Worried You or a Loved One Might Be Drinking Too Much? Start Asking These Questions

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Alcohol can be a big part of American social lives. That can make identifying a potential substance use disorder difficult.

So, what are some warning signs of alcohol addiction, and when should you be concerned about your own or a loved one’s alcohol use?

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offers a thorough checklist of potential symptoms of an alcohol use disorder.

The questions are thoughtful, nuanced, and offer space for consideration and reflection. Alcohol use disorder is a spectrum, and a diagnosis is highly personal and individualized. If you're wondering if alcohol's becoming an issue, start with these questions.

In the past year, have you:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
  • Experienced craving—a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
    (Source: NIAAA)

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it may be time to seek expert guidance from a doctor, psychotherapist, or other health professional. The more questions that were answered with a “yes,” the more important it is to start looking for help soon.

There are many options for alcohol use disorder treatment, including behavioral counseling, medications, and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.

Treatment is never a "one size fits all" situation. It's important to create an individualized treatment plan before you start seeking any specific type of care. NIAA recommends talking with your primary care physician as an important first step for anyone considering treatment for an alcohol use disorder.

As you get ready to seek treatment, remember that you’re not alone. Addiction is treatable, and millions of Americans are thriving in recovery today.

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