Alcohol has become a social norm. It’s normal for adults to go out and have drinks with their friends or even enjoy an alcoholic beverage at home. Alcohol is available nearly everywhere, and it’s a way for people to either socialize or relax. Some even use it to celebrate a special occasion.
Despite its popularity, there are consequences when alcohol becomes a way to cope. Out of adults aged 18 and older, over 85% have reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lives. Additionally, out of people aged 12 and older, 14.5 million people have had an alcohol use disorder.
There’s no doubt that alcohol harms many people. Often, there’s a thin line dividing social drinking, problem drinking and alcoholism. There’s no clarity when someone who is dubbed a social drinker becomes an alcoholic. Unfortunately, as a result, drinking problems are often overlooked.Alcohol is really addictive and it’s hard to resist it. Here are some tips if you are considering to quit drinking.
When social drinking becomes problematic, it affects the person drinking and those who are around them. Are you a social drinker? Or is it something more? Do you know someone who might be on the verge of a drinking problem? Let’s look at the differences between social drinking and alcoholism so you can make a better judgment if you or someone you know needs to seek help.
What Is Social Drinking?
Social drinkers are those who casually drink alcohol. This might be a night at the bar, a few drinks with friends or a glass of wine each night before bed. They consume alcohol in reasonable portions and can quickly stop and know their limits.
Those who socially drink display zero risks of a problem with drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism considers it low risk for females who consume no more than seven alcoholic beverages per week and for men who consume no more than fourteen drinks per week. The drinks are those that are in line with the general “one drink” alcohol by volume (ABV):
- Five fluid ounces of wine, with 12% ABV
- 1.5 fluid ounces of liquor, with 40% ABV
- Eight or nine fluid ounces of malt liquor, with 7% ABV
- 12 fluid ounces of beer, with 5% ABV
When you socially drink, you can tell when you feel intoxicated, which indicates that you need to stop drinking. You should be aware when you need to stop and have the self-control to stop. Additionally, if you’re a social drinker, you usually don’t drink alone, or at least in excess alone. Your behavior doesn’t pose a risk to others when you socially drink, either.
When Social Drinking Becomes a Problem
There is a point where social drinking becomes a problem. For example, if you or someone begins drinking in excessive amounts or binge drinks, that’s one of the first signs of problematic drinking. Plus, social drinking becomes dangerous if the person drinking is in a low mental state. For example, if a person drinks to cope with anxiety, depression or stress, they may be a problem drinker.
This isn’t quite alcoholism yet, but it is the next step of becoming an alcoholic. Problem drinkers are those who drink excessively regularly or frequently binge drink. When their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above 0.08 in one sitting reasonably often, it’s a sign of problem drinking.
A social drinker may participate in binge drinking every once in a while, like at a big celebration, but a problem drinker will binge drink regularly — any time and any day of the week.
Signs of Alcoholism
Finally, there’s alcoholism. This is where drinking becomes a severe problem and where other people and professionals may need to intervene. Alcoholism happens when a problem drinker becomes dependent on alcohol. They are unable to control their drinking and have no concept of when to stop. Plus, they cannot function without alcohol in their bodies.
Here are some of the telltale signs that drinking may be alcoholism:
- Arrives at work intoxicated
- Drives while drunk
- Goes through relationship and financial difficulties
- Thinks about alcohol or when they can get their next drink
- Drinks until they are intoxicated
- Lies about how much they’ve had to drink
- Builds up a tolerance to alcohol and can consume more than the average social drinker without feeling the effects
- Arrives drunk at social gatherings
- Day drinks in between meals
- Uses alcohol as a reward
There are other signs of alcoholism, too, but these are ones that you should look out for if you or someone you know may have a drinking problem.
Effects of Alcoholism and Getting Help
Alcoholism that goes unnoticed or untreated can have profound effects. It hurts relationships, may affect your job status and can be damaging to the rest of your health. It affects both the alcoholic and the people around them. People may become addicted to alcohol because of genetics, family environment, social influences and even a pleasure-reward system. Whatever the case, it leads to other issues.
Some of the typical short and long-term health effects of alcoholism include:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease or cancer
- Vision damage
- High blood pressure
- Bone degeneration
Those suffering from alcoholism end up suffering from other severe health and relationship problems, too. Fortunately, there are ways to get help.
Someone who suffers from alcoholism can turn to support from friends, family and health professionals. There are plenty of group and individual counseling options. Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most well-known of these, and it’s free, offering a 12-step program for those who have a drinking problem.
Learn When to Stop
You can help someone with alcoholism by learning more about the disease. By understanding, you can encourage treatment and recognize when drinking may be a problem. If you think you may be in danger of being something more than a social drinker, reach out for help.