Everyone responds to alcohol in different ways. Gender, height, weight, how much we’ve eaten or how much we’ve slept can affect how you feel when you drink. However, when it comes to your long-term relationship with alcohol, how do you recognize when your behavior is unhealthy?
Drinking alcohol is a part of life for many people, but sometimes it can become more than a drink after work or during a night out with friends. The earlier a potential addiction or dependence is recognized, the earlier the right help can be sought.
What Is Excessive Drinking?
The term excessive drinking is most often used when someone drinks heavily on a regular basis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as a man consuming 15 drinks or more per week and a woman consuming eight drinks or more per week.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describes binge drinking as alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration level to 0.08 percent or more. This pattern of drinking usually corresponds to 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women in around 2 hours.
However, there is more to alcohol misuse than numbers and percentages; a dependence on or addiction to alcohol is not always apparent and can worsen gradually over time. A high-functioning individual with an alcohol use disorder may appear or claim to be in control of their drinking.
The Recovery Village is a network of rehabilitation services offering medical detox and acute medical stabilization as well as inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, sober housing accommodations and aftercare. The Recovery Village describes people with a high-functioning alcohol use disorder as “often intelligent, hardworking, and well-educated” people who “think they have their drinking under control based upon their achievements.”
Recognizing Alcohol Misuse, Dependence or Addiction
There are some warning signs to look out for if you’re concerned that someone close to you may be drinking too much. These signs include:
- They are always (or very often) hungover in the mornings.
- They are drinking every day and claim they cannot relax or function without it.
- They find it difficult to stop drinking once they’ve started and will often drink until they are unwell.
- They suffer memory loss after drinking and can lose all recollection of the night before, people they’ve met or experiences.
- They are secretive about their drinking habits and hide alcohol from friends and family.
- They drink alone more often than they drink with others.
- They neglect responsibilities, relationships or cancel appointments in favor of drinking.
- They experience withdrawal symptoms when they have not had alcohol which can only be eased by drinking alcohol. These symptoms can include anxiety, sweating, shaking, nausea, irritability, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
- They take risks and make irrational decisions while drinking, which put themselves and others in danger.
- They look unwell or are taking less pride in their appearance or personal hygiene than they used to.
If someone experiences the negative consequences of drinking too much alcohol regularly but continues to drink, it may suggest that they have an alcohol use disorder. Recognizing that you or someone you know has an alcohol use disorder is an important step and it takes courage to confront it. With the right support structure and motivation, recovery is possible.