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Signs that you may have a drinking problem

If you have landed on this website, you may be thinking about your drinking and asking yourself about your relationship to alcohol. Maybe others have told you they’re concerned about your drinking, or you feel embarrassed or guilty about your drinking but find it hard to stop.

Understanding your drinking habits and the risks that may come with them is an important first step if you want to consider cutting down or quitting drinking completely.

Binge drinking and high-risk drinking

Binge drinking


If you’re talking to a doctor, nurse or other health care provider about your relationship to alcohol, and they ask you how often you binge drink, what does that mean?


Binge drinking is usually defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting for men, and 4 or more in one sitting for women. It’s a major risk factor for death from any cause, including:


  • Unintentional injuries
  • Heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Inflammation of the digestive system


A lot of the problems that come from heavy alcohol use also impact people other than the person who’s drinking, like road crashes, physical violence between adults, intimate partner violence and more. (Source: Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health: Final Report.)

High-risk drinking


When a health care provider uses the term “high-risk drinking”, it’s important to remember that “high risk” is not always based on a specific number of drinks. It really depends on the individual person.


High-risk drinking is defined by someone’s habits or behaviours when it comes to alcohol use, and whether those drinking habits put that person at high risk for developing a dependence on or addiction to alcohol, formally known as “alcohol use disorder”. For example, how often do you drink—is it every day or most days? How often do you binge drink—is it one time or many times per week?

Learn more about how drinking affects your body.

alcohol and your health

Other signs to look out for

It’s important to be able to spot the signs that drinking has become a problem for you. Some of these signs include:


  • Regularly drinking more than you intended to
  • Feeling the need to drink alcohol to deal with your emotions
  • Neglecting important things in your life
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol
  • Struggling to control how much you drink
  • Not being able to manage your responsibilities at home, work or school because of your drinking

The bottom line is that if you’re worried about your drinking, and it’s having a negative impact on your life, you may have a drinking problem. There are many things that could be influencing your drinking habits, including some you can’t control, known as “social determinants of health”.



It’s important to talk about it with a health care professional or someone else you trust who can support you in your journey to wellness.

Whether you want to cut down on your drinking, quit completely or reduce the risks around your drinking, you can find information to get started here:

where to start