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Alcohol Problem - How to Identify If Someone Close to You Is Suffering?

Dr. Anuneet Sabharwal 88% (151 ratings)
MBBS, MD - Psychiatry
Psychiatrist, Delhi  •  6 years experience
Alcohol Problem - How to Identify If Someone Close to You Is Suffering?

Do you worry about your friend or relative’s drinking habits? You are not alone. There are people who struggle for years with the same question - How can I tell if the person I love is an alcoholic or not?
Well, the good news is that you don’t need to be a medical professional to figure out the right answer to this vital question. Read on to find simple ways to know whether your loved one suffers from alcohol addiction.

First up is a short quiz about drinking habits, developed by Dr. John Ewing to identify alcohol addiction. Treat this as a pointer and take your loved one to an expert, if it points towards alcohol addiction. You can ask these questions directly to your loved one, or you can answer these questions on their behalf.

According to the developers, one "yes" to the four quiz questions signals a problem, and more than one “yes” means that it's time for you or your loved one to get professional help.

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?”

There are many signs of a serious drinking problem. These include certain behaviours such as:

  1. Drinking just for getting drunk
  2. Drinking alone
  3. Keeping alcohol consumption a secret
  4. Drinking to escape problems
  5. Hiding alcohol bottles
  6. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like getting irritated or experiencing nervousness, nausea, getting shakes, breaking out into a cold sweat, and getting hallucinations when unable to source alcohol
  7. Having problems at work, school, or home, as a result of alcohol consumption
  8. Losing interest in activities you or your friend used to enjoy
  9. Having blackouts due to heavy drinking
  10. Anger and extreme irritation

Other extreme behaviors to watch out for are:

  1. Being able to drink an awful lot of alcohol
  2. Trouble stopping once your loved one starts drinking
  3. A powerful urge to drink

There is another scientific way to determine, if your loved one is an alcoholic. In the US, medical professionals commonly use a criteria, listed in the fourth edition of the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’. According to it, the signs and symptoms of alcoholism are clearly laid down and it states that alcohol dependent people:

  1. Will drink more to get their desired effect from alcohol
  2. Experience withdrawal symptoms when the effect of alcohol wears off
  3. Drink larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period of time
  4. Will be unable to consistently control their drinking
  5. Will leave important work for drinking
  6. Will spend a lot of time during the day getting alcohol, drinking it, and recovering from hangovers.
  7. Continue to use alcohol, despite knowing that their chronic physical or psychological problem is caused due to alcohol.
  8. To be declared alcohol-dependent, your loved one must experience at least three of these criteria during a year.

However, there is still no one definite test to diagnose alcohol-use disorders. Therefore, professionals diagnose them by making use of the patient’s comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a psychiatrist.

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