Recognizing an Alcohol Problem in Yourself

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

There is a lot of debate about Alcoholics Anonymous and what the best treatment for alcohol really is. However, many people also want and need information about how they can recognize if they have a problems or not and how to make that decision. This blog will try to provide some information about just that. 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame that hampers people when it comes to facing the fact that they may have a problem with alcohol long before they ever become addicted. Once addicted it continues to remain difficult to admit to having a problem. This is probably due to the fact that society puts a negative connotation on the term "alcoholic," whatever that word means. In fact, that term, "alcoholic" is an unfortunate word that has added to the difficulty in helping people face up to their problem.


To begin, I want to refer everyone to an wonderful pamphlet that is free and available through the National Institute of Health. It can be found on the web at:

Accordidng to NIH, 7 out of ten adults drink below the risky level or not at all in the Untied States. # in ten adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcoholism and health. Some health issues are, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and etc.

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What is a risky level of drinking? Let’s define a drink according to the NIH.

Beer, 12 fuild ounces at 5% alcohol     Malt Liguor, 9 fluid ounces at 7% alcohol    Wine, 5 fluid ounces at 12% alcohol            Liguor, such as Scotch, etc, 1.5 fluid ounces at 40% alcohol.

Note: You really need to double the number to get an accurate picture of the amount of alcohol in these drinks as an accurate portrayal of the amount you are drinking. For example, 40% alcohol in Scotch or Gin is really made up of 80% alcohol in the total amount. So, if you find a bottle of Bourbon that is labelled as 90 proof it is really 80% alcohol. Yes, 80%.

When is too much ALWAYS too much? If:

1. Planning to drive,  2. On medications that do not mix well with alcohol. Always ask your MD. For example, any of the SSRI anti depressants like Prozac, etc, will double the impact of every drink you have if you are on the medication.   3. You have a medical condition made worse by alcohol,  4. You are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Low Risk Drinking for Men, with no more than:   Low risk for Women with no more than

1. 4 drinks any and 14 per week.               1. 3 any day and 7 per week

Age 65 and older men and women: 3 drinks any day and 7 per week.

Let’s look at some of the symptoms that indicate that you may have a problem so that you can reduce your intake long before a real addiction sets in. A lot of the time it is a matter of monitoring or limiting your intake. But, let’s talk more about that:

Symptoms of a budding alcohol problem:

1. Drinking more than you planned.

2. Wish to reduce amount of drinking or to stop but cannot.

3. Get into dangerous situations as a result of drinking from fights to falling and other accidents and risk taking behaviors.

4. Need to drink more to get the same effect.

5. It takes longer to get over the after effects of drinking or to recover from hangovers.

6. Due to feeling sick from alcohol, home and work responsibilities are neglected.

7. Getting arrested and held by the police due to intoxication.

8. Difficulty sleeping.

9. Family and friends are expressing concern about your drinking. Along with this, one sure clue is that you become angry when people present you with their worry about your drinking.

10. There is a family history of alcohol addiction.

I want to urge everyone to download or order a copy or copies of the free handbook called, Rethinking Drinking that can be found at the NIH website.

Today, there are many ways to get help for alcohol problems from self help to medications that block craving or wanting of dirnks (available through your MD) to many types of help from AA to others, all to be found at NIH website.

None of us like to admit we may have a problem. One of the great myths about drinking is whether or not you can "hold your liquor." Well, that is nonsense and there is no definition, anyway, except where, through looking at the handbook you determine that you could have a problem.

Also, please keep in mind, having an alcohol problem does not mean that you are "weak, immoral or incapable."

Your comments and questions are welcome and encouraged.

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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