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Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 3, 2024

Table of Contents

If you have found yourself wondering whether you have a drinking problem or asking yourself “do I need rehab?”, your mind is probably filled with questions.

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Maybe you’re unsure about the relationship between problem drinking and alcohol addiction: are these one and the same?

Not necessarily, no.

Alcohol problems involves people who drink alcohol in such a way that it negatively impacts both your health and your life in general. Despite these adverse outcomes, you are not physically dependent on alcohol.

With alcoholism, by contrast, you will likely experience physical and psychological addiction alongside the problems alcohol abuse introduces into your life, your health, and your relationships.

Regardless of which problem you qualify for, if you are dealing with a drinking problem of any kind, it may be best to seek out addiction treatment from professional rehab like our Orange County rehab.

Before we probe the specifics of alcohol use disorder – the clinical descriptor for alcoholism – what is a drinking problem, exactly?

Drinking Problem Definition

The first thing to clear up is that “problem drinker” is not an official diagnosis. Rather, the phrase is used to describe those who misuse or abuse alcohol, but without necessarily requiring medical treatment, 12-step support groups (Alcoholics Anonymous), or spiritual awakening to discontinue or moderate use.

So, if you find your internet search history pockmarked with entries like “I have a drinking problem” or “Have I got a drinking problem”, you won’t unearth a clear-cut answer.

If things have become more advanced, though, and you have alcohol use disorder, willpower and commitment to sobriety are often not enough without input from healthcare professionals, addiction counselors, a 12-step support group, or rehab.

With that simple definition and comparison in place, how do you know if you have a drinking problem in the first place?

Signs of a Drinking Problem

Whether you want to know how to help someone with a drinking problem, or you are drinking problematically yourself, it pays to gain an understanding of how much alcohol is considered “too much.”

According to NIAAA – the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – guidelines for low-risk drinking:

  • Men should consume 4 standard drinks or fewer each day, and no more than 14 drinks per week.
  • Women should consume three standard drinks or fewer each day, and no more than 7 drinks per week.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a number of health problems, while at the same time increasing your susceptibility to alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed using the diagnostic criteria set out in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). Depending on your responses to 11 questions concerning your alcohol use disorder over the previous year, you may be diagnosed with mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder.

To determine whether you have a heavy drinking problem, ask yourself the following questions about your alcohol habits over the past year:

1. Do you find you need more alcohol to achieve the same effects?

2. Have you tried and failed to moderate your alcohol intake or to stop drinking?

3. Is there a family history of problems with alcohol abuse?

4. Are you spending a lot of time drinking and recovering after getting sick from drinking?

5. Do you often drink more than intended? Do you often drink for longer than intended?

6. Have you experienced cravings for alcohol?

7. Has drinking alcohol put you in risky situations (drunk driving, unsafe sex)?

8. Is your alcohol intake causing problems at home, work, or school?

9. Are you losing interest in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed?

10.  Is your alcohol intake impacting your mood and causing trouble sleeping?

11.  Do you get withdrawal symptoms as the effects of alcohol wear off?

Along with these, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has a list of criteria to help you understand if you have a drinking problem.

Understanding alcohol abuse and the signs of alcoholism is the first step to realizing you have a problem and need professional help.

Physical dependency is one of the key differentiators between problem drinking and alcoholism. If you find you can go for long spells without drinking, you may not have alcohol use disorder. This does not mean that problem drinking cannot develop into AUD over time, though.

Regardless of the label attached to your alcohol intake, if you feel this is in any way problematic, the sooner you get help and reduce unhealthy alcohol use, the better.

If you think you have a problem with alcohol or are drinking heavily and don’t know how to stop, it is vital to seek help and support.

I Have a Drinking Problem, Now What?

While there is plenty of support out there when you commit to recovery, it is first essential that you address any issues you have with alcohol so you can determine whether you need to reassess your relationship with alcohol and drinking habits.

Alcohol use disorder is a progressive and relapsing disease, so you should not delay seeking treatment. Your alcohol consumption problem will get worse if left unchecked, as well as inflaming any co-occurring mental health disorders.

NIAAA suggests the following ways to cut back on drinking while you establish how to proceed with treatment:

  • Do not keep a stock of alcohol

  • Limit drinking to certain days of the week if you are not physically dependent on alcohol

  • Pace your drinks at the rate of no more than one per hour

  • Practice saying no to alcoholic drinks

  • Find alternative methods of entertainment

If you feel you have a drinking problem, here’s the good news:

Most cases of alcohol misuse can be effectively treated with outpatient programs that don’t cost the earth and don’t require you to take a month or more away from professional and family commitments.

In severe cases of alcohol dependence, medical detox makes use of FDA-approved medications to streamline the alcohol withdrawal process. Around-the-clock medical supervision removes the risk from withdrawal.

If you find a regular outpatient program doesn’t offer you enough time commitment or support, an IOP (intensive outpatient program) or a PHP (partial hospitalization program) provides this without the need for inpatient rehab.

With a combination of medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy, you’ll address the root cause of your addiction while building a firm foundation for recovery. Achieving this without the right support in place will be challenging, so how can you get started?

Rehab for a Drinking Problem at Renaissance Recovery

Here at Renaissance Recovery, we use evidence-based therapies alongside holistic therapies to give you a whole-body approach to substance abuse treatment including treatment for alcohol addiction.

If you have a co-occurring mental health condition like depression or anxiety, we’ll help you address this and your alcohol use disorder simultaneously with our dual diagnosis treatment program. All our drug abuse and alcohol use disorder treatment programs are highly personalized, and we’re happy to accept insurance, too. All you need to do is reach out to admissions right now at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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