When it’s more than just a drink with dinner

Use the CAGE acronym to figure out if you or a loved one might have a drinking problem. Credit: Colourbox
Use the CAGE acronym to figure out if you or a loved one might have a drinking problem.
Credit: Colourbox

My boyfriend drinks way too much around the holidays. Sometimes, he blacks out. He comes from a family of heavy drinkers and often gets drunk with his friends on the weekends throughout the year. How do I know if he’s an alcoholic and what can I do?

After graduating with a master’s degree, I spent the first three years of my social work career performing intake evaluations at an outpatient addictions counseling center in Maryland. My job was to screen adults who had been referred from the courts — for drunk driving or other substance-related offenses — to determine whether they needed extensive alcohol and drug treatment, the 11-week substance education course, or both.

Unless they’re in recovery, alcoholics typically deny having a drinking problem. Even though we administered urine tests and sprang breathalyzers on people who reeked of booze, that wouldn’t deter craftier folk from scheming to evade detection. But the test that usually gave them away didn’t require any lab work or electronics. It was a four-part questionnaire, commonly referred to as the CAGE.

CAGE is an acronym used to recall the telltale signs of alcoholism.
1. C – Cutting Down: Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
2. A – Annoyed: Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
3. G – Guilty: Have you felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
4. E – Eye-opener: Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?

One “yes” to any of the questions, other than question #4, is considered a sign of alcohol abuse. Two or more “yeses,” or a “yes” to question #4, is considered a sign of alcohol dependence. Why is #4 enough to diagnose alcoholism? People who are addicted to alcohol — or alcoholics — have developed a physiological dependence. Not only is there a constant craving and high tolerance, but they also experience withdrawal symptoms when they unsuccessfully try to cut back or stop. If you need to drink to function, you obviously have a problem.

While alcoholics are usually the last to admit they drink too much, loved ones are usually the first. That’s why being annoyed by someone about your drinking, combined with trying to cut back and/or feeling guilty, is often an indicator of problematic drinking, which could be either a sign of abuse or dependence. What’s the difference? According to the Diagnostic Statistic Manual of Mental Health (DSM), people who abuse alcohol develop problems — blacking out, getting into fights, driving drunk — as a result of their impaired judgment from alcohol consumption, even though they are not physiologically dependent. They may engage in binge drinking, which causes or exacerbates an ongoing relationship, work, financial or legal problem. Or, they might drink under circumstances that are physically dangerous, such as driving while intoxicated.

People who abuse alcohol have a greater chance of becoming physically dependent than those who don’t drink or do so moderately. Chances are even greater if someone in your family was or is an alcoholic, as studies suggest that genetically predisposition contributes to dependence. That doesn’t mean that those who occasionally hit the bottle too hard, who have alcoholism in their families, will become full-blown alcoholics. But given the higher probability, the earlier the problem is addressed, before dependence sets in, the better.

If you’re concerned about your boyfriend’s drinking, the best thing to do for yourself is to be honest with him about it. You can also try to CAGE questionnaire. If he continues to binge, and it affects your relationship, you can encourage him to seek help, but don’t try to control his drinking by hiding the liquor bottles. Instead, I suggest you attend an Al-Anon meeting to learn about alcoholism and get support in making the best decisions for yourself. Good luck.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…