Summer is here and with bank holidays, sporting events and (hopefully) warm weather on the horizon, no doubt most Brits will enjoy the odd al fresco pint.
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But, as the binge-drinking headlines will tell you, many of us are drinking far more than we should. If you are worried that you or a friend or family member is in trouble with alcohol, here are some of the signs that point to alcohol abuse or even dependency.
How much and when
As we've already mentioned, binge drinking has been making big headlines for some years now. If you regularly exceed the recommended daily limit suggested by the NHS, alcohol will begin to affect your health and could point to a problem with drink. When that post-work glass of wine turns into a bottle or you find yourself insisting that a few pints are necessary to help you relax after a stressful day, you may already showing signs of dependency.
Won't stop, can't stop
Even hardened drinkers will have had mornings where they say, 'Never again!' Some stick to that statement and lay off, or at least cut down on the booze for a few weeks. Those who say it but find themselves cracking open a bottle later that day or the following day may indicate a problem.
Guilt, lies and criticism
Feeling guilty about your drinking is a clear sign that you believe it may be a problem. If, despite your guilt, you find yourself lying to loved ones, saying you've 'only had a couple', then it's time to get serious. Worse still, annoyance or defensiveness arising from others complaining about or criticising how much you drink is more than likely a sign that you are misusing the booze.
The morning after the night before
We've all had the odd blurry moment after a night out but regularly failing to remember what happened or how you got home is a sign of danger, not least because your lack of awareness could have resulted in injury either to yourself or someone else.
Failing to turn up to work or missing an important appointment because you are either drunk or too hungover to get up and out means that alcohol is beginning to affect your day-to-day life. Though a very occasional morning-after sickie might not seem like the end of the world, regularly taking the day off to recover means drink may be controlling you rather than the other way round.
And when you start reaching for the hair of the dog in the morning, it's a sure sign that your drinking is spiralling out of control.
If this all sounds too familiar it might be worth taking a serious look at your drinking habits. Alcohol abuse not only damages your physical health but can result in anxiety and depression. To check whether your drinking is a problem, visit the NHS Choices website and take the Drinking Self-assessment Test. And should you find yourself unable to cut down or stop, it may be time to take action. Visit your GP for advice on dealing with alcohol addiction.