Do you have a problem with alcohol?

I hear a lot of people in my practice ask themselves whether they have a problem with alcohol. Questions like:

Do I drink too much?

Could I stop if I wanted to?

Could I stand it if I had to stop drinking forever?

Has my drinking changed significantly over the past year or so?

It’s difficult to ask these questions, and ever tougher to answer them honestly. So how do you really know if you (or someone close to you) has a problem with alcohol that needs to be address?

I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers outlining how to determine if your alcohol use is problematic. Check it out:

Some points to consider, from the DSM-V:

College and Alcohol Don’t Have to Go Together

Have you ever seen a movie about life on a college campus?

Are there any that don’t portray those years as one long, alcohol-filled party?

Sure, movies don’t necessarily reflect reality.  But the truth remains that there is a lot of alcohol consumed on college campuses.  According to the National Institutes of Health, 4 out of 5 college students drink alcohol and about half admit to binge-drinking.  The statistics don’t stop there.  Check these out:


  • Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

  • Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

  • Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

  • Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.

Clearly alcohol consumption on college campuses is a big deal.  But, universities are doing something about it.  The University of Colorado (my alma mater!) recently announced a sober living option for students in recovery who wish to live with other students abstaining from alcohol and drugs.  Check it out:

University of Colorado Collegiate Recovery Center

University of Colorado Collegiate Recovery Center

When I did a quick search for other universities and colleges in my area, I found that almost all offered some sort of substance abuse treatment program; typically through their counseling center.  If you or someone you know is a college student and struggling with substance use – it’s important to know there are options – and those options appear to be growing.

For more information about how much alcohol is too much, read more.

National Institutes of Health



Alcohol: How Much is Too Much?

Alcohol is everywhere.  People compare drinking stories, advertisements for liquor are all over TV, and bars abound in almost every town (there is even one next door to my office!).  With the prevalence of alcohol and alcohol-related activities in our society, it can be hard to know when one’s alcohol use has gone from fun and recreational to dangerous and addictive.  Here are some warning signs that one’s alcohol use has crossed over into unhealthy territory:

“Whoa. I didn’t mean to have that much.”  People with alcohol problems may find themselves drinking more than they intended on a regular basis.  What starts out as a trip to the bar with the plan to have “just one,” turns into a whole night’s worth of drinking.  This might happen with greater and greater frequency.

“I’m going to quit tomorrow.  Just like I did last week.”  People with an addiction or dependence on alcohol may make deals with themselves, (“I’m going to quite tomorrow”) that they then find hard to keep.  A desire to stop drinking paired with several unsuccessful attempts to do so is a sign of problemed use.

“I just need to grab something across town.”  People who have problems with alcohol will often spend quite a bit of time obtaining it.  For example, they might have a circuit of liquor stores in which they buy the booze.  They may also be adept at telling stories about why they were late to the birthday party (the traffic was terrible, there was an accident, I had to run in to work) rather than admitting they stopped at the bar beforehand.

“I used to love to play tennis.”  Alcoholism is a time consuming pursuit and doesn’t leave much time for other hobbies.  People with drinking problems will often give up previously fun activities in order to spend time drinking.

“I know it’s causing problems, but I just can’t give it up.”  People who use alcohol in unhealthy ways often recognize the detrimental effects of their drinking.  It may be causing them physical, emotional, or psychological harm, but even that knowledge doesn’t help them put the bottle down.

For more information on alcoholism, check out the APA Help Center.

For more information on alcohol treatment, go to Alcoholics Anonymous.