How much alcohol is too much? It could mean drinking too much at one time, drinking too often, or both.
An alcohol use disorder is a significant public health concern in the U.S. Many people struggle with controlling their drinking at some time in their lives. If you’re concerned about someone you know, or feel that your own alcohol use may be out of control, read on. Learn to recognize the signs of an alcohol use disorder so you can make a change. And don’t wait to “hit bottom,” as changing sooner rather than later is always better.
Do You Have a Problem with Alcohol?
Drinking is a problem if it causes trouble in your relationships, at work or school, in social settings or in how you think and feel. A few mild symptoms, which you might not see as warning signs, can signal the start of a problem.
11 Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder
You may have an alcohol use disorder if you answer yes to two or more of the following questions.
In the past year, have you:
- Ended up drinking more or for a longer time than you had planned?
- Wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of your time drinking, or recovering from drinking?
- Felt a strong need to drink?
- Found that drinking – or being sick from drinking – often interfered with your family life, job or school?
- Kept drinking even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that you enjoyed just so you could drink?
- Gotten into dangerous situations while drinking or after drinking? Some examples include driving drunk and having unsafe sex.
- Kept drinking even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious? Or when it was adding to another health problem?
- Had to drink more and more to feel the effects of the alcohol?
- Had withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol was wearing off? Symptoms include trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea and sweating. In severe cases, you could have a fever, seizures or hallucinations.
The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change. A health professional can assess your symptoms to see if an alcohol use disorder is present.
QuickTerm: Binge drinking means drinking about five or more drinks in two hours for men. For women, it is about four or more drinks in two hours.
5 Tips to Cut Down or Quit Drinking
If you think you have an alcohol use disorder and would like to cut down or quit drinking alcohol altogether, follow the suggestions below.
- Do it now. Don’t procrastinate. Commit to making a change.
- Don’t rationalize. If you drink often and a lot, you have probably had a lot of problems already.
- Check with your doctor. Medication and health conditions can sometimes cause serious problems when you drink.
- Solve your problems. Alcohol is a lousy way to deal with life’s problems. Seek counseling, coaching or courses to improve your ability to cope.
- Be optimistic. No matter how serious your drinking problem may be, there are always positive solutions. Many people have overcome this problem. You can learn how to be successful too.
If you are concerned that either you or someone close to you might have an alcohol use disorder, consult your health care provider or call a helpline, such as SAMHSA’s National Helpline at: 800-662-4357. Look online for helpful resources, including the Rethinking Drinking website produced by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
If you are ready to quit or cut down, or want to encourage others in your community to make better choices when it comes to drinking, browse the QuickSeries library of guides, including Freedom from Alcohol.