When it comes to alcohol consumption, there are different behaviors and patterns, each with its own implications. It's essential to understand the difference between social drinking and a drinking problem. More than 85% of people in the U.S., aged 18 or older, report they have consumed alcohol at some point in their lives, demonstrating how deeply ingrained alcohol is in our culture. However, understanding the difference between a casual drink and a problem is vital.
Social drinking encompasses various forms – from intimate gatherings like birthday parties or drinks after work to large-scale events like holiday parties or music festivals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers moderate drinking as consuming one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. However, it becomes binge drinking if a woman drinks four or more drinks, or a man consumes five or more drinks, within approximately two hours. Social drinkers, also known as casual drinkers, typically enjoy alcohol in low-risk patterns and on rare occasions.
Problem drinking, on the other hand, isn’t synonymous with a physical dependence or addiction to alcohol. Instead, it describes the risky or potentially unhealthy behaviors associated with one’s drinking habits. Problem drinkers may not always require rehabilitation to manage their drinking but could benefit from therapy. They may find it challenging to quit drinking despite not having a physical dependency. Their motivation for drinking often revolves around reaching a certain state of mind, such as feeling sociable, escaping worries, or enhancing their self-image.
Recognizing the signs of problem drinking can help individuals identify if they or someone they know has a drinking problem. These signs may include skipping work or school due to drinking, avoiding social situations to drink alone, experiencing episodes of depression, anger, or violence, and having financial issues because of spending too much on alcohol. Other signs include engaging in risky behaviors that can harm themselves or others, not knowing when to stop drinking, and frequent incidents of blackouts or driving under the influence.
Alcoholism goes beyond “problem drinking.” It refers to a physical and psychological addiction to alcohol. Unlike problem drinkers, alcoholics may experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, insomnia, or abdominal pain when they stop drinking. Severe withdrawal symptoms can include tremors, hallucinations, unusual heart rate, and alcohol withdrawal seizures. Alcoholism can also lead to severe health issues like liver dysfunction, cancers, and a weakened immune system.
Alcoholics may seem highly functional, often hiding their problem well. However, common signs of alcohol addiction include obsessive thoughts about alcohol, a high tolerance requiring larger amounts to feel its effects, displaying uncharacteristic behavior when drunk, and inability to quit or control alcohol intake. Other signs may include maintaining a “double life” to separate their sober life from their drinking life, frequent incidents of binge drinking and blackouts, and others expressing concern over their drinking behaviors.
Overcoming a drinking problem or alcoholism is challenging, but with the right approach and support, it is achievable. Soledad House offers the necessary resources and support to detox and quit drinking. Other steps include seeking support from friends and family, writing a list of reasons to quit drinking, identifying triggers through a journal, removing alcohol from your house, starting a hobby or activity to stay busy, and persistence.
At Soledad House, we understand the complexities of social drinking, problem drinking, and alcoholism. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to live a healthy, fulfilling life, free from addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol, remember, it’s never too late to seek help. Reach out to our team of compassionate experts today at 866.314.3222 to explore your treatment options. Let’s journey together towards a sober, healthier life.