Is Everyone You Know an Alcoholic?

Alcoholism is usually viewed as a binary: Either you're addicted to alcohol or you're not. Now psychologists are starting to consider the possibility that there are legions of "almost alcoholics" out there who are quietly afflicted but don't know what to do about it. And from the looks of it, this group could include everyone you know.

Writing for The Atlantic, Joseph Nowinsky and Robert Doyle, co-authors of Almost Alcoholic, point out that alcohol clearly adversely affects more than just alcoholics:

We believe that, as opposed to thinking only those men and women whose drinking has progressed to the point where they need help, that many people in the mid-range may also be suffering as a result of drinking. That suffering may take the form of declining job performance and declining health so that the individual does not yet recognize it as being related to drinking.

The problem is that people who fall into the existing "alcohol abuse" categories generally aren't considered for any kind of treatment because they aren't technically addicts. If there's no treatment plans, that means no one ever does anything about it. In planning the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual psychologists are now considering placing many conditions, including alcoholism, on a spectrum, which would help both individuals and doctors understand problems in a different way. Check out this list of behaviors that place people in the "almost alcoholic" zone:

• You drink to relieve stress.
• You often drink alone.
• You look forward to drinking.
• Your drinking may be related to one or more health problems.
• You drink to relieve boredom or loneliness.
• You sometimes drive after drinking.
• You drink to maintain a "buzz."
• Your performance at work is not what it used to be.
• You aren't comfortable in social situations without drinking.
• You find that drinking helps you overcome your shyness.

If one or more of those descriptions hits a little close to home, don't worry—yet. The authors say the "almost alcoholic" zone is actually very large. The hope is that people can identify worrisome conditions before they become addictions and seek out remedies for alcohol-related problems without having to call themselves full-blown alcoholics. [The Atlantic]

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