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Recognizing the Signs of Alcoholism

No one who can be called an alcoholic or alcohol abuser ever begins with daily binge drinking. While studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol does not generally pose any serious threats when consumed in moderation, it is easy to slip past this sort of harmless use into habitual overindulgence. If the process is slow enough, we can easily fool ourselves into believing that no problem really exists, even as regular consumption begins to take a toll on our personal and professional lives.

One of the first steps in stemming this progression is developing an awareness of current drinking habits and recognizing the risk that they pose. Patterns of alcohol use can be broken down into roughly four levels:

  • Social Use: Most drinkers begin at this level, experimenting with alcohol and its effects in various social climates. This is the point at which people recognize that drinking makes them “feel good,” and they often notice their interactions with others feel much smoother. When people are able to remain at this level without allowing alcohol to affect their health, relationships, or responsibilities, minimal risk is involved.
  • Harmful Use: Routinely drinking to cope with psychological issues or relieve stress places a drinker in this category, as does the urge to drink in certain social situations or with the specific intent to affect one’s mood. A greater risk is also run if alcohol use is accepted in the individual’s social circle or group of friends as a normal way to deal with unpleasant feelings or events.
  • Harmful Dependence: If you have noticed that your tolerance for alcohol has increased by at least 50% – meaning you need three drinks to make you feel the way that two used to, for example – you might be in a phase of harmful dependence. Absence or regular breaking of self-imposed rules and limits, changes in lifestyle to accommodate drinking, and occasional loss of self-control when drinking are also indicators of such a state.
  • Alcohol Dependency: Regular blackouts over the past six months, failed resolutions to quit or cut back, and comments from others that drinking patterns have affected one’s personality are all indicators of a very high risk zone. At this level, outside help should be sought immediately.

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