Am I alcohol dependent?
Could you be dependent on alcohol?
We’re exploring ways to improve support for people struggling with their alcohol consumption through their loved ones, and we need your help.
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If you find it difficult to enjoy yourself or relax without having a drink, it’s possible you’ve become dependent on alcohol.
If you have any physical withdrawal symptoms (for example shaking, sweating, or nausea) before you have your first drink of the day, it’s important to get medical advice before you stop drinking completely. It can be dangerous to stop drinking too quickly without proper support if you have these symptoms.
This guide has information on how you can check if you’ve become dependent on alcohol, as well as advice on where to go for help. Or, if you’re looking for advice on how to keep your drinking low-risk, read on for tips on how you can avoid becoming dependent.
It might be surprising to hear you don’t always have to be drinking to extreme levels to become dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependence operates on a spectrum – from mild, to moderate or severe.
Anyone who is drinking regularly could have a degree of alcohol dependency.
In 2019, there were an estimated 602,391 dependent drinkers in England.1
If you’re worried you might be dependent on alcohol, ask yourself the following questions:
In many cases, the first step of treating alcohol dependence is acknowledging there is a problem. As with many health problems the second step is to seek help from a healthcare professional, usually your local GP surgery, who can signpost you to a specialist local service.
Doctors assess whether someone is dependent on alcohol by working with their patient to check for signs they can’t regulate their drinking, and that they have a strong internal drive to use alcohol.
If you think you may be drinking too much, or that your drinking is beginning to have a damaging effect on your life, we have a quick online test that can help you understand if there is cause for concern.
If you find you have been drinking more recently, try these tips to improve your health and stop yourself from becoming dependent.
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) advise it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
Finding it difficult to cut out alcohol on a Monday or a Tuesday, for example, could be a clear sign you have a degree of dependence. If you have physical withdrawal symptoms (like shaking or nausea) you need to get medical advice before you stop, but if you just want to cut down why not see how easy you find it to go a few days without drinking.
Knowledge is power, so if you do choose to drink, keeping track of how much you’re having is a clever way of staying on top of any warning signs.
The free MyDrinkaware app is an easy way to do it – download it now.
The NHS defines binge drinking as “drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk”.2 It can also be defined as drinking more than eight units in a single session for men and over six units for women.3
Binge drinking – whether you’re dependent on alcohol or not – can be dangerous because it increases your chances of accidents and falls. If you drink enough to cause alcohol poisoning, a serious case can even stop your breathing or your heart.
Binge drinking can affect your mood and memory. And in the longer-term it can even lead to serious mental health problems.
If you’re worried about your drinking, get in touch with your local GP surgery, who will be able to help.
You can also search for alcohol support services in your area using the below links:
If you’re looking to speak to someone on the phone or chat online for more advice on your own or someone else’s drinking, get in touch with Drinkchat or Drinkline.
Drinkchat is a free online chat service with trained advisors offering confidential advice. The service is available from 9am-2pm on weekdays.
Drinkline is a free, confidential helpline available from 9am – 8pm on weekdays, and 11am – 4pm at the weekend. Call 0300 123 1110.
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Last Reviewed: 4th February 2022
Next Review due: 4th February 2025