Do I Have a Problem with Alcohol?
How do you know if you have a problem with drinking?
Thinking about whether or not you have a problem with alcohol typically leads most people to assume that they don’t. “I just drink because I like it. It’s not like I need it, and I certainly don’t end up lying in the gutter somewhere.” When we imagine the kinds of people who have supposed “real” drinking problems, we often picture disheveled men carrying bottles in paper bags, stumbling down the street.
But, the truth is much more complicated than that.
An “alcohol problem” is a phrase usually used when referring to any condition that is caused by drinking which harms the drinker directly, puts the drinker in some kind of jeopardy, or places others at risk. Problems with drinking typically happen with those that tend to be heavier drinkers, though they can result from even moderate drinking depending on a variety of individual circumstances.
If you are wondering if you have a problem with alcohol, check out these articles in our Thinking About Drinking section, which is designed to help you sort that out:
- What are the different kinds of alcohol-related problems? Learn about the three different kinds of alcohol-related problems, how to distinguish between them, and how to know if you or someone you care about is suffering from them.
- What are the warning signs of an alcohol problem? Fill out this checklist of possible symptoms of an alcohol problem to see if you recognize any of them in yourself.
If you already know that you do have a problem, please know that there is help available for you. You can check our list of resources, or call the MSU Employee Assistance Program if you are an employee at Michigan State University to have a discussion with a licensed professional.
Alcoholism – what does that mean, anyway?
The term “alcoholism” usually refers to alcohol use disorder or, more typically, alcohol dependence, which is the most severe problem that can result from drinking. When someone becomes dependent on alcohol, that typically means that a person has often tried unsuccessfully to quit drinking a number of times, they need more alcohol to feel the effects of drinking (increased tolerance), and/or they feel some sort of physical withdrawal effects when they don’t drink (physical dependence). There are many other types of problems related to drinking that don’t involve dependence on alcohol, but are still quite harmful and have potentially long-lasting consequences on a person’s health, job, or relationships.
This article comes from our section Thinking About Drinking, which is published by the University Physician's Office as a way to identify drinking alcohol as both a health and wellness issue important to the entire MSU community, not just students. It’s just one of many health factors, including nutrition, exercise, tobacco use, and emotional health, which can affect health status, both in the long and the short term. To learn more about the program, visit the Thinking About Drinking section.