One bottle of wine per day is a significant amount of alcohol. It is above the recommended guidelines for moderate drinking, which generally suggest no more than two standard drinks per day for men and one standard drink per day for women (because their body chemistry and structure are different). You may not be displaying symptoms of alcoholism now, but you may soon if you continue that level of intake.
Does it Make Me an Alcoholic?
Drinking a daily bottle of something that brings misery to millions is never going to be a great idea, however, you try to justify it. But, does it make you an alcoholic? Well, it may not do so immediately, but the chances are that it will eventually. And it will certainly increase the risk of developing health issues. Without you realising, your mental health may already be under strain – disturbed sleep patterns or feelings of anxiety are typical early signs.
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How Much Alcohol Does a Bottle of Wine Contain?
A standard bottle of wine typically contains about 5 servings or glasses (approximately 750 millilitres). The average alcohol content is 11 per cent. This may not seem excessive to some people. They may appear to be able to handle this level of alcohol intake without negative consequences – factors such as body weight, tolerance, overall health, and other individual characteristics can influence how alcohol affects each person. Nevertheless, it is still a cause for concern, and it may soon start to affect daily life, relationships, or health. Regularly consuming alcohol in such quantities could eventually lead to physical dependence and other negative consequences.
How Can I Tell if I’m an Alcoholic?
Determining if you have an alcohol use disorder (the clinical description of an alcoholic), is a complex process that requires professional evaluation. However, here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate a problem with alcohol:
- Craving or strong desire to drink alcohol.
- Difficulty controlling or limiting alcohol consumption.
- Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol.
- Neglecting or reducing participation in important activities or hobbies due to alcohol use.
- Continuing to drink despite experiencing negative consequences in personal relationships, work, or health.
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol requires increased amounts to achieve the desired effect.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit or reduce alcohol intake.
- Drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
- Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or quit drinking.
- Spending a lot of time thinking about alcohol or planning activities around drinking.
If you identify with several of these signs, you may be developing an alcohol problem and would be wise to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or addiction specialist. They can conduct a comprehensive assessment and provide a diagnosis based on your specific situation.
Take the alcohol addiction test below to identify a potential problem with alcohol.
Remember, self-diagnosis is not definitive, and a professional evaluation is needed for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations. Seeking help from healthcare professionals or support groups can provide valuable guidance and assistance if you believe you may have an issue with alcohol. The amount and frequency of alcohol consumption alone may not be sufficient to determine if someone is an alcoholic. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is typically diagnosed based on a pattern of behaviours, symptoms and consequences. Diagnostic manuals such as that of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM 5 detail well-known criteria for diagnosis.
The Self-Defeating Cycle of Addiction
Alcohol use disorder often develops gradually and can be influenced by various factors both physical and psychological which interact – it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between cause and effect. Here are some ways in which alcohol dependence can gradually take hold of a person:
- Tolerance: with regular alcohol consumption, the body may develop a tolerance, meaning that it becomes less responsive to the effects of alcohol. Increased tolerance which leads to increased intake, increases the physical damage alcohol does to the liver, brain, spleen and other organs while at the same time obscuring a person’s awareness of what is happening.
- Withdrawal symptoms: when a person who is becoming physically dependent on alcohol abruptly stops or reduces their alcohol intake, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These may begin to appear as a need for another drink in the morning after a heavy binge. Symptoms can then increase in severity to include anxiety, tremors, sweating, nausea, insomnia, and even seizures. Any kind of withdrawal symptom is essentially a form of craving that leads a person deeper into the self-destructive cycle of addiction.
- Psychological dependence: alongside physical dependence, psychological factors play a role in alcoholism. Using alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety, or other negative emotions, can contribute to the development of dependence. If you get into the habit of always taking a drink to ease social anxiety, for example, it soon becomes a psychological need.
- Behavioural patterns: alcohol dependence often involves a pattern of problematic behaviours. These may include an inability to control drinking, prioritising alcohol over other responsibilities or activities, continued drinking despite negative consequences, and unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut down. The pain of stopping and the pain of not stopping become finely balanced and it takes a real catastrophe to convince the drinker of the need to stop.
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Can a Regular Moderate Intake of Alcohol Be Beneficial?
