Drugs and Alcohol

Problem drinking and alcoholism

Sometimes it might be a friend or relative who notices there’s a drink problem before the person themselves. We spoke to a few people who realised themselves that they had a problem with alcohol and decided to stop drinking.
When does drinking become a problem?
Drinking is a problem when a person drinks so much or so often that:
  • They become unwell
  • They have problems at school/work or in their home life because of their drinking
  • They spend more than they can afford on alcohol
When he was a student, Daniel ‘s drink problems stopped him from even turning up at work. Like many students he didn’t have much money and was really pleased to find a responsible job in a local shop. But his heavy and uncontrollable drinking meant that he missed his first day.
People can also become physically dependent on alcohol and need it just to feel ‘normal’. Once at this stage, stopping drinking can cause them to experience withdrawal. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include sickness, sweating and other flu-like symptoms that last up to a week.
How does a drink problem start?
Some of the people we spoke to started to drink to excess because they were in a situation at work or college where drinking was expected or tolerated. Daniel was a student when he started to have problems with alcohol. His schedule meant that he was free to drink during the day.
Stefanie began to worry about how much she was drinking when she had a job in a pub. She worked there between the ages of 18 and 21 and got on really well with the owners.  She fell into a regular pattern of drinking with them to unwind after work.
Craig says that his problem drinking started when he spent three months working in a betting shop.
Peter told us that regular lunchtime drinking was part of his work’s culture. This had been his downfall on a number of occasions (see also Alcohol and risk to self and others). He drinks more alcohol than he wants to when the group he’s with take it in turns to buy rounds of drinks.  He would drink less if he were buying his own.
Getting help for problem drinking
After a drunken evening where Daniel had been violent, he realised that he was an alcoholic and needed to stop drinking (this happened 4 years before we talked to him).
Daniel went to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) for about 18 months and now helps other people with addiction problems.
If you are worried about your drinking habits visit our resources section for links to organisations that can help.

Last reviewed July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.


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