Do you feel the need to have a drink as soon as you get up in the morning? Does drinking in the morning calm your nerves and make you feel better? Are you worried about your daily habit and whether you might be developing an alcohol use disorder? If so, it might be a good idea for you to take a careful look at your drinking and get objective feedback about whether your drinking habit is considered “abnormal” or “excessive”.
While it is not uncommon for people to have an eye-opener once in a while to get over a hangover, the urge to drink every morning is a “red flag” of alcohol dependence. You should consider getting help if you would like to stop drinking alcohol.
When you start your day with a drink or two, it usually means that your body is so accustomed to alcohol that it cannot function normally without it. People struggling with alcohol problems usually start drinking as soon as they get up in order to feel better. If they do not drink right away, they usually think about when and where they can get their first drink. The inability to stop drinking or to stop thinking about drinking is a sign of dependence.
At this point, a person can no longer be considered a social drinker, since their cravings can lead to drink heavily, excessively, and recklessly. An alcohol abuse problem over a long period may also contribute to liver disease and many, many other physical and mental health issues. It can also worsen over 50 different medical conditions. A person with alcohol dependence could benefit from reevaluating their relationship with alcohol.
Seeking treatment from health professionals may work for some heavy alcohol users, especially if they experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. If you’ve experienced significant withdrawal symptoms from not drinking we strongly encourage you to stop drinking under the supervision of a physician. Delirium Tremens can kill you.
Most heavy drinkers are not at that end of the severity spectrum though. There are other treatment options. Joining support groups, enlisting support from family members and programs from organizations such as CheckUp & Choices can make a big difference in helping you make changes.
In either case, consulting your primary care doctor about changing your drinking and the tools you’re planning on using can be helpful. Our experience over the years is that physicians are pleased to see their patients making positive changes that will improve their health and well-being.
Do Alcoholics Actually Drink More in the Morning Than the General Public?
There is scientific data to support this commonly held assumption. According to a 2021 study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, approximately 15% of people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) report drinking alcohol in the morning. This is significantly higher than the rate of morning drinking in the general population, which is estimated to be around 2%.
The study also found that people with AUD who drink in the morning are more likely to experience severe alcohol-related problems, such as blackouts, injuries, and job loss. They are also more likely to have a history of detoxification and relapse.
Another study, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism in 2019, found that people with AUD who drink in the morning are more likely to have a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety. They’re also more likely to be unemployed and to have a lower socioeconomic status.
Heavy drinking or alcohol misuse tends to alter the neurotransmitter activity in your brain, as a result of which your brain starts to link drinking with pleasure. Each time you have a drink, your brain rewards you by releasing dopamine. After a while, your brain might get rewired to the point that every time you need to feel happy, you need to have a drink.
More importantly, once your brain’s reward system is impaired, you might no longer be able to feel relaxed or happy with a few drinks. You might have to drink more and more frequently in order to reach the state of relaxation and happiness you crave.
Once it happens, you might no longer drink because you want to, but because you need to drink alcohol and are physically dependent. At this point we strongly urge you to consult your primary care physician because alcohol withdrawal can create life threatening conditions and needs to be managed medically (usually on an outpatient basis) as we discussed above.
What Do Screening Tests Say About Drinking in the Morning?
Alcohol use screening tests are designed to assess a person’s drinking habits, patterns, and behavior. The most commonly used tests include TACE (Tolerance, Annoyed Cut Down, and Eye-Opener), CAGE (Cut Down, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye-Opener), and AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test). All three of these include a question about drinking in the morning, which goes to show that it is a sign of excessive alcohol use and possible dependence.
It should be noted that drinking in the morning in and of itself is not a sign of excessive or abnormal alcohol use. There is most likely not a problem with having a mimosa with your brunch or having a glass of wine after working a graveyard shift. It becomes a problem when you feel the urge to drink in the morning on a regular basis and if you are unable to calm your nerves without drinking.
Worried That You Might Have a Drinking Problem? We Are Here to Help You
At CheckUp & Choices, we know how hard it can be for someone to moderate their drinking habit or stop drinking altogether. It is why we have designed a science-based program that can help you think deeply about your drinking and help you make changes to it.
We can provide you with the information, motivation, tools, strategies, and support you need to change your drinking habit, make the right lifestyle changes, and achieve your goals. Get started today by visiting our plans page.