By Chloe Marchbank
With all the additional parties and opportunities to drink, Christmas can be an exposing time for anyone who is struggling with their relationship with alcohol. It is a time when there is growth in alcohol related crises such as drink drive accidents and alcohol related A&E visits peak, as indicated in a recent analysis from addiction helpline and rehab referral service Port of Call.
Google searches for the term ‘alcoholic’ peak during the festive weeks – perhaps an indication of the number of people who become concerned about their own drinking or that of a loved one at this time of year.
It is not always easy to tell when your own drinking or that of someone else has tipped over into a dependency. Knowing the eight signs of alcohol addiction will help you to accept and confront a problem if there is one either in yourself or someone else. The signs don’t all have to be present to indicate an addiction, rather realising that some of them are can help you to see that concerns about your drinking or that of someone else, may well be valid.
Some people can drink regularly and still remain within boundaries that don’t put them at high risk of harm from alcohol.
Drinking 14 units of alcohol per week or less, spread over three or more days, is considered to be low-risk drinking. That’s the equivalent of around six pints of lager, one and a half bottles of wine a week or 14, 25ml measures of spirit.
Drinking every day may be an indication of an alcohol problem, especially if you feel unable to have a drink-free day. That is not to say that if you do have some drink-free days you cannot be alcohol dependent.
Most people will occasionally binge drink during their lives, but drinking high quantities of alcohol in one go often can be a sign of a problem. Binge drinking is classified as drinking more than eight units of alcohol in one go for men and more than six for women.
If your binge drinking is regular or leads to consequences such as days in bed, very poor decisions, arguments, violence or failing to meet responsibilities, it is a sign that alcohol may be an issue for you.
Inability to stop drinking
If you have a healthy relationship with alcohol it should be possible for you to have regular alcohol free days or to decide not to drink for a period and stick to your conviction. If you find yourself promising yourself or someone else that you will stick to alcohol-free drinks and then don’t, it could be a sign of dependency.
Being able to stick to rules such as not drinking before 7pm does not indicate that you have a healthy relationship with alcohol – it may merely mean that you are falsely convincing yourself you are in control. Many people who go on to accept that they are addicted to alcohol have spent years living by rules like these.
Failing to meet responsibilities due to drink
Many people who have an issue with alcohol will continue to go to work, continue to get their children to school on time or manage to never miss a flight. The world is full of functioning alcoholics like these so whilst getting to a stage where you are failing to meet commitments due to your drinking is certainly a cause for concern, it can be a latter stage of dependency.
Don’t convince yourself that you cannot be alcohol dependent just because you have not reached this stage.
If you have found yourself drinking in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy night that is a sign for concern.
Again, there are lots of people who come to accept they are alcohol dependent despite never having given in to daytime or morning drinking. It certainly is a sign for concern if you are drinking regularly in the morning, but don’t let yourself deny you may have a drinking problem just because you are not day time drinking.
Someone being injured as a result of your drinking
If you or someone else has been injured due to your drinking it is of course cause for concern. If it has happened more than once, it could be a sign of a drinking issue.
Concerns of other people about your drinking
It can be easy to dismiss other people’s concerns about your drinking and blame them for being uptight or overly cautious. However, if someone is genuinely worried about your relationship with alcohol it may be an indicator that things are not as they should be. If more than one person has shown similar concern, it can be a sign of a problem.
If you experience physical withdrawal symptoms after a period without drinking or when you reduce your drinking, it can be a sign of dependency. Withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, shaking or nausea, are a sign that you need help to reduce your alcohol intake or to stop drinking. If you experience withdrawal symptoms you should seek medical support to reduce your drinking either via your GP or private addiction support services. Trying to ride out the symptoms without the right support can be extremely damaging or even fatal as they can lead to changes in your heart rate and fits.
If you are worried about your drinking or that of someone else – seek help. There are many websites and helplines where you can seek advice confidentially and GPs can also give advice. Speaking up may just save or change a life.