How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
With a variety of adult beverage choices available to those of age in the US, alcohol is one of the most highly consumed drugs in the country, coming in second only to tobacco. While recreational use of alcohol has become widely accepted, there are many potential risks for addiction and abuse related to the consumption of alcohol.
As an easily accessible and socially acceptable drug, alcohol does not share the same taboo as other illegal street drugs. This can undermine the dangers associated with consuming alcohol, and the slippery slope that alcohol abuse can lead to. Are you at risk for alcohol abuse or alcoholism?
Drinking Levels Defined
There are a multitude of organizations that attempt to define levels of drinking by amount of alcohol consumed. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) took guidelines from many of these national organizations, such as The US Department of Health and Human Services and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and combined them to define four levels of drinking.
According to the NIAAA, drinking can be defined in one of four categories: moderate alcohol consumption, low-risk drinking, binge drinking, and heavy alcohol use. Moderate alcohol consumption and low-risk drinking are the least severe categories of alcohol consumption, with the NIAAA defining moderate consumption as 1-2 drinks per day and low-risk drinking as no more than 3 drinks in any day, and no more than 7 drinks in one week.
Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use, however, are among the more severe categories of alcohol consumption. Binge drinking is defined by a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.08 g/dL. To reach a BAC of .08 or higher, most women would need to consume 4 drinks and most men would need to consume 5 – in a time frame of about 2 hours. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking 5 or more days in the time span of one month.
While these definitions of drinking levels can be a helpful guide to your alcohol consumption, always remember that your behavior surrounding alcohol consumption matters just as much as the amount you consume. Alcohol abuse can come in many forms, many of which have nothing to do with the amount of alcohol consumed, but rather with thoughts and actions taken while consuming alcohol.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are defined by a degree of severity. While alcoholics do abuse alcohol, individuals who are considered alcohol abusers are not necessarily alcoholics. In both cases, these can be extremely dangerous addictions that can have a significant impact on an individual’s life.
Alcoholism is classified as a disease, and accurately so. Alcoholism is defined as a dependence on alcohol that an individual is unable to control. For an alcoholic, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to have control over the amount or frequency in which alcohol is consumed.
Individuals suffering from alcoholism may find their lives in a downward spiral. Ignoring negative consequences and lying to close family and friends in order to make it to their next drink can be devastating to an individual’s personal and professional livelihood. It is not uncommon for someone suffering from alcoholism to struggle financially, professionally, and socially as a result of their disease.
Alcohol abuse is a less severe form of alcoholism, but can still be extremely detrimental to the livelihood of the afflicted individual. Those who abuse alcohol are likely to take risks while drinking, and ignore basic responsibilities such as getting into work on time or spending time with their families.
Drinking and driving is a good example of alcohol abuse. While this may not indicate full alcoholism, it is an extreme risk that could end in someone being hurt or killed, or at the very least jail time and fines. Other examples of risks taken by someone who abuses alcohol can be getting into fights while drinking, calling into work sick the next day from a hangover, or mixing alcohol with other drugs such as prescription medication.
While alcohol abuse can have devastating consequences, it is still possible to improve your quality of life and turn things around. As alcohol abuse is defined by an individual’s behavior surrounding the consumption of alcohol, changing your behavior associated with alcohol consumption can help you get out of this cycle. This can be as simple as removing alcohol from your social routine or choosing relationships and activities that are not associated with drinking.
Who Is At Risk For Alcoholism?
Alcoholism knows no race or gender. It cannot be defined by an individual’s class, ethnicity, sex, or age. In reality, alcoholism can affect anyone. It is important to always keep this fact in mind, while alcohol can be consumed in a safe and relaxing manner, anyone is at risk for this to become something much deeper.
There are, however, some environmental and social factors that can make an individual more prone to developing alcoholism or alcohol abuse than others. Environments such as the stereotypical college campus can encourage and normalize bad habits such as binge drinking and alcohol abuse. Risks taken while consuming alcohol can be considered the norm, or are sometimes even encouraged, in environments such as this.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common factors that can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD) include:
- Associating drinking with emotions, such as depression or anger
- Taking extreme risks while drinking, such as drinking and driving
- Skipping regular responsibilities due to drinking
- Lying to friends or family members about alcohol consumption
- Drinking several nights in a row despite effects on your health
- Allowing drinking habits to effect social and professional performance
- Elevated stress, anxiety, or depression levels
- Symptoms of withdrawal when not drinking
- Inability to control the amount or frequency of alcohol consumption
Get Help Today
If you or a loved one suffers from alcoholism or any form of alcohol abuse, you are not alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated alcohol could play a role in up to 3.3 million deaths per year across the globe. WHO also attributes alcohol abuse to be closely related to a variety of behavioral and mental disorders. Despite its legality and accessibility, alcohol can be an extremely dangerous drug.
It is important to seek professional help if you are suffering from alcoholism or alcohol abuse. Alcohol can be a highly addictive drug that creates cycles of dependency that are difficult to break. Our addiction specialists are specifically trained to help you find the treatment plan that fits your needs the best. Let us help you, call today.
For More Information, Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From AlcoholTreatment.net:
- Brain Damage From Alcohol Abuse
- Alcoholism and Multiple Sclerosis
- How Is Alcoholism Treated?
- Heart Damage from Alcohol Abuse
- Joint Pain And Muscle Pain From Alcohol Abuse
- Dangers Of Abusing Alcohol With Crack Cocaine
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation – What Is The Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Dependence?