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Addicted to alcohol - is my Mum an alcoholic?

Published 09/03/2010

A recent report from the Department for Children, Schools and Families[i] showed that parents completely misjudge the influence their drinking habits have on their children's attitudes to alcohol.  After questioning 4,000 young people and their parents, it was found that: children were more likely to drink themselves if they grew up in a household where adults drink heavily.'  Although perceptions to alcohol consumption have shifted dramatically and drinking at home is now an acceptable social activity, more and more young people are being affected by their parents drinking habits.  In fact, it has been suggested that as many as 1 in 11 young people today live with parents who misuse alcohol[ii].

Where in previous generations, alcohol was most likely to be consumed in a pub or bar, 21st Century parents are increasingly choosing to drink behind closed doors.  In fact, according to a survey of 3,000 ladies aged between 35-60 years old in the UK[iii] women are drinking significantly more than their mother's generation; with one in ten of the women questioned admitting to having a drink every day.    

Obviously the occasional drink at home with friends is not the issue, but when does the ‘odd tipple' become a problem?  What are the signs that your mum is not only drinking too much, but becoming addicted to alcohol?  Sue Allchurch, director of Linwood Group, explains further: "Although alcoholism is traditionally seen as the preserve of ‘men of a certain age', we are seeing an increase in the number of women coming onto our treatment programmes as a result of being addicted to drinking alcohol.  There are many reasons for why women are drinking more.  These range from a rise in social drinking, to more mum's using alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with the stresses of balancing work and family life.  Whatever the initial reason for turning to alcohol, the end result is that as a person becomes more dependent on alcohol the impact on their family and friends becomes increasingly destructive.  The good news is that once someone begins to acknowledge and seek help for their addiction to alcohol, there is a wide variety of treatment programmes available that offer hope and a future to not only them, but their families as well."

So, what are the signs that your mum is drinking too much and might need some sort of professional help?  The Government's recommended safe drinking levels for alcohol consumption for women is 14 units per week.  To give an idea of what this looks like in real terms, one alcohol unit equals one 25ml single measure of whisky, a third of a pint of beer or half a standard 175ml glass of red wine.  These 14 units should be spaced throughout the week and not consumed in one or two sessions.   If your mum is regularly exceeding these recommended safe drinking levels, then alcohol is becoming an issue and will affect her long-term emotional and physical health if steps are not taken to reduce consumption. 

Addiction to alcohol is characterised by a range of symptoms such as a person's increased tolerance to the effects of alcohol, the presence of withdrawal signs and symptoms (such as shaking, sweating, increased anxiety when sober and/or nausea), an inability to control the quantity and frequency of their drinking and an impaired capacity to carry out day-to-day activities like they used to.  For more insight into safe drinking levels and to see if your mum is drinking too much, why not check out the Linwood Group Traffic Light measurement system

If you know that your mum has got a drink problem, where can you turn for help?  A great place to start is an online support group such as COAP ( which has been set up for young people who are being impacted by someone else's addiction.  The site not only offers support, but advice on how to get help.  If you don't know where to begin in getting alcohol addiction help, then why not begin with an appointment with your local GP.  They are a great source of help and advice on local services.  Alternatively, you could call an approved treatment centre such as Linwood Group to confidentially talk through your mum's issues and any possible treatment options.  Whichever course of action you choose, remember you are not alone in this, there is support out there, all you have to do is take the first step.

For professional, confidential advice you can trust, why not call the Linwood Group?  Call free on 0800 066 4173 (or if you are calling from a mobile phone or from overseas, call 01226 698 054).



[i] Source: the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Use of alcohol amongst Children and Young People, November 2009.

[ii] Source:

[iii] Source: Woman & Home magazine questioned around 3,000 women - aged between 35 and 60 - to try to establish how their drinking habits have changed compared with the previous generation.

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