Have you been asking yourself “Am I a problem drinker” or “Do I have alcoholism?”
When you start questioning your alcohol intake, you will encounter various terms used to describe drinking patterns. These include problem drinking, heavy drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol use disorder (the clinical descriptor for alcoholism).
While these terms express different forms of alcohol consumption, they are all unhealthy and inadvisable, and may lead to you becoming a high-functioning alcoholic.
So, if your internet search history contains entries like “Do I have alcoholism”, you should familiarize yourself with these different patterns of alcohol consumption to better understand the nature of your problem drinking.
Data from SAMHSA’s latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that over 28 million adults have alcohol use disorder. Regrettably, the same data shows that only 2 million received treatment, amounting to just 7% getting the help they need.
What is considered a problem drinker, then?
What is a Problem Drinker?
While someone considered a problem drinking and someone diagnosed with alcohol use disorder both have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, a problem drinker is not necessarily addicted to alcohol, either physically or psychologically.
Problem drinking is a non-clinical descriptor for any pattern of alcohol consumption triggering negative outcomes, such as:
- Relationship problems
- Arrest for DUI
- Issues at work
Problem drinking is sometimes referred to as alcohol misuse or alcohol abuse.
NIAAA (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) highlights two especially damaging problematic drinking patterns:
- Binge drinking
- Heavy drinking
The guidelines NIAAA use are predicated on the following standard drinks:
- 5% alcohol beer (12oz)
- 12% alcohol wine (5oz)
- 40% alcohol distilled spirits (1.5%)
If a man drinks more than 5 standard drinks within 2 hours or a woman drinks more than 4 standard drinks in the same period, this is classified as binge drinking.
When a man consumes more than 15 standard drinks weekly or a woman consumes more than 8 standard drinks weekly, this is classified as heavy drinking.
Both of these forms of problematic drinking can heighten your risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
Maybe you compare your alcohol consumption to the above framework and you’re now thinking, “Am I becoming an alcoholic?”
If so, you can easily establish whether your patterns of drinking translate to a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder.
Am I an Alcoholic?
According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing brain condition characterized by compulsive alcohol use despite negative consequences.
What is considered an alcoholic drinker, then?
Well, alcohol use disorder is diagnosed using the criteria set out in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The latest edition, DSM-5, includes cravings as a symptom of AUD.
You will be asked versions of the following questions based on your alcohol consumption over the previous month:
- Have you found yourself drinking more than you planned or drinking for longer than intended?
- Do you experience cravings for alcohol so powerful that you struggle to focus on anything else?
- Have you tried and failed to moderate your alcohol consumption or to stop drinking completely?
- Do you spend large chunks of time drinking and recovering from the effects of alcohol abuse?
- Are you failing to meet responsibilities at home, work, or school?
- Are you spending less time on activities you once enjoyed because of your alcohol consumption?
- Do you continue to drink in spite of problems in your relationships due to your alcohol intake?
- Do you drink alcohol in dangerous situations (when driving, for instance)?
- Are you continuing to drink alcohol even though it is inflaming a physical or mental health condition?
- Do you need more alcohol to achieve the same effects as tolerance builds?
- Do you get withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wear off?
Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed according to the number of symptoms present as follows:
- Mild AUD: 2 or 3 symptoms
- Moderate AUD: 4 or 5 symptoms
- Severe AUD: 6 or more symptoms
How to Determine if You’re an Alcoholic
Anyone concerned about their drinking habits can get an accurate idea of the severity of the problem by consulting the above criteria for alcoholism.
You could also ask yourself these questions, all common markers of alcohol abuse:
- Do you often feel you should cut down your alcohol intake?
- Does the amount you drink cause you to feel guilty?
- Have friends and family members criticized your drinking patterns?
- Do you feel the need to drink alcohol?
- Do you often drink more than the amounts of alcohol recommended?
- Do you engage in patterns of binge drinking?
- Do you get the feeling alcohol is impacting your life at home or work?
While there is no cure for alcohol use disorder and the condition is chronic and relapsing, with the right personalized treatment plan, you can embrace life alcohol-free. Before we show you how to achieve that here at The District Recovery Community, how about the fine line between excessive alcohol intake and alcoholism?
Can You Drink Excessively and Not be an Alcoholic?
According to this CDC study, 90% of those consuming too much alcohol are neither alcoholic nor dependent on alcohol.
Unfortunately, the same study found that almost one in three adults in the United States drinks alcohol excessively. The rates of dependence on alcohol increase in line with the amount of alcohol consumed. The study showed that 10% of binge drinkers are also alcohol dependent, while 30% of those who engage in frequent binge drinking sessions are alcohol dependent.
Beyond this, both binge drinking and heavy drinking can lead to a physiological dependence on alcohol, as well as an increased risk of developing AUD.
Alcoholism Treatment at The District Recovery
If you feel your patterns of drinking are problematic, or if you have been asking ” Am I a problem drinker?” or if you already have alcohol use disorder, we can help you recalibrate your life here at TDRC.
Perhaps the key benefit of our evidence-based outpatient treatment programs for addiction is the fact you won’t need to head to residential rehab. If you need assistance with a medical detox, we can happily connect you with suitable providers near you. Once you have detoxed from alcohol, you’ll be ready to pursue one of our outpatient programs for alcohol use disorder.
Whatever level of time commitment makes the smoothest fit for you, you’ll have access to the following proven therapies:
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Psychotherapy (talk therapies like CBT or DBT)
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
At The District Recovery Community, you can also complement your treatment with holistic therapies for a whole-body approach to recovery.
Whether you have been binge drinking, drinking heavily, or developed alcohol use disorder, we’ll help you conquer the physical and psychological components of this insidious disease as you push forward into sober living.
All you need to do is reach out to our friendly team today by calling 844.287.8506.