How can you tell if you're drinking too much?

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Alex Lake, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. A bit of a serious question here....

    I have a friend (yes, really!) who I think drinks too much for her own good. I would conservatively estimate maybe an average of 5-6 units every day. However, she seems pretty functional in work and social situations. I don't see the classic signs of alcoholism apart from the number of empty bottles. She's in denial about how much she drinks and I was wondering - are there any tests that can be done to show it before it's too late?
  2. There are probably a series of questions that a GP would ask to determine alcoholism, and there are almost certainly tests that investigate the physical signs of it.

    A more intuitive measure that I use is: Do I need a drink to get through the day?

    If the answer is yes, then it's time to take a break.

    Mind you Alex, 5-6 units is around about half a normal bottle of wine, and I would think many forumites drink at that level with no professional or social impact (ignoring the gender component here, which I guess probably should be considered).
    Ian Black and Alex Lake like this.
  3. I know people who average a bottle or more a day and dont seem to have any problem. Tolerance is different in everyone - a friend who can down 3 bottles in a night never ever gets a hangover.

    I notice that I drink in bursts - 10 days where I will taste a few bottles and drink something every night - followed by a week or more where I dont touch a drop. Must admit I am enjoying the periods without any wine more and more now and I can easily see myself turning into a fairly infrequent drinker.
    Alex Lake likes this.
  4. So drinking 3 Times recommended maximum could be ok with decent tolerance? That’s good to know!
  5. Surely there’s a fundamental issue here — too much for it to be apparent to others, or too much to knacker your liver out of sight! Presumably some sort of liver function test is the only way of actually knowing / getting a sense of what’s happening inside.
    Alex Jagger likes this.
  6. There is no right or wrong answer here. I am someone who has consistently drunk an average of a bottle of wine a day for about 40 years with very few days off. Ironically I drank more when working as I had to attend numerous cocktail parties and entertain almost daily. However I have also exercised everyday and always drunk plenty of water with the alcohol.
    Although I now have prostate cancer my liver is fine and my urologists have not told me to stop drinking fine wine but have advised me to cut down on desserts, cakes etc .
    Think it’s true that women should drink less than men but obviously every person is different . As Simon suggests your friend should have her liver function tested regularly.
    Mahmoud Ali and Mark Crann like this.
  7. We are dealing with a similar problem unfortunately Alex, but if she's in denial there really isn't anything you can do. She'd probably tell you to MYOB. Alcohol dependency is a terrible thing for close family and friends to deal with if it becomes socially destructive but noone can do anything about it unless there is a will to change.

    And I'm not sure that a wine forum is the best place to give you the impartial advice you need...
    Alex Lake likes this.
  8. I’d have thought it the ideal place! As it is for most things ;-) of course there are other places to get advice too.

    Yes, tact is everything here.

    Like I said, there are no real signs of it at the moment, but I’m concerned about both her physical and behavioural health.
  9. I drink regularly but always try to have two dot ball days ((Monday and Tuesday).

    It’s imporstant to give the liver a break to process the alcohol and regenerate. It’s very productive organ, but incessant consumption will eventually take over. As one doctor described it to me, it’s binary, like an elastic band. Once it’s snapped it stops working and it’s game over.

    Having a week or more off throughout the year is a good idea.

    As Keith said, everyone is different and it’s just guidelines. Everyone does need a stop button though.
    Mahmoud Ali likes this.
  10. That's slightly what I'm worried about with a liver function test - perhaps it can only tell when the liver is broken, not when it is serious danger of breaking? Guess I should Google that!
  11. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the deficiencies in / background to the current NHS guidelines.

    Half a bottle a night with no bingeing at weekends sounds perfectly fine to me. Although of course psychological dependence can occur for any level of consumption.
  12. My sister in law is a doctor, and I asked her this a while ago with regards to a friend of mine - he is slightly different in that he has recently started to become a solitary drinker (he stays up and has 3 or 4 more drinks after his wife has gone to bed, or buys cans to drink on his train journey home from work alone - a 4 pack in 50 mins is becoming not unusual) which is perhaps more worrying.

    Anyway, she suggested being polite but very blunt about the fact you are concerned - but then just leave it hanging for them to mull over rather than offering advice or telling the person what they should/shouldn't do next. After all, if they aren't willing to face up to it, there is nothing you can do anyway, no matter how much you say. But hearing it from a close friend may trigger a thought process - if not immediately, then possibly days/weeks/months later.
    Alex Lake likes this.
  13. What’s the definition of an alcoholic? Somebody who drinks more than their doctor

    On a more serious note LFTs especially GGT can be useful but GGT can go up transiently after a binge of only a few days xs drinking.

