What is Problem Drinking?

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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, problem drinking has become an additional public health concern. In a recent study, 60.1% of participants 1 reported an increase in their drinking as compared to before the pandemic.

Wondering if your increased drinking is leading to a drinking problem? 

What, exactly, is “problem drinking?” How can you recognize when your drinking has become out of control? What about problem drinking vs. alcoholism? And when should you consider treatment?

What is Problem Drinking?

Problem drinking is a psychological addiction whereby alcohol is used as a coping mechanism to handle stress, anxiety, boredom, or other uncomfortable emotions. Problem drinking may be the act of consuming alcohol to avoid dealing with the stress of a job layoff, economic uncertainty, panic, or feelings of isolation.

If you find that you are drinking to avoid negative emotions or situations, you may be experiencing problem drinking.

Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

If you are trying to determine whether or not your drinking has become a problem, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a strong desire to drink to rid yourself of negative thoughts or feelings?
  • When something bad happens to you, is it one of your first actions to reach for alcohol?
  • Do you plan your days, nights, or weekends around drinking?
  • Do you feel anxious if you do not have access to alcohol?
  • Does your access to alcohol directly affect your mood or behaviors?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might be at the ‘problem stage’ of drinking.

Problem Drinking vs. Alcoholism

If you are asking yourself do I have a drinking problem? you may be wondering if your drinking has progressed into full-fledged alcoholism.

There is a fine line between problem drinking and alcoholism. While problem drinking is a psychological dependency, alcoholism is where an individual loses control of their drinking and the addiction progresses into a physical addiction.

If you are experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms, your problem drinking may have advanced to alcoholism:

  • Consuming alcohol becomes higher on your priority list than your relationships, job, or other responsibilities.
  • You’ve tried to quit drinking before and failed.
  • Shaking or sweating between drinking sessions.
  • You realize that it takes more alcohol than it used to in order to reach a feeling of intoxication.
  • You find yourself drinking in dangerous situations, such as when driving.
  • Activities you used to enjoy are no longer pleasurable unless drinking is involved.
  • You feel completely out of control and think that you cannot stop drinking, even if you are experiencing alcohol-related health problems.

If you did not answer ‘yes’ to the above questions but still feel that your relationship with alcohol is unhealthy and preventing you from living your life, you are likely at the ‘problem drinking’ stage and should consider taking steps to prevent problem drinking from progressing.

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What is Problem Drinking?

Detoxing Safely with Inpatient Rehab

Preventing problem drinking from advancing into alcoholism can be achieved with safe detoxing and adapting healthier coping mechanisms. If you’ve realized that your drinking has become problematic but you have not reached the stage of alcoholism, you can take steps to prevent the progression of your addiction.

Safely detoxing is one of the first steps to eliminating problem drinking. While detoxification is crucial, doing it without the supervision of trained professionals can be life-threatening. Safe detoxing includes managing withdrawal symptoms and monitoring your physical health to ensure that your body is properly handling the decreases in alcohol in your system.

Undergoing medically supervised detox at an inpatient clinic drastically increases your chances of recovery. Being under the care of medical professionals as well as away from the environment in which you are used to drinking helps the detoxification process immensely.

Has Your Drinking Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, and as a result, many people have turned to drink alcohol to deal with the stress and uncertainties of the world’s ‘new normal.’ We are here to help you take back your control and get back to living your life without alcohol.

At Ocean Hills, we believe that you deserve a full life during and post-recovery. Our compassionate, experienced team understands the complexities of problem drinking and helps you towards recovery with individualized treatment plans, an inclusive, family-friendly environment, and a safe detox process.

Take Control of Your Drinking with Ocean Hills Recovery

If you or someone you love has let their drinking consume their life and their emotions, or you have questions about problem drinking vs. alcoholism, the detox process, or whether or your you’re drinking has become out of control, contact a member of our team. We’re dedicated to helping you get on the right path.



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7763183/#B2-ijerph-17-09189

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