Am I Addicted to Alcohol? | Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Am I an Alcoholic? Alcohol Addiction Assessment

We’re always talking about alcohol abuse and dependence, and the difference between the two. They both suffer consequences because of their drinking, but individuals struggling with alcohol addiction are physically dependent on the substance, and they experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking. The American Psychiatric Association is considering categorizing alcohol abuse within a spectrum of disorders, which would classify some drinkers as at risk of developing addiction.

The grey areas of drinking

The lines are blurry between those addicted to alcohol, abusing alcohol, and people on the brink of having these problems. An individual with alcohol addiction may not show the same symptoms as other drinkers, or a “normal” social drinker may share in characteristics of an individual who abuses alcohol — that’s why some people want diagnosis on a spectrum — to account for all the gray areas we see in real life people.

Staff at Harvard Medical School have been developing a book series that talks about those on the brink of developing alcohol addiction. “There is a tremendous number of people who have alcohol problems and almost all have gone through the gray area of the scale,” said Dr. Robert Doyle, a co-author and clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “So almost everyone who’s at the far end had some experience in the ‘almost’ range, and if we can bring some awareness to that, we might be able to help them make some health lifestyle changes.”1

Seeing the signs

Some physicians agree that being able to define someone as being at risk of developing alcoholism, or being “almost addicted”,would be beneficial for early intervention. “It’s about describing symptoms that aren’t normal, that are well documented, and explaining those symptoms to people so they can better deal with them and have better health now and in the future,” Dr. Julie Silver, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School said.1 “It is good for people and their friends/relatives to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction, so that they may be able to influence someone before they get into trouble,” said Dr. Robert Gwyther, professor in the department of family medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.1

Too many terms

Other physicians are concerned there’s already too much confusion, and adding “almost  addicted” to the mix would just lead to more problems with diagnosing. “We run the risk of having too many terms — alcohol abuse, alcohol misuse, risky drinking, unhealthy use, almost addiction,” said Dr. James Garbutt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.1

At least this opens up the topic more, regardless of whether or not the “almost addicted” will stick.

Alcohol addiction is a progressive disease and it is always precluded by problematic drinking behavior,” said Dr. Jason Hershberger, chief of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “Problematic drinking is common, more common than full-blown alcoholism, and once identified, it can be helped.”1

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.

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Take this Alcohol Addiction Assessment. The Michigan Alcohol Screening test (MAST), is a self-scoring test that helps determine whether an individual has a problem with drinking. (This is the current revised version of the MAST; the original MAST is composed of 25 questions and uses a more complex scoring method.)
Selzer ML: “The Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test: the quest for a new diagnostic instrument” Am J Psychiatry 127(12):1653-1658, 1971.