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Am I Drinking Too Much – Find Out How You Measure-Up

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Our role as an independent provider of advice and alcohol treatment referrals affords us the opportunity to help a lot of people struggling with drinking problems. Our contacts with clients often include the question, “Am I drinking too much?” It is a question that must be asked and answered before any drinking problem can realistically be addressed.

Problem drinking is a reality in the modern world. Unfortunately, the combination of social attitudes and easy access to alcohol only encourage somebody on the verge of developing an alcohol problem to continue the destructive behaviour that may eventually lead to total dependence. One of our goals is to help people avoid getting to the point of dependence by intervening as early as we can.

There are cases in which clients who contact us are already suffering from alcoholism. While unfortunate, that does not mean we cannot help. We can. We work with private rehab clinics, counsellors, alcohol charities, and other service providers throughout the UK who offer cutting-edge treatments for alcohol abuse and dependence. No problem is so severe that cannot be addressed with treatment and support.

Figuring out Your Problem

In order to answer the question, “am I drinking too much?” it is helpful to understand how much you drink in relation to what is considered normal and safe. Comparing yourself to generally accepted norms is the first way to figure out how you measure up. Those norms are based on standards set by the government.

For decades, we have used a standard that says men should consume no more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol per day while women should limit their consumption to no more than 2 to 3 units. The government recently revised its standards downward to suggest that both men and women should limit alcohol consumption to no more than 14 units per week. The measurement you use will not make a difference if you are already an alcoholic – you are already exceeding the standards. It does make a difference if you are right on the edge of responsible drinking and problem drinking.

The only challenge with the government standards is that of understanding what a unit of alcohol is. Officially, one unit is defined as 10 ml of pure alcohol. But no one drinks pure alcohol. Therefore, you have to measure units against the kinds of drinks you consume.

As a general rule, a pint of beer with 4% alcohol by volume contains about one unit of alcohol. Consuming 14 or fewer throughout the course of a week would be considered safe. But what if your beer has a higher concentration of alcohol? You would have to reduce your total consumption in order to stay at a safe level. This rule applies to everything from beer to wine to spirits.

As you might imagine, measuring whether or not you drink too much simply based on government standards can be difficult to do unless you know the maths and carry around a calculator. So in addition to the standard measurements, you can also look for certain signs and symptoms that might indicate a drinking problem. If you regularly consume more than one or two drinks per day, we strongly suggest you take a good look at those signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Drinking Problems

The medical community categorises drinking problems under three classifications: problem drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence (alcoholism). Each kind of drinking problem is accompanied by its signs and symptoms.

If you are a problem drinker, you consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week on an occasional basis. This does not mean you do so every single week without fail; you may only exceed the standards once or twice per month. As a problem drinker, you may spend time at the pub every evening consuming 3 to 4 pints of beer, or you may avoid alcohol altogether during the week only to binge on the weekends.

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People who are alcohol abusers take drinking to the next level by exceeding government standards on a regular basis. Many of them drink every single day, exceeding daily levels several times per week. They also tend to binge drink at least two or three times every few months. If you are an alcohol abuser, you likely get drunk at least once or twice per month.

Alcoholics are the problem drinkers suffering the most serious problem. There is a whole list of signs and symptoms that accompany the condition, making alcoholism easy to spot among trained professionals. Signs and symptoms of alcoholism include, but are not limited to:

  • constant alcohol cravings
  • fear associated with not having enough alcohol
  • mood swings that include anxiety and restlessness
  • mild sleeping problems or chronic insomnia
  • weight loss associated with not eating properly
  • a need to include drinking in social gatherings
  • a willingness to avoid family functions
  • abandonment of old friends in favour of new friends who drink
  • an inability to perform up to standard at work or school
  • a loss of interest in personal appearance
  • hiding alcohol at home and work
  • defensiveness toward others to show concern
  • the development of tolerance and dependence.

The last two symptoms of tolerance and dependence are virtual guarantees of alcoholism. Allow us to explain why.

Tolerance is a physical condition that comes about when the body gets used to a certain amount of alcohol in the system. At that point, drinking the same amount as you did the week before no longer produces the same amount of pleasure. You need to drink more in order to feel good. Tolerance is dangerous because it leads to dependence.

Dependence is both a physical and psychological condition that results when the body and mind become dependent on alcohol for normal functioning. In other words, every time you drink, your body and mind must work harder to overcome the effects of alcohol. Over time, this leads to the body not being able to function normally unless a certain level of alcohol is present. This causes both the mind and body to crave alcohol because they are dependent on it.

Reach Out for Help

The presence of any of the symptoms listed above is sufficient reason to reach out for help. They indicate you are either an alcoholic already or well on your way toward becoming one.

Am I drinking too much? The very fact that you are asking the question suggests you might be. We urge you to not let the question go without an answer. Let us help you figure it out through a comprehensive assessment that will determine the seriousness of your problem. If you are drinking too much, we can connect you with treatment and support in your local area.

We are an independent organisation with the mission of assisting alcohol abusers and their families by providing independent advice, assessments, and treatment referrals. All of our services are offered to clients at no charge and with the utmost confidentiality. If you have been asking yourself, “Am I drinking too much?”, we hope you will take advantage of the services we offer. Speaking with one of our counsellors is the first step toward overcoming alcohol problems.

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