The 'almost alcoholic'

Published On: Dec 12 2012 08:35:54 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 14 2012 10:40:00 PM EST

It’s believed 33 percent of all Americans misuse alcohol resulting in 85,000 preventable deaths a year.

So, how much do you drink? While you might not be one of the millions of alcoholics in the U.S., you could be one of the millions of almost alcoholics.

Many think it’s black and white, but Harvard psychiatrist Robert Doyle believes there’s a big grey area.

“We’re seeing alcohol problems as a spectrum,” explained Doyle, the co-author of Almost Alcoholic.

The alcoholism expert is focusing on the zone between normal use and alcoholism diagnosis; the so-called almost alcoholic range. Here, the risk of things like insomnia, diabetes and cancer can increase.

“You don’t have to be alcoholic to have major problems with alcohol,” Doyle said. “That’s that fuzzy area that’s really hard to define.”

Brenda Wilhelmson believes she was an almost alcoholic.

“It turned into a way that I rewarded myself at the end of the day, and it just escalated from there,” said Wilhelmson. “I was basically drinking myself to sleep every night.”

She can pinpoint the exact moment she crossed the line to full-blown alcoholic.

“I could have gone either way that night, and I just went for it,” she said.

Doyle believes millions who become addicted pass through the almost alcoholic phase, and he thinks a lot can stop the problem there.

“We’re not trying to put labels on people. In fact, we’re trying to prevent people from getting the label of a very serious condition,” said Doyle.

Do an honest assessment by asking yourself things like: is alcohol affecting my sleep? Do I depend on alcohol to de-stress? Am I drinking to help deal with a medical problem? If you feel you might be heading toward a problem, try cutting back.

Doyle recommends, “If you’re having four beers on Friday night, see how you do with two beers.”

Small changes could make a big difference in where you end up on this spectrum. has more on Doyle’s book Almost Alcoholic and allows you to  take a self-assessment of your own drinking habits.


The views expressed below are not those of News4Jax or its affiliated companies. By clicking on "Post," you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Service and your comment is in compliance with such terms. Readers, please help keep this discussion respectful and on topic by flagging comments that are offensive or inappropriate (hover over the commenter's name and you'll see the flag option appear on right side of that line). And remember, respect goes both ways: Tolerance of others' opinions is important in a free discourse. If you're easily offended by strong opinions, you might skip reading comments entirely.

blog comments powered by Disqus