Drinking alcohol in moderation is a normal part of many cultures and is not necessarily a bad thing – you might have a glass of wine at a party, drink a beer at a picnic, or open a bottle of champagne to celebrate an achievement.

However, drinking excessively is a problem and can cause long-term damage to your health, work, and social life. Every year about 79,000 people die in the United States as a result of alcohol misuse and alcoholism.

Healthy and harmless drinking habits can become unhealthy, often because of certain events or life stresses. These changes can happen slowly and be hard to notice, and sometimes, it can be difficult to know if you have a problem with alcohol.

If you are worried about the amount you drink, the way you drink, or the consequences of your drinking, read through the five signs below. They may help you to recognize if you have a problem with alcohol and whether you should seek professional advice. You can also look at The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism page on alcohol use disorder here for more information on signs and symptoms.

1. Drinking Takes Up A Lot of Your Time

Drinking should be a fun and pleasurable activity to partake in – it should not take over your life.

Try to work out how much of your time you spend acquiring alcohol, drinking, or recovering from the effects of alcohol. This might include nights out, hangovers, or even time spent thinking about the next time you can drink. If you feel like it is taking up a significant proportion of your time, it may be a good idea to see professional advice.

2. You Drink More Than You Plan

Have you ever gone to a party intending to drink only one beer but ended up drinking much more? Drinking more than you plan or want to can be a sign you don’t have control over your drinking and could be an early warning of a drinking problem.

3. You’re Using Alcohol as a Coping Technique

Drinking alcohol in moderation can be an enjoyable experience, but drinking to escape or distract yourself from other problems is unhealthy and can easily lead to alcohol dependence.

While drinking alcohol may make you feel better in the moment, it does nothing to tackle the underlying issues – and often makes them worse. You may end up in a cycle where you become dependent on alcohol as a coping mechanism, but as your problems worsen, you start to need it more and more.

If you are drinking to cope with your problems, you should seek professional help. Support is available to help you manage your stresses in healthy ways instead of turning to alcohol.

4. Alcohol Affects Your Relationship With Loved Ones

Alcohol misuse and addiction often put a strain on your relationship with family, friends, and other loved ones. You may be ashamed of how much you are drinking and try to hide your behavior, or your family may feel that you neglect to spend quality time with them and favor drinking instead. Maybe your friends are simply worried about your alcohol use.

Your loved ones often notice you have a problem before you do, and relationship difficulties can be an important early sign of alcohol misuse.

5. Alcohol Is Damaging Your Health

If alcohol is causing you health problems, then you are drinking too much. Alcohol can cause acute hangover symptoms – waking up in the morning with a headache, vomiting, and dehydration. Regularly experiencing these symptoms is a sign of a drinking problem.

Alcohol can also cause long-term health damage, like mental disorders, liver disease, and heart problems. If you think you are experiencing long-term effects from alcohol on your health, you should seek professional medical help.

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