Are you drinking too much?

Nearly 1 in 20 people has a serious problem with alcohol. If you think you could be drinking too much then listen to the following questions very carefully. Answer Yes or No to every question and keep a note of the number of times you answered 'yes' and the number of times you answered 'no'.

At the end of the questions I'll tell you whether your answers suggest you drink too much and need help.

1. Do you worry about the price of alcohol?
2. Do you drink alcohol more often than you used to?
3. Do you drink for relief or comfort (as opposed to companionship or thirst)?
4. Do you ever wake in the morning unable to remember what happened the previous evening?
5. Do you feel guilty about your drinking?
6. Do you drink secretly?
7. Do you use mints or fresheners to hide the smell of alcohol?
8. Do you find yourself having to think up reasons for being late or missing appointments when alcohol is the real reason?
9. Has the quality of your work gone down because of your drinking?
10. Have you ever been arrested for drunken driving or drunken behaviour?
11. Is your capacity to work worse after lunch because of your drinking?
12. Have your friends remarked on your drinking and warned you about it?
13. Does your drinking cause family rows?
14. Have you been in trouble at work because of your drinking?
15. Do you drink at odd times of the day?
16. Has your drinking had an adverse effect on your appetite?
17. Do you find yourself having to make excuses because of your drinking?
18. Have your drinking habits affected your general health?
19. Do you feel ashamed of your drinking habits?
20. Have you attempted to change your drinking habits?
21. Do you seem more prone to infection because of your drinking habits?
22. Do you have tremors or shakes caused by drinking?
23. Do you ever get drunk and stay that way for several days?
24. Do you find that you cannot drink as much as you could?
25. Have you given up any outside interests because of your drinking habits?
26. Are you more irritable or moody than you used to be?
27. Have you ever hit anyone while under the influence of alcohol?
28. Does your drinking affect your memory?
29. Do you ever have a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves?
30. Does your drinking affect your ability to concentrate?

If you answered YES to any of these questions you could have a problem. The more you've answered 'yes' the bigger the problem may be.

Alcoholism is a major - and still underestimated - problem.

The general consumption of alcohol has risen very sharply over the last few decades. And as the consumption of alcohol has gone up, so has the amount of disease caused by drinking. The nature of the problem has changed, too. For whereas it used to be mainly men who drank to excess, there is now plenty of evidence to show that increasing numbers of women are using alcohol to help them escape from fears, anxieties and worries.

Heavy drinking used to be an occupational hazard among bar tenders, journalists and doctors. Today housewives have joined the list of drinkers in the danger area; they are drinking because of boredom, because of loneliness and because of money problems.

There are a number of physical problems associated with alcohol, but the main danger is, of course, that a regular, heavy drinker will become an alcoholic.

Although experts round the world argue about just how much a drinker can consume without becoming an alcoholic, the consensus seems to be that if you drink five pints of beer or a third of a pint of whiskey a day then you are in trouble. Something like one in three drinkers is already in that category or is heading for it at a fairly rapid rate.

The risks attached to alcoholism are various. If you are an alcoholic, you are around four times as likely to die in any given year than a non-drinker of the same age, sex and economic status. You are more likely to be involved in serious accidents, to suffer serious liver trouble, and to develop cancers of various different kinds. If you are an alcoholic, you are also more likely to be involved in a violent crime than a social drinker or non-drinker. You even run the risk of suffering from serious and permanent brain damage.

So - what should you do?

If you have an alcohol problem then you must get professional help, support and guidance. It's doubtful if you will be able to beat the problem yourself. I suggest that you get in touch with your own doctor and with Alcoholics Anonymous - you'll find their telephone number in the phone book and there will be regular meetings held close to where you live.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2003