How do I know if I or a loved one is an alcoholic?

We often perceive an alcoholic as a down and out person living on the streets begging for money for booze.
However, some of the ‘best’ alcoholics I know are high functioning CEO’s and professionals.

So what does an alcoholic ‘look like’?

We now call someone who is struggling with alcohol as having an alcohol use disorder which may be mild,
moderate or severe depending on the number of symptoms that are being experienced. Have a look through the symptoms below. Anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria during the last year can expect a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder.

 Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
 More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
 Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
 Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
 Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or
family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
 Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
 Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order
to drink?
 More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt
(such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
 Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health
problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
 Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of
drinks had much less effect than before?
 Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble
sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things
that were not there?
If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms
you have, the more urgent the need for change.
Some questions to ask yourself:
 Do you or your loved one drink more than 3-4 drinks per day?
 Do you or your friends and family ever joke that you or your loved one is an alcoholic?
 Has the GP flagged that your or your loved one’s liver is in in distress?
 Do you or your loved one need alcohol in order to relax or sleep?

Heavy drinking is very risky for your body and emotional health. Liver disease, cancer and heart disease are all
linked to heavy drinking of alcohol. Depression and anxiety are also linked to heavy drinking.

Contact a professional for an assessment if you or your loved one’s drinking is cause for concern.
Ixande undertakes free assessments.

Ixande rehab in Cape Town. Please contact us on 021-7617348 or email

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