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Alcoholism: Are you at risk?

Having a few drinks over dinner or with friends might seem a normal activity, but if it becomes a regular habit, it could be the sign of something else. Do you need more information? Here are some of the signs a person might be at risk for an alcohol problem.

woman drinking beer

If you like to have a drink on occasion, you’re certainly not alone, as according to Health Canada, the majority of Canadians seem to enjoy their cocktails, with over three-quarters of the general population surveyed reporting they have had alcohol in the past year. While most Canadians will imbibe in moderation and fall into the category of a low-risk or “social” drinker, Health Canada reports that  4 million to 5 million drinkers participate in high-risk drinking, and per, approximately 11 per cent of the population has a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Heavy drinking is a serious concern, since the implications of alcohol misuse can be far reaching: Chronic alcohol abuse and alcoholism (alcohol dependency) will likely lead to a number of problems, such as health issues, mental health conditions and financial concerns, and can adversely affect the lives of family and friends. So where do you fit in? Are you a social drinker, or are you concerned your drinking habits might be something more? While every person is different, here are some of the common risk factors and symptoms that indicate a person could develop or have an alcohol abuse or dependency problem.

Risk factors

Risk factors include the following:

  • Regularly exceeding the alcohol consumption guidelines set out by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, which has issued a national standard of low-risk drinking guidelines. These recommendations advise limiting alcoholic beverages to a maximum of 10 drinks for women and 15 for men each week.
  • Binge drinking.
  • Regularly using alcohol to relieve stress or to relax.
  • Having a family history of drinking problems.
  • Having a partner who drinks too much.
  • Being part of a heavy-drinking peer group.
  • Suffering from a mental health issue such as depression or bipolar disorder.


Symptoms of having a drinking problem include the following:

  • An increased tolerance of alcohol. It takes more drinks to get the feeling you want.
  • Having a drink in the morning to relieve a hangover or calm the nerves.
  • Hiding alcohol around the home, workplace or in other secret locations.
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities such as work and family because of drinking.
  • Avoiding activities that don’t include alcohol.
  • Not remembering what happened while you were drinking.
  • Feeling guilty about your alcohol consumption and wanting to quit but are unable to.
  • Lying to others about how much you drink and hiding your drinking habits.
  • Being unable to set limits on drinking and having a problem stopping once you start.
  • Continuing to drink even though it has created issues with family, friends and your normal life.
  • Losing interest in activities that were important and choosing to drink instead.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, anxiety and rapid heartbeat, after a period of not drinking.
  • Becoming involved in risky behaviours, such as driving under the influence or promiscuity.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or thinking about it, and then recovering from your drinking behaviour.
If you suspect you or a loved one may have an alcohol problem, seek professional help from your health care provider, who can provide you with the treatment options you need to safely get on the road to recovery.

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