lost a relationship with a romantic partner, maybe they grew fed up with the things that you did while you were intoxicated. Losing out on these relationships should come as a wake-up call that alcohol is not helpful for you.
3. Alcohol Assessment - Do you have withdrawal if you don't drink alcohol?
If you find that you have withdrawal symptoms when you try to abstain from alcohol, this is a sign that you have become alcohol-dependent.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include: sweating, shaking, feeling agitated or anxious, nausea and vomiting, headaches and insomnia.
These symptoms can be extremely debilitating, making it hard for you to function in your everyday life. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to seek professional and medical help as soon as possible.
4. Alcohol Assessment - Do you drink more than you intend to?
If you find that you regularly drink more alcohol than you had planned to or intended to, it is likely that you have a problem. This is especially true if you find that you are unable to stick to the limits that you set for yourself. One of the defining characteristics of an alcohol use disorder is a lack of control around alcohol consumption.
For example, if you tell yourself that you're only going to have two drinks, but end up having much more, this is a sign that you have a problem.
5. Alcohol Assessment - Do you put drinking above other responsibilities?
If you find that you are regularly skipping out on work, school, or other obligations in order to drink, this is a sign for concern.
It's also a sign of alcoholism if you find that you are neglecting your responsibilities at home in order to drink. For instance, if you are supposed to be taking care of your children but instead head to the bar every night, then this is a serious problem.
Likewise, if you find yourself spending a lot of time drinking, and/or recovering from drinking, this too will interfere with your responsibilities.
6. Alcohol Assessment - Have you ever blacked out from drinking?
If you have ever experienced an alcoholic blackout due to heavy consumption, it is likely that you have a problem. Blackouts indicate that your liver has become so overloaded that it can no longer process the amount of alcohol in your system.
One of the symptoms of an alcoholic black out is other people telling you you did x,y,z whilst intoxicated and you cannot recall doing that. You may also have very hazy recollections of events that took place whilst you were intoxicated.
If you find yourself having regular blackouts, this definitely indicates a problem.
7. Alcohol Assessment - Is alcohol getting in the way of work or education?
If you've found that drinking has interfered with your ability to succeed at work or in education, then this is another sign that there may be a serious problem. If you're spending more time partying than studying or working, it's clear that something needs to change.
8. Alcohol Assessment - Have you got legal problems due to drinking?
If you have gotten in trouble with the law because of your drinking, it is very likely that you have a problem with alcohol. This is especially true if you have been arrested for driving under the influence or for public intoxication.
Most people can drink without legal ramifications. Those that lose control of their actions to the extent they are arrested usually have an alcohol use disorder.
9. Alcohol Assessment - Do you have health problems because of drinking?
If you have developed health problems because of your drinking, it is likely that you have a problem with alcohol. For instance, if you've been diagnosed with liver damage or pancreatitis, it's clear that drinking has taken a toll on your body.
Additionally, if you find that you are regularly hungover, this is also a sign that your body is not coping.
10. Alcohol Assessment - Do you need to drink more and more to get the same effect?
If you find yourself needing to drink more and more alcohol in order to feel the same effect, it is likely that you have developed a tolerance to alcohol. This means that your body has become so used to the substance and that it no longer has the same impact.
Tolerance can lead to dependency, so it is important to be aware of this sign.
11. Alcohol Assessment - Do you feel guilty or ashamed about drinking?
If you find yourself feeling guilty, remorseful or ashamed about your drinking, it is likely that you have a problem with alcohol. This is especially true if you are hiding your drinking from others or lying about how much you drink.
12. Alcohol Assessment - Have people close to you expressed concern about my drinking?
If people close to you have expressed concern about your drinking, it is likely that you have a problem with alcohol. This is especially true if they have suggested that you need help or to go to rehab.
If you are in denial about your drinking problem, it may be helpful to listen to the people who are closest to you. They are often the ones who can see the issue more clearly than you can.
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it is likely that you need help for your drinking. Alcohol use disorders get progressively worse over time, so it is important to get help as soon as possible. The more questions you identify with, the more severe your problem is.
What happens if I don’t quit drinking?
The side effects of continuing to drink when you have an alcohol problem are unfortunately increasingly severe. This section looks at the effects, that continuing to drink has on your body, mind, relationships, work and finances.
Excessive alcohol use causes damage to the body in a number of different ways:
It damages the nervous system. Alcohol interferes with the way that your nervous system works, which is one of the reasons your reflexes slow down over time.
