The warning signs you have an alcohol problem

April 11, 2017 Providence Health Team

Alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence or alcoholism: These are all terms that describe alcohol-use disorder, a pattern of drinking that causes personal and physical problems. These range from not meeting business or home responsibilities to serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, liver disease and cancer.

While some symptoms of this disease may seem mild, they can signal the start of a drinking problem. When people drink heavily over time, the number and severity of their symptoms usually increase. When it becomes apparent that drinking is causing a person distress or harm, a doctor will subsequently make the diagnosis of alcohol-use disorder and recommend a course of treatment.

For the best health outcome, it helps to know the warning signs so you can seek help early. Learn more about alcohol abuse by taking this quiz, developed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If you recognize any of these 11 symptoms in yourself, talk to your health care provider. It’s never too late to take steps to reduce your risks.

In the past year, have you:

  1. Spent a lot of time using alcohol, obtaining alcohol or recovering from its effects?
  2. Ended up drinking larger amounts of alcohol, or for longer periods, than you had intended?
  3. More than once, tried to cut down or stop drinking, but couldn’t?
  4. Found that you had increased tolerance to alcohol? (You had to drink more to get the effect you wanted.)
  5. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness, sweating, trouble sleeping, nausea, racing heart, or experienced hallucinations?
  6. Found that drinking (or being sick from drinking) often interfered with home, family, school or job obligations?
  7. Spent less time on social or recreational activities that were previously important to you, in order to drink?
  8. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with family or friends?
  9. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel unhappy, or was making another health problem worse?
  10. Ended up in situations where drinking increased the likelihood of getting hurt (driving, using machinery, having unsafe sex, walking in a dangerous area)?
  11. More than once gotten arrested, been held at a police station or had other legal problems because of your drinking?


If you answered “yes” to 2 or more of these 11 questions, you may have cause for concern.

You can act to reduce the risks associated with alcohol use disorder. The NIH offers three practical steps:

  1. Cut back or quit.
  2. Change on your own with help.
  3. Ask a health professional for advice.

Treatment options for severe alcohol use disorders may include counseling, in-patient detoxification programs or medications that reduce the desire to drink.

Providence has many resources available to those living with alcohol use disorder. Find a provider near you in our directory.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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