Drinking alcohol isn’t always a bad thing. Drinking in moderation is something many of us engage in and is a normal part of our society and culture. People drink at weddings or other ceremonies, enjoy a beer at the pub with friends, and relax with a glass of wine in the evening.
Drinking alcohol is healthy so long as you remain in control and ensure you do not drink more than the recommended limits. However, if you begin to lose control, drinking becomes problematic. If left unchecked, it can lead to excessive drinking and alcoholism - conditions that account for around 79,000 deaths in the United States every year.
Recognizing you have lost control of your drinking is crucial and the first step in getting help. Admitting you have a problem is not something to be afraid of - there are thousands of professionally-led treatment programs and mutual support group options across the country that offer effective treatment methods to help you change your drinking habits.
If you are worried that you or a loved one has lost control of their drinking, read through the signs below. You can also look at The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s “rethinking drinking” page for further guidance.
It’s normal to want to plan your day and how you spend your free time, and arranging a pub trip with a friend or thinking about the cocktails you might make at your party isn’t something to worry about.
However, spending a lot of time thinking about alcohol and how you are going to obtain it is usually a sign of a problem. Obsessive thoughts about drinking may signify a physical or emotional dependence on the substance - a symptom of alcohol use disorders (AUDs).
If you are embarrassed about the amount you are drinking and don’t want friends or family to find out, you are probably drinking more than you should. You might find yourself hiding empty bottles, saying you’re going for a walk when you’re actually going to the bar, or lying about the amount you drank the night before.
Lying and secrecy put a strain on relationships and are usually something we all want to avoid. If you feel you cannot be honest with loved ones about your drinking and continue to drink anyway, you may have lost control of your drinking. Getting help or seeking professional advice at this stage can help you get back in control and avoid further damage to your relationships.
If buying alcohol is one of the main ways you spend your money, or you are experiencing financial difficulties because of your drinking, then you may have developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Remember that alcohol-related spending doesn’t just include the alcoholic beverage itself - when you are under the influence, you may spend money thoughtlessly on things you later regret. Alcohol use disorders can easily lead to financial problems which in turn affect your relationships and family life. Recognizing that your drinking is out of control is the first step to preventing or healing this damage.
Drinking too much can have a serious effect on your long-term health. It can disrupt your brain functions, affecting mental health and behavior, and cause damage to your heart. It may also lead to problems in your liver, pancreas, and immune system.
Excessive drinking also causes acute health problems in the short term. A night of binge drinking can result in dehydration, vomiting, and headaches the next day. If you drink more than your body can process at any one time, you may suffer from alcohol poisoning.
If you notice that you frequently wake up with a hangover or are experiencing long-term health damage from alcohol, you may have lost control of your drinking. Call an advice helpline, talk to an expert, or visit a treatment center to begin your return to a healthy and productive sober lifestyle.