As the clock inches towards 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon, millions of American workers anxiously prepare to pack up and head home for the weekend. Some will go home and spend time with family; others will head off on a getaway; still others will enjoy going out and socializing with friends. Regardless, a substantial percentage will be consuming alcohol to help wash away some of the stress from the work week. Unfortunately, not all of these people will be doing so in a healthy manner.
The Pervasiveness of Alcohol Addiction
While most people can enjoy a drink, cut themselves off, and then move on to the next thing, some people find it challenging to stop. One drink turns into two, which turns into three, and so on.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, roughly 17 million Americans over the age of 18 have some sort of alcohol-related disorder. That comes out to right around seven percent of all American adults.
Five Signs of Problematic Drinking
If you’re wondering whether you (or a loved one) has a problem with alcohol, look for these warning signs:
1. Frequent Binge Drinking
Experts admit that there are many different signs of problematic drinking – and most people deal with several at a time. “Binge drinking is one such sign,” according to American Addiction Centers. “This type of drinking, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, involves consuming alcohol with the intention of getting drunk. For men, that means drinking five or more drinks in about two hours; for women, that involves consuming four or more drinks within two hours.”
If you frequently binge drink or often drink with the intention of getting drunk, you probably aren’t a responsible user of alcohol and are relying on it to solve problems or shortcomings in your life.
2. Increased Tolerance
Different people can drink the same amounts of alcohol and feel totally different. This is because the more frequently you drink, the more of a tolerance your body builds up.
If you can drink considerably more now than you could six months or a year ago, then that’s a pretty good sign that your alcohol consumption has significantly increased over that period. It also may be a sign that you’re beginning to depend on it more than you should.
3. Responsibilities Slide
“Drinking is a problem when you notice that you’ve started to neglect things that are important to you for the sake of alcohol,” says Keith Humphreys, Ph.D. These include parental responsibilities, household chores, appointments, and work-related projects.
Maybe you used to put your kids to bed every night but now you find it hard to walk up the stairs and read them a book. Or perhaps Saturday mornings used to be a time for grabbing breakfast with your friends but now you’re hung over until mid-afternoon. If your life is being rescheduled around drinking, there’s definitely a problem.
4. Multiple People Have Confronted You
A friend is not going to accuse you of having a drinking problem just for the sake of starting a conflict. This is a very serious accusation and one that requires a lot of consideration and planning. If someone confronts you about your drinking habits, remember that he or she is trying to be helpful. If more than one person has confronted you, you need to realize that there is something other people are noticing. It is not likely that they’re both wrong.
5. You Do Things You Normally Wouldn’t
Alcohol has a way of making us do things we would never do sober. It can mean doing something extreme, like starting a fight or engaging in reckless behavior. It is totally normal for a small amount of alcohol to give you a little more courage, but you should not be drinking so much that you are making foolish life choices.
Don’t Sit Back and Wait
According to WebMD, heavy drinking is often linked to anemia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, dementia, depression, seizures, gout, high blood pressure, infectious disease, nerve damage, and pancreatitis – and that’s just the start.
Most people feel they have more control over themselves than they actually do. If you’re dealing with a drinking problem, your brain will have a tendency to tell you that you can dig your way out at any point. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true. You can’t afford to sit back and wait. It’s important that you reach out for help as soon as you can.