How would you know if you have a drinking problem?
By David Joel Miller
How would you know if you or someone close to you had a drinking problem? Drink too much and there will be ill effects, maybe a hangover or worse. If this happens once you or someone you know may think this was an accident, a miscalculation or an experience that will not happen again.
So how might you determine that your drinking has moved from having fun to something that needs attention?
Screening for an Alcohol Use Disorder.
There are several screening tools professionals use to evaluate a drinking problem and to see if occasional drinking has passed over into the realm of problem drinking. One of the simpler and easier to explain ways of assessing, determining if your drinking has become a problem, is to use the CAGE tool. This can be done as a self-assessment or it can be questions one person might ask another.
Take a look at the description below and see if you or someone you are concerned about may have developed a drinking problem that needs attention. For these questions, I will say you and you can decide if this is a question you need to ask yourself or if you will be asking someone else.
One of the most common alcohol screening tools lists the things you should be looking at to see if there is a problem with Alcohol consumption. Originally developed by Ewing and Rouse in the 1970’s this simple screen has been taught in alcoholism counseling classes and used in various forms for almost 50 years and remains as effective now as it was when it was first created.
C – Cut down or Control.
Have you ever tried to control your drinking? Do you feel the need to control how much you drink, when you drink or why you drink? Have you ever thought that your drinking was excessive? Have you ever decided to limit your drinking?
Thinking that you need to cut down or control your drinking are bad signs. People do not normally try to control or cut down on something that is not causing them a problem. If once you decide to try to control your drinking you find that it is harder to control than you expected, your drinking problem may be worse than you realized.
Loss of control and cravings for a substance are hallmarks of a developing problem relationship with any substance or activity.
A – Annoyed at people who criticized your drinking.
Over time problem drinkers get into conflicts with others, family and friends may remind you of things you did while drinking. They may even tell you that you did things you do not remember doing. In other posts, I described some of the reasons people do not remember what they did while drinking or they remember things that never happened. See Blackouts and Why you remember things that never happened.
G – Guilty.
Ever feel guilty about things you did while drinking? This suggests that not only do you have a problem with your drinking but that it has begun to affect others. Guilt is an emotion that should function to let you know you are doing things that you should not be doing. The way to eliminate guilt is to stop doing things that will make you feel guilty.
Having done something you regret does not automatically make you a bad person. The key to improved self-respect is to stop doing things that do not make you proud.
E – Eye-opener.
Ever need an eye-opener first thing in the morning?
Needing more of a substance to cope with the effects of use the night before suggests that your usage has gone from a small problem to a much larger one. At this point, you may have developed a chemical or psychological dependence on the substance.
Using more of a chemical to reduce the effects of the drug wearing off is the result of withdrawals. All withdrawals do not include severe physical symptoms. Some withdrawal effects can be psychological like moodiness, depression or anxiety.
Did you say yes to any of these questions? Does someone you care about exhibit these behaviors? Then it may be time for a change.
In addition to the CAGE tool, there are a number of other screening instruments that can detect the problematic use of a substance or problems with behaviors. Commonly used screening or assessment tools include the MAST, SMAST, AUDIT, and CRAFFT. All of which are longer and more detailed than the CAGE.
If there are issues that you need to deal with, especially issues involving problems with drug or alcohol use, consider talking with a doctor or counseling professional about help for these issues.
Not everyone needs to enter rehab for a substance use disorder or a behavioral issue. But without help, mental and emotional issues, like physical illness, tend to get worse over time.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
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You can recover. Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, break up, or lost a job your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.