I Drink Every Day – Do I Have A Problem?
If you drink every day, you might have legitimate concerns about your alcohol consumption. Drinking every day does not necessarily mean you are an alcoholic or are likely to experience alcohol detox and withdrawal if you do go a day without drinking. It can certainly be a sign of a bigger problem, however, and if you are worried it is probably best to look for professional help.
Drinking to unwind or problem drinking?
The kind of drinking you are doing can also be important. There’s a big difference between having a single glass of wine or a beer when you get in from work and drinking excessively from the moment you get up. All that said, even moderate regular drinking can sometimes spiral out of control and could see some people go on to develop an alcohol use disorder. If your drinking is increasing, is causing problems or you find giving up alcohol or even missing the occasional day difficult, it may be time to seek help and advice.
How much is too much?
There are many well-documented alcohol-related health risks and a lot of factors to take into account. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines say that to keep health risks to a low level, it is safest not to drink more than 14 units per week. For adults who drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over 3 days or more. One pint of regular strength beer or a small glass of wine is equal to two units, so it is possible to have one drink every day and still fall within these guidelines. It is worth noting, however, that the guidelines say that drinking alcohol at these levels keeps health risks to a low level – not that there is no risk at all.
Binge drinkers are certainly more at risk and if you regularly drink to excess you might be risking numerous physical and mental health issues, as well as treading a slippery path that could lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The NHS defines binge drinking as when you drink more than 8 units in a single session for men, and 6 units for women.
There are many short-term risks associated with binge drinking habits, including the dangers of having an accident or making poor decisions when intoxicated. You may be more likely to practise unsafe sex, could be involved in violence or criminal behaviour and could experience alcoholic poisoning.
Long-term heavy drinking is even more dangerous. As well as the short-term risks every time you binge drink, chronic alcohol abuse is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, liver disease, stroke and several kinds of cancer. Alcohol misuse is also linked to mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.
The difference between alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction
There are different levels of harmful or problem drinking, and dependence and addiction are not the same things. In an article in Men’s Health, George Koob, PhD explained: “Dependence often goes hand in hand with addiction, but they’re not the same things. You can become dependent on almost any substance if it’s part of your daily rhythm, but that doesn’t mean you’re addicted.”
Alcohol addiction is considered to be the most severe form of a full spectrum of alcohol use disorders and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain”.
Warning signs of alcoholism
Sometimes a drinking problem can sneak up on you, getting progressively worse and potentially leading to full-blown addiction, commonly known as alcoholism.
Some warning signs to look out for include:
- Increasing the frequency or amount of your drinking
- Finding it difficult to quit or cut down
- Needing to drink more for the same effect
- Feeling alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink
- Feeling anxious about not being able to drink
- Avoiding situations where you are not able to drink
- A circle and social life revolving around alcohol
- Strong cravings and a compulsion to drink
You may also experience physical and mental symptoms associated with your drinking, such as:
- Impaired thinking
- Slurred speech
- Memory impairment
- Lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping
- Depression and anxiety
People with alcohol problems will often be in denial or get defensive about the extent of their drinking. We can provide confidential advice for friends and families who are worried about their loved one. A family intervention can sometimes be useful in getting an individual to confront the impact of their alcohol consumption, but if you’re reading this because you’re already at least thinking about your drinking, that is in itself a positive thing.
Treatment for alcohol addiction
If you find it difficult to stop binge drinking or feel you are developing an alcohol addiction, there is still help available. Peer support groups or fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous can provide vital support and evidence-based treatment programmes have been shown to be very successful in treating alcohol addiction.
There are inpatient and outpatient rehab options available but residential rehab is generally more effective for serious drug or alcohol addictions. At a residential alcohol rehab you will be in a secure environment where you can concentrate on overcoming your drinking problems. This may involve detox and withdrawal symptoms, along with a holistic programme of therapies and other treatments that aim to deal with the root causes of your drinking. This will be followed by a tailored aftercare programme to provide the support you need to help avoid relapse as you move forward.
Get help today
If you are worried about your drinking or feel it may be in danger of spiralling out of control, it’s never too early (or too late) to seek help. Contact us today for confidential advice or to start the ball rolling if you feel that alcohol rehab is the right choice for you.