Are you Drinking too much Alcohol?

Could you be drinking too much and drinking yourself into trouble?

Drinking too much alcohol, known as the “social lubricant.” often used to ‘break the ice’  – particularly on holidays or at parties.  Bouts of excessive drinking can often feel like a “necessary” part of the celebration.
Here’s the thing though; drinking too much alcohol at a party, a get-together, a wedding, a birthday or at any time really, can be a sign of Alcohol Use Disorder.  That’s drinking too much Alcohol


What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

drinking-too-muchAlcohol Use Disorder or AUD is a term broadly used to describe problem drinking that stems from alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. Although both are marked by the inability or difficulty in stopping or controlling alcohol use, they’re not the same at all.  Alcohol abuse causes significant problems in your life; at home, at work and in most of life’s many arenas but it doesn’t involve physical addiction. What does that mean? Maybe it ends up with you showing up late for work every week because of your drinking and people around you notice and get upset. Perhaps you’re having trouble sleeping because of your drinking. Those are examples of you abusing alcohol. Now, alcohol dependence is a different demon altogether.  It’s the physical addiction to alcohol. When your body senses that it is not getting the substance anymore, just like any other drug, you have withdrawal symptoms.

What types of Alcohol Use Disorders are there?

That’s a tricky question as there is no specific amount of alcohol or frequency of drinking that determines what type of AUD a person has. It’s as unique as the person with it. A casual weekend drinker for example, may still have AUD if the habit causes problems. It is for this reason that AUD is given three classifications; mild, moderate, or severe. These depend on the number of symptoms a person exhibits.

  • A person is regarded as having Mild AUD when they have two to three symptoms. This may indicate alcohol abuse.
  • A person is regarded as having Moderate AUD when they have four to five symptoms. This may be caused by alcohol abuse or dependence.
  • A person is regarded as having Severe AUD when they have six or more symptoms. This is caused by alcohol dependence.

How can you determine if a person has AUD and is drinking too much?

Simple; like any disorder if you are drinking too much you want to know there has to be a set of criteria set out to establish the severity of the disorder.

Simply answer YES or NO to the following questions. Should you answer yes to having two to three of the following in the past year it indicates mild alcohol use disorder (AUD); having four to five indicates moderate AUD; having six or more indicates severe AUD:

  1. Have you continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or adding to another health problem?
  2. Have you, on more than one occasion wanted to cut down or stop drinking, but couldn’t?
  3. Have you had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want?
  4. Have you given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  5. Have you spent a lot of time drinking or getting over other after-effects of drinking?
  6. Have you wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  7. Have you found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with your personal life, like taking care of your home or family, or caused job or school troubles?
  8. Have you continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your friends or family?
  9. Have you more than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt?
  10. Were there times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  11. Have you found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure?

Health risks associated with Alcohol Use Disorders

If you drink too much alcohol it can and most likely will lead to problems in your job, relationships, friendships and other important aspects of your life, including and especially, your health.

Having more than one drink per day as a woman, or more than one or two drinks as a man is considered excessive drinking and is associated with an increased risk for many health issues, depression, such as liver disease (hepatitis and cirrhosis), dementia, Cancer (especially of the breast, colon, liver, oesophagus, or throat), heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, brain damage, stomach ulcers, stroke, sleep difficulty, osteoporosis, malnutrition, depression, high blood pressure, , difficulty concentrating, weight gain, and anxiety. In pregnant women who drink alcohol, there is also a danger that the baby will develop physical and psychological problems.

A finding by the BMC revealed that 1 in 10 deaths can be attributed to alcohol in South Africa. That figure may well be a lot higher.


Ask yourself, do I have a problem drinking too much?

Are you unsure if you have AUD then you should think carefully about your next move. You can do a few things to test the waters.

  1. Avoid drinking for a month. If you find it hard to do, perhaps you have a problem.
  2. Ask the people that you frequently spend time around what they think. If it’s causing them issues, then you most likely have a problem.

Some people don’t realise they have a problem because they haven’t changed their alcohol intake.  It is important to remember that the body’s ability to metabolise alcohol declines with age, so as you get older, alcohol can more easily impair your day to day functions.

drinking too muchThe best thing to do if you even mildly suspect that you or a loved one has AUD is seek help.  You can head straight to a rehabilitation centre for advice or consult your doctor. Should you go to your doctor you can ask them to look for signs that alcohol is affecting your health, such as higher blood pressure or higher liver enzymes. If you can physically see the effects it can be easier to acknowledge the issue. If it is discovered that you have alcohol dependence, you will definitely need medical guidance to stop drinking. This would include help coping with withdrawal symptoms (such as anxiety, sweating, trembling, nausea, and, in severe cases, physical seizures and hallucinations).
Therapy — such as a 12-step program (like Alcoholics Anonymous) or cognitive behavioural therapy — can help you change your behaviour and steer you away from the bottle.

Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help. It can make a huge difference. Another way to stop drinking is to change the environment and social activities once associated with drinking. Removing alcohol from your house or avoiding those weekend braai and brandy evenings could be the small but effective change you need to stop drinking.  Be warned, if you go back to those parties and the old ways it could trigger a relapse and you may find yourself all the way back at the bottom of the mountain of recovery.


For more information on dealing with alcohol abuse, call Houghton House now:

office hours:  011 787 9142

24/7 emergency helpline: 079 770 7532

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