Alcohol damages the liver. The more you drink, the harder your liver has to work. Continuing to drink when you have an alcohol problem severely impacts your liver. The first stage of alcoholic liver damage is fatty liver disease. At this point, your liver has sustained damage but you are unlikely to show any symptoms yet. This stage is reversible in a few weeks, which is one of the reasons you should stop drinking if you answered “yes” to the questions in the alcohol assessment.
If you continue to drink past the fatty liver stage, you will then develop hepatitis. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Symptoms of this include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, pale stools, joint pain, and jaundice.
The penultimate stage of liver damage is cirrhosis of the liver, which is irreversible in its advanced stage. This means that treatment requires a liver transplant.
The final stage of liver damage is liver failure, meaning death.
Alcohol can cause cancer. Alcohol can cause several types of cancer. Pharynx and larynx cancers, colorectal and oesophageal cancers, as well as liver and breast cancers can all be associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Stopping drinking significantly reduces your chances of developing these cancers in the future.
It's no secret that drinking alcohol can have some pretty serious ramifications on your physical health. But did you know that it can also have a significant impact on your mental health? If you answered “yes” to any of the questions in the alcohol assessment above, you may have already experienced changes to your mental health.
While many people drink to feel less anxious and more upbeat, drinking alcohol can actually cause depression and anxiety. As a depressant drug, it has the opposite effect to what many people imagine.
Many people also drink to reduce symptoms of other mental illnesses. For example, people with PTSD may find that some of their symptoms are lessened with alcohol. Over time, though, alcohol actually makes these symptoms worse. This can make it difficult to stop drinking. Not only will these people have the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol to contend with, but also the rebound effects of their underlying mental health condition.
One of the most serious brain conditions that can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption is known as "wet brain." Wet brain is a type of brain damage that is caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol.
Repeated heavy exposure to alcohol can cause a condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, where thiamine is critically depleted, causing damage to the brain. The main symptom this disease is loss of cognitive function. This can include problems with memory, judgment, and coordination. Wet brain is a progressive condition, which means that it will continue to get worse over time if alcohol consumption is not stopped.
Even people who only drink occasionally sometimes ruin relationships by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, or by doing something they shouldn’t have. It only takes drink driving once to lose your license. Getting into a fight while drunk can have lasting consequences.
If you have an alcohol use disorder, the chances that you will destroy your connection with others is much higher. When you are inebriated a lot of the time, you may say or do things that you regret a few times a week or even more.
This leads to a need to block out the shame and embarrassment of your words and actions with more alcohol. It’s a slippery slope that leads to despair.
Once friendships, relationships with families and relationships with partners fall apart from drinking, you are also left with less of a support network when things go wrong.
One of the benefits of stopping drinking is not ruining relationships while drunk any more. You can also start rebuilding the ones that were knocked down in your “drinking days”.
Constantly turning up for work hungover does little for your career prospects. Even worse is turning up for work drunk or getting drunk while you are at work. Many workplaces will pull you up immediately if they catch you doing this.
While some high-functioning alcoholics can get away with a drinking problem while still doing well at work, it always catches up in the end. If you value your career or would love to start one, now is the time to put down the booze.
Drinking large quantities can put a serious dent in your pocket. Firstly, there is the cost of alcohol itself. Next comes the cost of the consequences of drinking. Lost time at work, fines from authorities and poor management of finances mean that having a drinking problem makes many people financially impoverished.
If you have completed the above alcohol assessment and realised you have a drinking problem, now is the time to do something about it. The most effective treatment options for alcohol include rehab, recovery meetings and your local drug and alcohol team. Your doctor may be able to advise you on which option will work best, depending on how severe your problem with alcohol is.
Rehab is a one-stop shop for substance abuse. At rehab, you will be detoxed from alcohol and will be guided into looking at the reasons why you started drinking. You will also be taught how to reduce the chances of relapse in the future.
Rehab is expensive and time-consuming, which puts some people off. However, if you have a serious drink problem, and you can afford it, rehab should definitely be your first port of call. It increases your chances of staying sober in early recovery more than any other invention.
Recovery groups exist around the world, in almost every country and most cities. You can even find these groups in small towns and sometimes villages. Meetings can also be accessed online, on zoom and through the Recoverlution platform.
- Alcohol Use Disorder Fact Sheet - https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-use-disorder-comparison-between-dsm
- Understanding alcohol use disorder -https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder
- Warning Signs of Alcoholism -https://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/substance-abuse-services/prevention/warning-signs-of-alcoholism.html
- Alcoholic Liver Disease: Pathogenesis and Current Management -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513682/
- Alcohols damaging effects on the brain - https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm