Published On: Mon, Sep 24th, 2018

Casual Drinking vs. Alcoholism: Knowing When You’ve Crossed the Line

Millions of Americans enjoy consuming alcoholic beverages on a regular basis. From a night out bar-hopping with friends to a glass of wine at home with dinner, there’s nothing wrong with having a couple of drinks.

But when your drinking habit develops into a dependence on alcohol, you have a problem.

Public domain image/Jon Sullivan

Social Drinking vs. Problem Drinking

Drug abuse has an automatic stigma. Since many of the drugs involved are illegal to begin with, it’s easy to assume the person using drugs is fully aware of what he or she is up to, and therefore shouldn’t be cut any slack.

But because alcohol consumption is so widely accepted across American society, it can be much harder for other people to recognize the dangerous drinking habit the person has slipped into . . . let alone the drinker him- or herself.

In the big-picture perspective, people can be unclear about what the unmistakable signs of alcoholism are. In order to make this more clear, let’s explore the distinctions between the two types of drinkers:

  • Social drinkers. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), social drinkers are those who drink in low-risk patterns. For females, low-risk drinking consists of no more than seven drinks per week and no more than three per sitting. Among males, this means no more than 14 drinks per week and nothing in excess of four drinks in a day.
  • Problem Drinkers. The NIAAA defines problem drinking as heavy alcohol consumption that lasts for a period of time and leads to negative lifestyle consequences. Many problem drinkers are what experts would call “high-functioning alcoholics.” They give their drinking habits a false label and refuse to believe they fit the classic stereotype of a typical alcoholic.

Thus, the line between heavy social drinking and problem drinking can become blurred. This enables individuals to ignore their potential issues with alcohol until the problem expands into something much larger and more difficult to address.

Four Signs Drinking Has Become a Major Problem

It’s easy to confuse problem drinking with social or casual drinking when you aren’t clear about the symptoms of the former. To help you become more aware of those habits — good or bad — here are some signs that drinking might have become a major issue in your life.


  • Drinking Becomes a Priority


“When drinking becomes a priority over work, family, friends, financial responsibilities, and important events, it is a clear sign that you have a drinking problem,” His House Rehab explains. “Nothing should take priority over your loved ones, your source of income, and the things that are important in your life.”

If drinking has become a priority in your life — that is, you rearrange your schedule and shift your obligations in order to make time and room for your drinking habits — it’s time to acknowledge that you have a problem.


  • Others are Concerned


If someone sits down with you and raises concerns about your drinking habits and behavior, don’t immediately write off the individual as having an agenda. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and think about how difficult it could be for them to confront you on such a sensitive matter.

If he or she is willing to initiate that sort of conversation, your friend or family relation must feel strongly about it. As self-aware as you might regard yourself, it sometimes requires someone on the outside to look in and pinpoint issues you don’t even know you’re struggling with.

Listen to the people you trust and resist the temptation to go on the defensive.


  • You Can’t Drink Without Getting Drunk


Why do you drink? Have you ever spent time thinking about the motivations behind your drinking habits?

People often drink alcohol as a way to take off the edge or enjoy a social activity with friends. But if you nearly always drink with the goal of getting drunk, this could be a sign that you have a serious drinking problem.


  • Negative Consequences Don’t Faze You


There’s hardly anything wrong with drinking in moderation. But imbibing becomes problematic when you consume alcohol on a regular basis and in large quantities.

First, there are the negative effects on your body. From your brain and heart to stomach and bones, excessive drinking can really damage your organs.

Then there are the social, financial, and professional consequences that can result from alcohol dependence. If these negative consequences don’t faze you, there’s definitely something wrong.

Coming to Grips With Reality

It’s impossible to address a drinking problem if you don’t take the trouble to recognize and acknowledge it. Someone else might insist you have an issue with alcohol until he or she is blue in the face, but it’s ultimately your responsibility to step up and confront the issue. How will you respond?

Author: Anna Johansson

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  1. […] might be true. The long and short of it, is that even if you ARE asking yourself the question, “Am I an alcoholic?” the chances are pretty good that you might at least have a drinking […]

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