Do I have a drinking problem?

Recently I’ve realised I may have a drinking problem. I drink at least 3 drinks a night and suspect they are more than ‘one standard drink’. I think I’ve become dependent on the drink to get me to sleep. I don’t get drunk and have no problems due to the drinking. I’ve moved this year into a share house after 2 years in College and my house mates don’t drink as much as I do or as much as my college friends did. I don’t feel comfortable talking about this to friends as most drink as much, if not more, than me. Do I need to do something?

Well done for thinking about this and for having the courage to ask about it. The National Health and Medical Research Council determined that for a healthy adult, an acceptable drinking level is 2 drinks a day with a couple of alcohol free days each week and drinking no more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion. This level is deemed to reduce the risk of alcohol related harm. For your information a stubbie of full strength beer is 1.4 standard drinks, a can of premixed spirits is 1.5 to 2.1 standard drinks, 100 ml of wine = 1 standard drink and I doubt many people at home measure the amount they pour. That’s the technical stuff.

Of more concern to you is possible problems that are caused by drinking, even if they’re not obvious. It’s very likely that your drinking is affecting your functioning at home and during the next day while you’re studying – even without a hangover you will have ‘dulled’ your brain. Click here for a self-assessment tool to test the impact of your drinking. Regarding your concerns that you depend on drinking to sleep, while it can cause you to fall asleep, it isn’t a good quality sleep. You are more prone to waking and snoring and don’t feel as rested when you wake, and as the body is dealing with the alcohol in the system, it may not have done all the other work it needs to do to keep you functioning at your best.

Trying to take some time off from drinking can be a useful way of determining how different things are when you’re not drinking, consider taking a month off to see how you feel. Another option is to start measuring and recording your drinks to make sure you’re accurately assessing your alcohol intake, and to slowly start reducing the amount you drink. Get a shot glass if you drink spirits, only drink two stubbies of light beer a night [equals 2 standard drinks] and try to have a couple of alcohol free nights a week. Drink water between each of your drinks to help the liver out. Stop drinking well before you go to bed. Click here for some more tips on drinking responsibly.

You can also download audio recordings from our website on relaxation, guided imagery to aid sleep and other useful topics. Talking to your mates could be good if one or more have the same concerns as you and are also afraid to discuss it but be aware they might also be scared of the idea and so not be very supportive. It might be useful to come to Counselling and Psychological Services to get support for your efforts and tips to help you along the way – especially if you feel unable to talk to your mates.

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