Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol Problems

Not everyone who has an alcohol problem is an alcoholic. There are varying degrees or levels of alcohol use disorders, from mild to moderate to severe. You do not have to drink every day or even regularly to have a drinking problem.

These frequently asked questions and their answers explain more about the nature of alcohol problems:


What Is an Alcohol Problem?

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What Is an Alcohol Problem?. © Getty Images

Researchers use the term "alcohol problems" to refer to any type of condition caused by drinking which harms the drinker directly, jeopardizes the drinker's well-being, or places others at risk. Depending on the circumstances, alcohol problems can result from even moderate drinking, for example when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medicines. Alcohol problems exist on a continuum of severity ranging from occasional binge drinking to alcohol abuse or dependence (alcoholism).

Medically speaking, all of these alcohol problems are now diagnosed as alcohol use disorders, and further classified as mild, moderate or severe—with severe being what is commonly known as alcoholism.

Do You Have an Alcohol Problem?

Answering these 20 questions will give you an idea if your drinking patterns are safe, risky or harmful. Be honest with yourself, only you will see the results of your test and you can only benefit if your answers are accurate.


What Are the Different Types of Alcohol Problems?

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There Are Varying Degrees of Alcohol Problems. © Getty Images

It is important to note that alcohol problems occur along a continuum of severity. Mild alcohol use disorders could be simply missing work or school occasionally as a result of drinking too much or continuing to drink in spite of repeatedly embarrassing yourself among your drinking friends.

The term alcoholism usually refers to alcohol dependence or severe alcohol use disorder. Alcohol dependence is the most severe alcohol problem and typically consists of at least six of 11 symptoms experienced within one year. 


What Are the Symptoms of an Alcohol Problem?

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The Symptoms of a Problem. &copy Getty Images

Certain behaviors are known to be possible early signs of an alcohol problem. These can include regular binge drinking or any pattern of heavy alcohol consumption, which poses a high risk of future damage to physical or mental health. Any pattern of drinking which puts the drinker at risk of accidents, arrests, poor job performance or other social problems. 


How Is an Alcohol Problem Diagnosed?

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Assessing Alcohol Use Disorders. © Getty Images

A diagnosis of an alcohol problem can only be determined after a full examination by a healthcare professional. The examination may include a behavioral and/or medical evaluation.

The behavioral evaluation will review the individual's history of alcohol use including drinking patterns, attitudes, and beliefs as well as environmental factors such as the influence of friends and family members and stress levels.

The medical evaluation includes a physical examination which will assess physical signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence and chronic alcohol use, a review of genetic factors to determine if there is a history of alcoholism within the family, and evaluation of data from laboratory tests.

The assessment should also include a clinical interview conducted by a professional specifically trained to evaluate alcohol use disorders.


Who Develops Alcohol Problems?

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Who Develops Alcohol Problems?. © Getty Images

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 14 million people in the United States - 1 in every 13 adults - have alcohol abuse or dependence. More men than women are alcohol dependent or have other types of alcohol problems.

More than half of all Americans over age 12 report that they are current drinkers.

Rates of alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18-29 and lowest among adults 65 years and older. About 43 percent of U.S. adults (76 million people) have been exposed to alcoholism in the family; they grew up with, married an alcoholic or problem drinker, or had a blood relative who was an alcoholic or problem drinker.

Although alcohol use disorders tend to run in families, the risk is not destiny. A combination of genetic and environmental factors determines who develops alcohol problems.


What Are the Treatments for Alcohol Problems?

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Medication Is One Treatment Option. © Getty Images

Alcohol problems which do not involve physical dependence can be treated through interventions such as education, counseling and a reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis.

A variety of treatments exists for alcohol dependence including self-help groups, medication, detoxification and rehabilitation on either an in-patient or out-patient basis. 

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