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  • Debbie Masner

How do you know if you have a drinking problem?

How do you know you need to quit drinking? How do you know if you are an “alcoholic”? What are the warning signs of a drinking problem? I answer these questions and more in the latest episode of the podcast. You can listen here: ATP podcast

I like to remind people of something very important: You don’t have to have a drinking problem to have a problem with drinking. Instead of asking yourself if you have an alcohol problem- ask yourself if your life would be better without alcohol.

If you are curious about what makes a “drinking problem” I talk about Alcohol Use Disorder. You do not have to call yourself an alcoholic. In fact, the correct terminology used in the medical community is Alcohol Use Disorder and it’s on a spectrum from mild to severe. There is a list of questions asked to gauge where you fall on the spectrum. Keep in mind these questions are subjective.


From the American Psychiatric Association fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Answer Yes or No to the following questions based on your experience in the last year:

In the last year have you.....

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?

  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?

  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick as a result of drinking?

  • Experienced cravings for alcohol, or the strong need for a drink?

  • Noticed that drinking, or being sick from drinking, caused problems at home, work, or school?

  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?

  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?

  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unprotected sex)?

  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?

  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?

  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?

Add up your number of yes answers to determine where you fall on the spectrum. The presence of at least 2 of these symptoms indicates Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

The severity of the AUD is defined as:

Mild: The presence of 2 to 3 yes answers

Moderate: The presence of 4 to 5 yes answers

Severe: The presence of 6 or yes answers

In full disclosure, although I considered myself a highly functioning gray area drinker, I fell under the severe category of AUD.

Again, does this matter? Are you focused on the problem or the solution? Would removing alcohol from your life improve it? If the answer is yes or if you don’t know, I’d like to invite you to take a break. Practice not drinking and see how different your life can be.

Free resources from ATP:

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