DEAR DOCTOR K: I’ve always enjoyed an occasional drink, but often lately I’ve been reaching for a glass of wine to help me relax. Could I have a problem?
DEAR READER: Just the fact that you’re worried raises a red flag for me. If your drinking creates difficulty for you personally, socially or at work, then your drinking may be a problem.
Several screening tests can help determine if you have a drinking problem. For example, answer the following questions:
• Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
• Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
• Have you ever felt guilty or bad about your drinking?
• Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves, get rid of a hangover or as an eye-opener?
If you responded “yes” to any one of these questions, you may have a drinking problem.
If you can see that your drinking is not only causing you concern but causing you problems, you may be abusing alcohol. What kind of problems do I mean? For example:
• You’ve been failing to fulfill major work, school or home responsibilities.
• You’ve been drinking in situations where it’s physically dangerous to do so.
• You’ve been drinking despite relationship problems caused or worsened by drinking.
We’ve seen people who get very drunk: Their speech is slurred, they stagger when they walk, they drink themselves into a stupor.
It’s tempting to tell yourself, “Well, I’m not like that, so I don’t have a drinking problem.” But if you responded “yes” to any of the first four questions, or if you have any of the problems mentioned above, you probably do have a drinking problem, or are well on the way to one.
Talk to your doctor about your concerns. If there’s a chance you have a problem, work with your doctor to determine the best treatment options for you.