Johnny Manziel Need an Alcohol Assessment?


Johnny Manziel is the face of the Cleveland Browns, at least during the off-season. In the future he will be on the field, whether that is this year or next, but at this moment, in the doldrums of the summer, he takes center stage. Unfortunately none of it has anything to do with his on field performance but his personal enjoyment.

Mary Kay Cabot of does a weekly “Hey Mary” mailbag questions from fans. Her first question was about Manziel and his “childish behavior.” Her response skipped from the little things that many bring up as a concern. Instead she jumped to a significant concern:

"With the pattern Manziel has shown since being drafted, it’s time to have him evaluated by a chemical dependency counselor to make sure he doesn’t have a problem."

(Important Side Note: Prior to continuing this article it is important that I note that my full time job for the past 13 years has been in the counseling field. I have worked with clients with alcohol and drug issues for most of that time including up to the present. I have a Master’s degree in the field and am licensed with the State of Ohio.)

Cabot obviously is highly concerned with Manziel and skips directly to the most severe possibility of having a alcohol problem. This may be the first time a big media member has brought up this as a concern, though fans have noted as much. The first question becomes whether Manziel is drinking all the time or is TMZ or other media only interested in showing pictures and videos when Manziel is drinking, or had been drinking? Remember that for Manziel this is his summer break following college and before starting his career full time. Does that mean he goes to a party once or twice a weekend? Most likely. Guessing that is what many of you did in or just out of college.

More from Browns News

On to the professional side of an alcohol assessment there are a few different issues that would be looked at. The first is whether the use of alcohol is having a direct negative effect on Manziel’s social, educational or professional life. From there IF it is more details would be looked at. Without an impact on any of those 3 areas of his life no diagnosis is likely to be given. He is obviously having some fun and doesn’t seem to have huge drama in his social life. He is done with school for now so no impact there. The area that many fans and media may say his life is impact would be professionally. If these pictures or videos were taken during the season we would all agree that it was impacting him professionally. Lets assume that it currently has a slight impact on his NFL career, then what?

At that point we would look at a few issues to get an idea whether we are talking about abuse or dependence. Abuse is found when the use of alcohol results in failure to fulfill major roles at home, school or work. Or using alcohol when physically dangerous such as driving a vehicle. Or use of alcohol causing recurrent legal issues. Or significant issues inter-personally caused by alcohol such as fights with family or significant others. None of the current issues with Manziel seem to meet any of these requirements though some would say he isn’t filling his work role, it is not a significant failure to do so. Then we would move on to whether he has a dependency issue:

The dependency issue requires 3 of the following to be true as well as significant impairment in social, education or employment. Here is the list of which 3 would be required for a dependence diagnosis:

  • Need for more alcohol to get the same impact or diminished effect with continued use of the same amount.
  • Withdrawal symptoms from the use of alcohol, generally starting between 6 and 8 hours, or drinking to avoid those symptoms.
  • Drinking more and/or for longer then originally planned.
  • Persistent desire or one or more significant attempts to cut down or control drinking being unsuccessful.
  • Giving up previously important activities to drink.
  • Significant amount of time spent planning, getting, using and recovering from alcohol.
  • Continued use despite professional warning of use of alcohol’s impact on a psychical or psychological issues.

None of use are in position to know the answers to any of these questions, though some of you might tend to guess. With Cabot’s statement, which was the precursor to this article, it is important to realize what we are talking about related to an alcohol assessment. Manziel may be drinking more often on camera then many Browns fans are happy about.

The reality is that most fans aren’t as worried about how much or how often Manziel is drinking. The concern is more how he is drinking. If Manziel was a wine connoisseur and drinks a bottle or two of wine on a Friday or Saturday night while enjoying a nice meal and in front of the fireplace there would be far less concern. First there would be far less media coverage and second those behaviors seem more responsible. So the issue and concern is more that he is partying. Some would still have issues with Manziel even if he wasn’t drinking but was still partying the same way he has been in the photos and videos.

As Manziel’s career progresses we will continue to monitor this concern but at this point based on the professional alcohol assessment requirements it does not seem that it is a diagnose-able disorder at this point. That could change very quickly, as we have seen with Josh Gordon, but until then its important to look at Manziel with perspective.

Do you like getting this type of professional information about our sports teams and players?