The one question that we get a lot here at LA Detox is am I an alcoholic? The answer is, that depends on various biological (genetics), environmental, and social factors. Understanding and navigating the difference between being someone who drinks and classifying them as someone with a drinking problem (alcoholism) is complicated.
The question “Am I an alcoholic?” can be a particularly difficult one to answer in today’s society. Often, even within the media they often glorify excessive alcohol consumption. The message that alcohol is “no big deal” or that it is natural to “unwind with a drink” permeates our culture.
The fact of the matter is, alcohol use and abuse cost our nation millions. According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, results have shown, that excessive drinking not only takes a toll on society but costs taxpayers and the healthcare industry approximately $249 billion annually.
Aside from costing individuals their health, jobs, relationships, and sense of identity and belonging, nothing hits closer to home than death. Sadly, alcohol-related incidences kill 88,000 people per year, making it the third most preventable cause worldwide. To put it in perspective, alcoholism causes more deaths than the opioid epidemic!
The reality is that if this question of am I an alcoholic is playing with your mind, it is worth following up with the health care professionals and addiction specialists like the ones at the alcohol detox center at LA Detox.
Do I Like Drinking or Am I An Alcoholic?
If you are asking yourself, am I an alcoholic or do I have a drinking problem, you may have experienced some of the adverse effects of alcohol abuse first hand. Research shows, that alcohol is one of the most consumed beverages and widely used recreational drugs in the world. It is such a regular part of life and culture in America.
Socially, drinking is the norm. There is nothing that is inherently wrong with having a “wet” society. However, widespread acceptance of drinking, and even binge drinking, has the effect of misleading people about their own alcohol issues.
In a society where comparing yourself to others is common, it can be hard to look at others, and then your own drinking, and conclude that you are an alcoholic, especially through the lens of “It’s ok, everyone is doing it.” If you may have a drinking problem below are some things to consider, and should be addressed by a medical professional immediately. Here are some guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to measure if you or a loved one may have a problem with alcoholism:
You Can’t Only Drink One Or Two Alcoholic Beverages
People who suffer from binge drinking or alcoholism often quickly lose track of how many drinks they have had and when they consumed them. Having only one or two drinks on a normal basis is usually an impossible task for someone who is an alcoholic.
Your Social Life is Based On Drinking Alcohol
It is normal for most people to enjoy cocktails, wine, and beer in various social gatherings. However, what crosses the line, is when alcohol becomes the focus and basis for all interactions. It is typical for people struggling with alcoholism to use alcohol as a driver of their social life.
Also, a major thing to keep in mind is if you regularly get drunk alone as well and do not remember the last time you were sober at a social gathering, that may be a sign of exhibiting the behavior of an alcoholic.
You Drink Every Day or Use Every Situation As An Excuse To Do So
Using every occasion as a reason or excuse to drink is a major sign of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The frequency of one’s drinking and the context of how they drink says a lot about their relationship with alcohol. Making excuses as to why you should finish a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer every day is a tell-tale sign that you may have a problem.
Knowing the Difference Between Binge Drinking and Alcoholism
If you have to ask the questions do I drink too much or am I an alcoholic, it is an indication that you or a loved one likely answers one of these. It’s common to picture a person with alcoholism as a person who consumes excessive amounts of alcohol every day. But, this is not entirely accurate. There may not seem to be a difference between excessive drinking and alcohol use disorders, but there is.
Think of it like this: not all who are alcoholics suffer from binge drinking, and not all people who binge drink become alcoholics. It is important we discuss the difference between binge drinking and alcoholism and the appropriate treatment methods for both conditions.
Alcoholism is classified as alcohol use disorder, and binge drinking can be classified as excessive drinking, but as mentioned before, is not the same. There are specific distinctions for both.
Binge drinking is focused on how much alcohol a person drinks in a short amount of time. The CDC confirms that men are twice as likely to engage in excessive drinking. Binge drinking is classified as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to more than the legal limit, specifically 0.08 or higher.
It is considered binge drinking when men consume 5 or more alcoholic beverages in about 2 hours or less, and 4 or more drinks for women in the same amount of time or less. While some who binge drink consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol, not everyone develops a dependence on it.
Alcoholism is classified as a chronic condition that is NOT defined by the number of drinks. The disease includes a person becoming dependant on alcohol, their tolerance to it increasing leading to addiction, and the inability to control their drinking. Despite physical, mental, and social health consequences individuals tend to continue to drink.
Both alcoholism and binge drinking is considered alcohol use disorders, and both pose serious threats to one’s health. These risks include:
- Accidents and injuries
- Alcohol poisoning
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Neurological problems
It is very important that people understand the difference between binge drinking and alcoholism, so they can get the help that they or a loved one needs before it is too late.
Alcoholism Warning Signs: Its Time To Reach Out For Help
Drinkers come in all shapes and sizes. It is crucial to remember that though there are rough gauges for determining how much alcohol is too much, the criteria are generally much broader. Psychiatry.com demonstrates the importance of accurate diagnosis in order to receive proper treatment.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the primary text that medical and mental health professionals use to diagnose psychiatric conditions. According to DSM, there are eleven criteria that you should consider if you suspect you suffer from alcohol use disorder:
- Do you spend a lot of time getting, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol?
- Do you crave alcohol or experience a strong desire to drink?
- Have you been unable to reduce your consumption, even when you have tried?
- Have you continued to use alcohol despite it has caused problems with friends or family?
- Do you consistently drink more or for a more extended period than you had intended?
- Do you drink alcohol in dangerous situations, like before driving or operating machinery?
- Have you continued to use alcohol despite it having caused you physical or psychological problems?
- Have you ever been unable to fulfill work, school, or familial duties due to your alcohol consumption?
- Do you give up social, recreational, or work activities because of your alcohol use?
- Is your tolerance such that you continually need more alcohol to feel its effects?
- When you have tried to stop using alcohol, have you experienced symptoms of withdrawal?
If you can answer “yes” to as few as two or three of these, you may have an alcohol use disorder. If you can answer “yes” to six or more, you may have a severe dependence problem. Wherever you are on the spectrum, at the alcohol detox center at LA Detox we are here to help by answering any questions you have. Our trained staff is waiting for your call.
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders
If you or a loved one has symptoms of alcoholism, LA Detox inpatient and outpatient programs will help you detox and recover from addiction. In a safe and professional environment, people learn the tools and coping mechanisms to control their urges to drink alcohol. Our resources have helped our patients from all walks of life become sober long-term.
LA Detox is Here to Help! You Are Not Alone!
It is tempting to think of alcohol dependence as nothing more than a question of willpower, or as something that you can “just get over” if you put your mind to it. Healthcare professionals say that this is not the case.
Alcohol use disorder is a disease, and the first step in curing that disease is answering the question, “Am I an alcoholic?” When you are ready, the alcohol detox center at LA Detox is prepared to help you start down the path to recovery. Contact us today!