According to the 2015 NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health), nearly 87% of individuals age 18 or older admitted that they had consumed alcohol at some point in their lives. More than two-thirds (70%) said that they drank alcohol in the past year. More than half (56%) reported that they consumed alcohol in the past month.
Some individuals use the terms alcohol abuse and “alcoholism” interchangeably. Neither of these terms is clinically helpful, however. Most health providers use specific diagnostic criteria and the term “alcohol use disorder,” which encompasses a spectrum of problem drinking ranging from mild to severe.
However, the term “alcoholic” is commonly used to refer to someone addicted to alcohol and has developed physical and psychological dependence. Alcohol addiction is hallmarked by dependence, tolerance, and excessive drinking despite the destruction it is causing. There are two forms of excessive drinking known as heavy alcohol use and binge drinking, and a person abusing alcohol may regularly engage in one or both of these behaviors.
Am I an Alcoholic? – Self-Evaluation
If you are experiencing one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms and would like to investigate further, many free, confidential self-screening tests can help you better understand your drinking behavior. One of the most popular is the CAGE Alcohol Assessment Quiz. Although this test is only four questions long, it claims to identify 9 out of 10 alcoholics who take it.
Another is the AUDIT Alcohol Assessment Quiz, designed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and consists of 10 multiple-choice questions.
Am I an Alcoholic? – Warning Signs
Certain behaviors are strong indicators that an alcohol use problem is developing or in progress. Specific signs, habits, and behaviors to watch for include the following:
Neglect of Important Responsibilities and Obligations
Failure to attend to important responsibilities might include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Poor performance at school or work
- Neglect of family, including spouses and children
- Not paying bills or paying them on time
- Avoiding social commitments related to being intoxicated or hungover
Risk-Taking and the Incurrence of Legal Problems
Alcohol abusers often take risks that they wouldn’t if they were sober (or if otherwise sober, these would not be risks.) In addition to driving while impaired, they might drink alcohol while using medication that advises against it, engage in hazardous activities such as swimming or performing stunts, or showing up to events drunk to the horror and embarrassment of loved ones. Due to DUIs, arrests for public intoxication, or domestic violence, alcoholics tend to have brushes with the law related to risky or impulsive behavior and sometimes illicit activities.
Drinking to Reduce Stress
Many cultures normalize having a drink or two after work or before bed to de-stress and relax. The problem is that this desire can turn into a need as a person develops a psychological or emotional dependence on alcohol. Alcohol abusers often think this type of drinking is a personal right and reward that is actually warranted.
Drinking Despite Strained or Broken Relationships
Alcoholics tend to experience personal problems due to their excessive drinking. Some people take these issues seriously, and when identified, choose to cut back, quit altogether, or seek professional help.
Many alcoholics, however, will apologize repeatedly but do not change their behavior or drinking habits. Some merely keep reassuring others that they are planning on changing or that everything is okay. Still, others will begin hiding alcohol in places that only they know, drink in secret, and conceal the extent of their use. This covert behavior is done with the expectation that those concerned won’t notice and leave them to their own devices.
Other warning signs of an AUD include the following:
- Lack of interest in activities that were once deemed to be important or enjoyable
- Cravings for alcohol
- Withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of use
- Mood swings, irritability, and agitation
- Feelings of guilt and shame associated with drinking habits and behaviors
- Drinking upon awakening to stave off a hangover or withdrawal symptoms
- Inability to reduce the level of alcohol consumed or quit entirely
Types of Alcoholics
When many people imagine what an alcoholic looks like, a stereotype may come to mind that seems nothing like themselves. They may think of a homeless person begging on the street for money to drink or someone who has lost everything to alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, this is by far the exception and not the rule.
While some severe or end-stage alcoholics fit this profile, most haven’t hit what many would refer to as “rock bottom,” or at least they don’t remain there for long. In reality, there are a few different types of alcohol addicts of various ages and functioning levels.
If you are dependent or addicted to alcohol, you may find yourself fitting into one of the following subtypes:
Young Adult Subtype and Young Antisocial Subtype
Individuals who fall into the young adult subtype make up about 31% of alcoholics in the U.S. They tend to drink less frequently than other subtypes, but they are prone to binging and engaging in risky behavior when they do drink. Surprisingly, these persons frequently come from families with low rates of alcohol abuse.
More than half (about 54%) of this subtype have a psychiatric disorder known as Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), a mental illness characterized by irresponsible and impulsive behavior and criminal activity. People with ASPD exhibit a lack of remorse and disregard for others’ well-being and are often manipulative and deceitful. Many individuals with ASPD also have other substance addictions or mental health issues, such as anxiety.
The high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) accounts for nearly 20% of people who experience an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the U.S. This profile is the furthest from the alcoholic stereotype, which often causes individuals who suffer and their loved ones to be in denial about their disease’s severity. HFAs are often successful, educated, and maintain stable jobs and take care of families and themselves. In fact, almost two-thirds (62%) of HFAs hold down full-time employment, and about one-quarter (26%) have achieved a college degree.
Intermediate Familial Subtype
This subtype is slightly less common (19%) than an HFA. On average, these individuals are about 38 years old and are usually employed. About half of these people come from families with a long history of alcohol abuse, and about half of them have also experienced clinical depression. Startlingly, 20% have bipolar disorder, and many smoke tobacco and engage in other substance abuse, including cocaine or marijuana use.
Chronic Severe Subtype
This is the least common of all subtypes, consisting of only 9% of alcoholics. Most individuals in this group are middle-aged and experimented with alcohol at an early age. Of the five subtypes, these persons rate highest for other mental health conditions and the use of other substances. About 80% come from families with a lengthy history of alcohol abuse.
Getting Treatment for Alcoholism
Whether you or a loved one struggles with alcohol abuse or addiction, it’s critical to be aware of the signs and symptoms and realize that you or your loved one are not alone.
Discovering that you or a person you love is experiencing an alcohol abuse problem can be shocking and extremely problematic. But with each drink, a person continues to give away their freedom to a lie that, if left unaddressed, has the potential to take everything an individual has in their life until he or she has almost nothing left to give but their life.
Worldwide, millions of individuals struggle to overcome alcoholism every day, and some decide to seek professional help. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer comprehensive programs designed to treat alcoholism and most other substance use disorders. We provide numerous therapeutic services beneficial for the recovery process, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group support, experiential therapies, aftercare planning, and many more.