Is my drinking a problem?
Often times people questions whether or not they may have a problem with drinking alcohol. Perhaps you’ve had a couple of incidents that have made you ask yourself, “do I have a problem?” It is possible to have an issue with alcohol even if you don’t drink daily, experience significant withdrawals, or experience intense cravings for alcohol. Most often I see people who are concerned about their behavior because they have betrayed someone’s trust or them acting like a different person when they are drunk.
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) provides the criteria for diagnosing a substance use problem. Substance use disorders, including alcohol use, are on a spectrum of mild, moderate, and severe. Take a look at the following questions to determine where you or a loved one may fall on that spectrum.
DSM-5 Alcohol Use Disorder criteria
**I have added in additional information to help clear up some potential questions. My take is in italics**
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to.
You swore you would only have a martini with your friends at happy hour. That one martini turned into four.
- Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.
A desire to stop drinking as much, but then you find once again, you’ve woken up with regret and a hangover.
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.
This can include taking a two days to recover from a hangover or periods of drinking over a long period of time.
- Cravings and urges to use the substance.
The desire to have a drink. This can even be the thought of “I really need a bottle of wine to wind down from work” or craving Bud Lights every Sunday when watching football.
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.
Missing out on obligations because you’re drinking or recovering from drinking.
- Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
Your family, friends, or spouse express issues with your ongoing problematic drinking and it continues anyway
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
Neglecting hobbies that you once loved in favor of drinking.
- Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
Drinking and driving is a common example of this symptom. This can also include practicing medicine while intoxicated or hung over.
- Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.
Continuing to drink alcohol after your doctor has informed you of high liver enzymes. Continuing to drink despite having a “beer belly” or significant weight gain/loss due to alcohol.
- Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance).
For example, it used to take 2 beers to get a buzz and now it takes 6.
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance
Do you reach for another drink to help with that hangover? Perhaps Bloody Mary’s are no longer for brunch on Sundays, but a regular occurrence just to feel normal.
If you meet 2-3 of the symptoms listed above, the severity is mild. If you meet 4-5 of the symptoms listed above, the severity is moderate. If you meet 6 or more of the symptoms listed above, the severity is severe.
Time to take action
Any severity of a substance use disorder can be harmful to your health, your relationships, and your psychological well-being. These problems can even be fatal. Getting help early on is the most effective way to help prevent the problem from getting worse.
Alcohol withdrawal can cause seizures and can be fatal. If you are experiencing withdrawal from alcohol please immediately seek medical help. Marijuana cannot reverse the effects of this risk.
If you are ready to take action—congratulations! It can take people months, if not years, to seek help. We can get you started on a better path.