WHAT IS AN ALCOHOLIC?: Although alcohol is used widely throughout the United States the lines between being a social drinker, a problem drinker, or an alcoholic are often unclear. A person can be considered to have alcoholism if they demonstrate a physical addiction to alcohol and continue to drink despite their alcohol use causing problems at work, with their family, or with various other aspects of their life. An alcoholic is different than someone who just abuses alcohol in that they are physically dependent on alcohol, which means they may experience withdrawal symptoms after going without an alcoholic drink for a period of time. While a person can abuse alcohol without being an alcoholic, often times abusing alcohol can lead to a more severe addiction.
SIGNS/SYMPTOMS: Alcohol abuse can manifest in different ways for different people so someone may exhibit certain signs of alcoholism or alcohol abuse but not others. However, some common signs of alcohol abuse or alcoholism include:
1. Drinking alone
2. Trying to hide alcohol use
3. Making excuses to drink and missing school, work or other activities due to alcohol
4. Need alcohol to get through most days
5. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, mood swings, nausea and vomiting
THE “ALMOST ALCOHOLIC”: Although alcohol use is common in the United States, with a little over 50% of adults over 18 years old admitting to being current regular drinkers (Source: Centers for Disease Control), alcohol abuse is not always recognized before it turns into alcoholism. While a person can use alcohol without being an alcoholic, excessive drinking and other misuses of alcohol can bring someone closer to crossing the line from an “almost alcoholic” to a full blown alcoholic. Dr. Robert L. Doyle, Professor of Behavioral Health at Harvard University and Psychologist Dr. Joseph Nowinski wrote the book Almost Alcoholic to discuss the stage of alcohol use which many alcoholics go through before developing physical dependence. Some signs of an “almost alcoholic” mentioned by the authors are drinking to relieve stress or loneliness, driving after drinking, as well as some other common signs of alcohol abuse such as drinking alone which is mentioned above. If someone recognizes some of these behaviors in themselves it is much easier to reduce or control drinking habits during the “almost alcoholic” phase since there is not yet a physical dependence on alcohol. (Source: www.cbsnews.com)