    The CAGE is a crude 4 point test you can google.

    We all make choices in life, some good, some less so. If your friend is aware of the risks then in my view she’s allowed to make unwise choices. Many on here drink half a bottle a day of wine, often more, on a regular basis.

    As you note her ability to function socially and at work seems unimpaired.

    You don’t mention her age, our bodies can take a lot more abuse when we are younger.

    Women certainly need to be more careful than men.

    Some random thoughts which may or may not be of any use

  14. A different question - which Richard has just touched on - is how you raise it with your friend. I've had cause to raise some different concerns with someone close to me over a number of years and each time there was always a huge argument merely to get the person to acknowledge both the facts and that they were cause for concern. That may tell you more about me; nevertheless, are you the right person to raise the matter? Is there someone else, perhaps another lady, who might stand a better chance of being listened to?
    Alex Lake likes this.
  15. I used often to drink quite a lot more than your friend, Alex. Curiously regulation has spontaneously occurred with age and without effort or intention.
  16. Is there any fundamental difference between men and women in this regard or is it just the weight of the person? Here writes a 9st man.
  17. That’s just over 2 glasses of wine a day. In terms of functioning and work I wouldn’t say that’s even a consideration.
    5/6 units wouldn’t get most people tipsy or mildly.
    If she had it for breakfast or elevenses then it’s a problem but half a bottle a night is fine on it’s own.

    The problem you have is if it’s every night for years and years as it may cause health issues and given it’s such a low key amount relatively they wouldn’t really think it’s much of a problem or an issue yet it’s habitually addictive and cumulative.

    If it’s a bottle a night and quick snifters during the day and lunchtimes I’d be more concerned.
    In my younger Friday binge and Rugby nights out I’d do 20-40 units in a night. I functioned very well in all aspects though not on the night :) or next morning.
  18. Mike.

    I'd beg to differ - 5 or 6 units is definitely enough to leave me feeling it the next day.

    Alcoholism is a seriously difficult one - a close friend had (has) a serious issue (cocktails, a few pints and a bottle or two multiple times a week. He was diagnosed with fatty liver several years ago but has carried on. Every time I raised it (and indeed his family raised it) it was brushed off. My conclusion- in that case - was that a united front (friends and family intervention) might have helped but otherwise it was hopeless.
  19. A good thread, because we all need to think about these issues.

    I’m not sure I drink as much as many here, but I do drink most nights now, if maybe only a quarter bottle most week days.

    I’m pleased I don’t drink alone, but my wife is away less in the evenings so maybe we just have one day off a week whereas it used to perhaps be two.

    I don’t normally need a drink to get through the day, but I do sometimes think “boy I could murder a drink”.

    The problem is (apart from all this wine we all own and feel the need to make inroads into) that it tastes so damned good. Occasionally, after a dinner party or offline where everyone gets through two bottles each, I do ask myself why? The reasons are, I suspect, complex. But enjoying the smell and taste is no small part of it.
  20. A bottle of wine at 13 abv is 9.75 units, so 5-6 units is well over half a bottle. I never drink that much in one sitting unless it's part of a long meal and I rarely drink more than three or four days a week. Health issues aside I'd get bored with drinking wine every night.

    An odd side effect of my drinking becoming heavily weighted towards wine in recent years is that when I do have a decent beer, I appreciate it far more than when I drank it more frequently. And a decent beer is far more enjoyable than a mediocre wine.
  21. I think 5 or 6 'units' drunk without food relatively swiftly to 'relax' after work, for example, is very different to and much more deleterious than the same amount of wine drunk with a meal.
  22. I have the opposite problem at the moment. Not drinking much at home as don't want to crack open a bottle myself and my wife is not really drinking at the moment and sadly often having to work remotely in the evenings (having a small business). Makes wines over lunch or dinner with business friends and others all the more enjoyable but happen too seldom at present. Must turn things around!
  23. Maybe ask your missus ? :)
  24. Alex Lake likes this.
  25. Oh, I have asked the Mrs, but she doesn’t seem to have that much specialist knowledge in the area. Guess not that many of her patients are alcoholics!

    I suspect the lady in question doesn’t realise how much she’s consuming - i think this is a common thing among the professional middle-aged middle classes. Perhaps if someone could accurately measure consumption over a week and present that data to her, it would shock her.
    Keith Prothero likes this.

Share This Page