It is estimated that about 140 million people are struggling with alcohol addiction, which is a physical as well as a mental disease. This is because the body can come to depend on, or at least expect, alcohol with long-term constant use. Drinking a lot can actually change the structure of the brain, compounded in some people by a genetic predisposition to addiction. In general, however, the more someone drinks, and the younger they start, the more likely they are to develop a problem and to be unable to control their drinking behavior—to become addicted.
Here are some indicators that you might have a drinking problem:
- You find yourself drinking more than you planned to.
- You continue drinking despite it causing legal, professional, or relationship problems.
- You lie about your drinking or drink in secret, or feel guilt or shame around your drinking.
- Your family and friends are concerned about your drinking.
- You regularly drink to the point of blacking out or forgetting periods of time.
Fortunately, help is available. Talk therapy and 12-step programs have shown great success in helping people stop drinking, although the 12-step approach has been criticized for taking a moral view of what is ultimately a disease. A recently created smartphone app called A-CHESS designed for recovering alcoholics provides daily supportive messages and weekly assessments of progress. The app even warns users if they are near old drinking haunts, and offers instant access to online support groups, as well as a "panic button" to provide distraction from urges to drink.