“Alcohol ruined me financially and morally, broke my heart and the hearts of too many others. Even though it did this to me and it almost killed me and I haven’t touched a drop of it in 17 years, sometimes I wonder if I could get away with drinking some now. I totally subscribe to the notion that alcoholism is a mental illness because thinking like that is clearly insane.” ~ Craig Ferguson, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot Alcohol is the most-abused substance in the world. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in the United States alone, there are almost 17 million adults who meet the criteria for a diagnosis of an Alcohol Use Disorder.
How Commonplace and Problematic Is Drinking?
- Approximately 87% of American adults drink alcohol during their lifetime.
- Around 25% of US adults participated in “binge drinking” in the last month, and nearly 7% drank heavily.
- Over 59% of full-time college students drink alcohol within the last month.
- 39% of college students and over 33% of adults 18-22 not in college engaged in binge drinking within the last month.
- Almost 13% of college students and over 9% of adults 18-22 not in college drank heavily within the last month.
- Approximately 8% of women and 17% of men will be alcohol-dependent at some point in their life.
- Of the 71,713 total liver disease deaths in the United States in 2013, over 46% involved alcohol
- The US Department of Justice reports that up to 40% of violent crime is committed by people under the influence of alcohol.
- Adolescents who drink are 50 times more likely to use cocaine and 7-and-a-half times more likely to use other illicit drugs than their peers who don’t drink.
- 32% of individuals over the age of 12 who drink heavily also use illegal drugs.
How do I know if I have a drinking problem?
When the above statistics are taken into consideration, there are two takeaway suppositions that are most likely true about you – First, if you’re like most people, you probably drink at least occasionally. Second, if you drink, there is a good chance that you have engaged in binge or heavy drinking in the recent past. Neither one of these behaviors makes you an alcoholic. It may come as a surprise, but in and of itself, the amount of alcohol you drink does not necessarily make you an alcoholic. Over a period of time, regular heavy consumption of alcohol CAN change your brain and contribute to an increased risk of developing alcoholism, but the predominant factors that indicate if you are currently an alcoholic are your behaviors and attitudes concerning your alcohol consumption. Answer the following questions. Have you –
- ever felt ashamed or guilty about how much you drink or about your actions when drinking?
- ever regularly drank more than you intended?
- ever hid your drinking from someone else or drank in secret?
- ever lied to someone else about your drinking habits?
- ever felt the regular need to drink in order to relax or feel better about yourself?
- ever blacked out or been unable to recall your actions while drinking?
- ever been unable to control how much you or when you drink?
- ever missed work or an important family obligation because of your drinking?
- ever tried to give up drinking unsuccessfully?
- ever injured yourself or suffered any health problems because of your drinking?
- ever driven or operated machinery while intoxicated?
- ever mixed alcohol with prescription medication?
- ever gotten in legal trouble because of your drinking?
- ever given up other pleasurable activities or hobbies because of alcohol?
- ever noticed an increase in your alcohol consumption?
- ever felt anxious, nervous, shaky, irritable, or unable to function when you were unable to drink?
- ever spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about or getting ready to drink?
- ever continued to drink even when there were serious negative consequences?
- ever blamed someone else – an unfair boss, a nagging spouse – for your drinking?
- ever been told by a friend, family member, or coworker that they were worried about your drinking?
There is no one test or question that can definitively “prove” that you are an alcoholic. However, if you find yourself answering “yes” to several of the above questions, that may serve as a strong indication that you might have a drinking problem, or even potentially be an alcoholic.
I Think I May Be an Alcoholic – Would I Do Now?
If you think you have a drinking problem – you probably do. If you are powerless over your drinking and you feel that your life has become unmanageable as a result, then just admitting your problems and asking for help are the two first, most important steps you need to take in order to get your life back on track. Your journey to recovery is a highly personal one and can take many paths. Perhaps you need to speak to an addiction specialist or a therapist to see what your next move should be. Maybe a conversation with your personal doctor is in order. You remind me to check yourself into an alcohol detox and rehabilitation facility. No matter where you are, there is a 12-step recovery program near you this very day. The point is this – if you need help and are ready to accept it, there is an abundance of it available. Do not put off regaining your sobriety – and your sanity – any longer. Alcoholism is a disease that only gets worse over time, and your future and your life are too precious to waste.