Am I alcohol dependent?
If you find it difficult to enjoy yourself, relax or deal with everyday problems without having a drink, it’s possible you’ve become dependent on alcohol.
In England there are an estimated 586,780 dependent drinkers with only 18% receiving treatment and last year there 1.26 million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption – an 8% rise. Not including those that are dependently drinking it is estimated that in England 9 million men and 5 million women are drinking at harmful levels. Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including: mouth, throat, stomach, liver, and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver; and depression.
Like most things in life someone’s relationship with alcohol is not static and can often be looked at as being on a sliding scale but anyone who is drinking regularly will have a degree of alcohol dependency.
At one end of the scale you people who can’t conceive a Friday & Saturday night without having enough drinks to get themselves a bit drunk. At the other end of the scale you have people whose drinking has become a daily affair to the extent that their relationship with alcohol has now superseded their relationship with their families, work and pretty much everything else.
One of the problems with alcohol is the issue of tolerance. Tolerance is a physiological response we have to any drug: the more you consume, the more you need to consume to have the same effect. Part of this dependence is because the wiring in the brain changes with frequent consumption of alcohol and this then makes you less able to drink in a controlled way.
In the UK we have a real binge drinking culture and is often normalised but is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use. Typically binge drinking can be defined when men consume 5 or more standard alcoholic drinks or women consume 4 or more standard drinks in a signal drinking session.
By standard drinks I mean a pint or a bottle of beer, single spirit or a 100ml glass of wine. Pouring pints and bottles of beers are pretty much easy to monitor if you are out or even at home. However, evidence indicates that pouring spirits and wine at home is less measured and, on the whole, the average glass of wine poured at home is 150ml and 175ml levels are also very common. In terms of spirits then most often its doubles and trebles that are poured at home.
As mentioned in an early post the “Addictive Voice” is a seductive thing and of course it will convince you that you are doing ok with your 3 glasses of wine every day at home, when in fact its not 300ml you have drunk but 450ml or 525ml!
In terms of good health then men and women are advised not to drink more than 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of wine a week. Anymore than this then there are going to be health problems.
Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including the following:
- Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning.
- Violence including ABH, GBH and sexual assault.
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Unintended pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriages
- Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus, liver, and colon.
- Memory and learning problems.
Why people can become dependent and what can be done
As I have said in an early post, the predisposition to develop an alcohol use disorder is based on your genes, but is also influenced by the environment you grow up in.
Using alcohol to deal with stressful events, such as bereavement, trauma or losing a job, can also trigger heavy drinking, which can very easily then lead to alcohol dependence.
If you’re worried you might be becoming dependent on alcohol or just worried that your drinking in general, then we can offer you a free self-assessment. Just email us using the link below and one of the team will send this out to you. https://www.helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us/
The staff at Help Me Stop have all had problems with drugs or alcohol in the past, so we know first-hand how easy it is for your drinking and use of drugs to get out of hand. Equally we know, as psychotherapists, and through life experience how to beat it. As one of our former clients says we have a programme that helps you deal with your drug and alcohol issues and “deal with real life on life’s terms”.
We have a range of face to face and online programmes to address problematic alcohol and drug use. Call us now on 0208 191 9174 or jump onto Live Chat/email us directly at https://www.helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us/
Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop’s General Manager and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.