Do I have a drinking problem

GirlIn broad terms there are two levels of drinking problem – alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. (Do your own assessment here.)

The term, alcohol abuse, is often used in the media to describe excessive or binge drinking; the word ‘alcoholic’ is the layman’s term for alcohol dependent.  However, in the addiction treatment sector, alcohol ‘abuse’ and ‘dependence’ have more specific meanings.

The descriptions below are taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition – generally known as the DSM IV.

ProblemAlcohol abuse

There are four criteria which may apply to your drinking pattern.  If one of these four applies to you within a 12 month period, then you meet criteria for alcohol abuse:

  • On-going failure to fulfill socially important roles (such as not turning up to work due to hangovers)
  • Repeatedly drinking in physically dangerous situations (such as drink driving even if you don’t get caught)
  • Drinking which leads to on-going legal problems (such as drink-driving, drunk & disorderly, assault, etc)
  • Drinking which contributes to ongoing relationship difficulties (arguments with family, partner, friends etc)

Alcohol dependenceTom Waits

There are seven criteria for alcohol dependence. It can be assessed by asking the following questions. Because of your drinking, over time have you…

 1)   Had to consume more to achieve the same effect?  Do you get less  of an effect than you used to with the same amount? (This is called tolerance.)

2)   Found that when you temporarily stopped drinking you felt shaky, restless,  anxious, or couldn’t sleep and had to drink again. Have you used some other substance to relieve these feelings? (Withdrawal symptoms)

3) Ended up using more than you intended and/or for longer periods than you intended?

4) Tried to cut down or stop drinking, but were unsuccessful?

5)  Spent a lot of time thinking about drinking, obtaining alcohol, using it, or recovering from its effects?

6) Reduced or given up activities that used to be important to you such as work, social or sporting activities?

7) Continued drinking even though you were aware of physical or psychological health problems it was probably causing you?

DrunkIf you answered yes to:

  • three questions = mild dependence.
  • four or five questions = moderate dependence.
  • six or seven questions = severe dependence.

If you feel concerned about your drinking, additional information and questionnaires are available at:

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