The impact of regular moderate alcohol intake on health is a subject of debate among experts. While some studies (such as the American College of Cardiology in 2021) have suggested potential benefits, especially around cardiovascular issues, this has been challenged by others who suggest that perceived benefits may in fact come from other lifestyle characteristics of those surveyed. Some experts, such as Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist at Royal Liverpool University Hospitals. even suggest that any alcohol intake at all can be problematic for certain health issues including heart disease and cancer.
NHS Guidelines on Safe Alcohol Consumption
Guidance published in 2021 by the UK Department of Health advises a maximum safe intake of 14 units per week. Perhaps it is time to review this advice. In January this year, the World Health Organisation stated that “there is no safe alcohol consumption” prompting Canada to drastically downgrade its advice on safe drinking levels to two drinks a week or less (it had previously given advice similar to the UK).
Are Some Drinks Safer Than Others?
There is no drink, such as red wine or beer, that can be proven ‘better than others’ or ‘medicinal’ according to (Professor Sir Ian Gilmore). We seem inclined to try, wherever possible to justify our alcohol use as reasonable or medicinal in some way. Perhaps this is because alcohol is the only dangerous substance where there is often peer pressure exerted on individuals to partake, regardless of the consequences. British culture seems sometimes to be based on alcohol usage.
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Are the NHS Guidelines on Alcohol Consumption Too High?
Although in the UK the Department of Health continues to talk about ‘low-risk consumption’ other countries are starting to reconsider their advice on supposed ‘safe drinking’. Ireland, perhaps following Canada’s lead that ‘no amount is safe’, has just passed legislation to introduce health warning labelling on all alcoholic drinks by 2026 – a big step for a country that was once seen as a haven for heavy drinking.
What Should I Do If I Am Worried About My Drinking?
If you are concerned that drinking a bottle of wine a day may be harming you, it’s probably time to take proactive steps to address the issue. Here are some suggestions on what you can do:
- Recognise that you have worries about your drinking behaviour and understand that British culture often includes denial of the seriousness of alcoholic drinking. Put your well-being first.
- Seek support from loved ones: reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a supportive partner who can provide understanding, encouragement, and help in your journey towards healthier habits.
- Consult a healthcare professional such as a doctor or counsellor, who can offer guidance and support. They can assess your situation, provide advice, and recommend appropriate resources or treatment options.
- Consider support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or seek out other recovery communities where you can connect with individuals who have experienced similar challenges. Sharing experiences and learning from others can be valuable.
- Educate yourself about the effects of alcohol on physical and mental health. Understanding the risks associated with excessive or prolonged alcohol consumption can strengthen your motivation to make positive changes.
- Set achievable goals for yourself, such as reducing the frequency or quantity of alcohol consumption. Gradual changes may be more sustainable than attempting sudden, drastic modifications.
- Find alternative activities that don’t involve alcohol. Pursue hobbies, exercise regularly, join clubs or groups with shared interests, or find new ways to relax and socialise that don’t rely on alcohol.
- Practice self-care: maintain a balanced diet, get regular exercise, prioritise sleep, and learn new ways to manage stress such as mindfulness or relaxation techniques.
- Stay accountable: keep a journal to track your alcohol consumption and reflect on your progress. Consider sharing your goals with a trusted friend or family member who can provide support and help you stay accountable.
- Remember that overcoming concerns about drinking takes time and effort. It’s important to be patient with yourself, celebrate small victories, and seek professional help if needed.
Remember, everyone’s journey is unique, and seeking support is a positive step towards a healthier lifestyle.
Be Realistic and Don’t Buy into The Pervasive Drinking Culture Around You
Whatever others are doing, your health and general well-being must come first. Do not continue self-defeating behaviour just because others do it. If you find yourself trying to justify your drinking – to yourself or to others – that is probably a warning sign. Alcoholism is a major killer and it often arrives through stealth.
“There is a common misconception that alcohol, ‘in moderation’, has proven health benefits. In fact, most of the total number of deaths and diseases caused by alcohol happen to people in the large majority of the population who are ‘moderate’ drinkers, not in the minority who are heavy drinkers. No one should justify their alcohol consumption with the belief that they are benefiting their health.” (Drug Science, an independent, science-led drugs charity),
At Castle Craig, we are always ready to discuss your concerns about drinking alcohol and it is always better to address any possible addiction issues early rather than to wait until negative consequences appear. There is a whole range of possible options from daycare counselling to residential rehab programmes – the needs of each person are unique.
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