The Difference Between ‘Problem Drinking’ And Alcoholism

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The Difference Between ‘Problem Drinking’ and Alcoholism

One of the most dangerous forms of drinking, binge drinking, does not involve an addiction to alcohol at all. In fact, many killed by alcohol poisoning each year aren’t addicted to alcohol, but suffer from problem drinking. Someone who is considered a problem drinker is not necessarily addicted to alcohol, but makes decisions that result in unwanted consequences.

Understanding Problem Drinking

The question to ask yourself is this: Does my drinking have consequences I didn’t intend? For example, did you drink so much on a Thursday evening after work that you were late on Friday morning? Do you find yourself avoiding Saturday morning plans, knowing you will likely be suffering a hangover from the evening before? Have you found yourself in fights with friends, family, or co-workers as a result of drinking? In serious situations, sexual or physical violence may occur, unintended pregnancy, disease, or accidental death can result from problem drinking.

A person may also fall under the problem drinking category if they find themselves drinking more than they intended. Or if they suffer memory loss or black-outs as a result of drinking. If drinking begins getting in the way of responsibilities, even if not addicted to alcohol, this is a sign of problem drinking.

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Binge Drinking

There are several patterns in problem drinking. The first and most dangerous involves periods of drinking or binges in which a woman consumes four or more standard drinks in a two-hour period and a man consumes five or more standard drinks in that same period or consumes enough alcohol to elevate their blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent.

The people most likely to binge drink are 18-34 years old professionals with an average household annual income of $75,000 or more. They are more likely to consume larger quantities of alcohol three or four times in a month, usually corresponding with social outings with friends.

It is this social acceptance of binge drinking that perpetuates a sense that, since people aren’t addicted to alcohol or consuming alcohol daily, it must be safe. This false sense of security contributes to nearly eight accidental overdose deaths each day from alcohol poisoning, and many more thousands each year as the result of alcohol-related accidents and violence.

Alcohol-Related Behavioral Changes

Some individuals respond poorly to alcohol. Men with naturally lower serotonin levels tend to respond by becoming aggressive when they consume alcohol. This combined with alcohol’s effect on lowering inhibitions, means someone who is feeling hostility after consuming alcohol may be more likely to cause harm to others. One study indicate that the percentage of partners accused of battering a spouse who were drinking at the time of the assault ranged from 60-70 percent.

Alcohol can also increase risk-taking in individuals, leading to consequences from injury-related accidents or other dangers. They are also far more likely to be involved in a violent crime, or the victim of a violent crime, including sexual or physical assault.

While men tend toward aggression while drinking, women, who drink for different reasons than men, behave differently. One study examining the differences between genders discovered while men tend to feel stimulated by alcohol, women tend to be more sedated by the drug. Women, as a result, are more likely to experience victimization while under the influence of alcohol. Women also face the risk of unintended pregnancy.

This type of problem drinker might also use alcohol to feel more powerful in a relationship or within a work environment. If a person feels they cannot perform a certain task, except while drinking, then this is a sign of problem drinking.

Warnings From Friends And Family

If you find yourself being cautioned by friends and family to slow down your drinking, you may wish to re-evaluate your level of alcohol consumption. Close friends and family are first to notice the more subtle changes that go along with problem drinking and can also serve as a support network in helping you evaluate how much you drink and whether or not you need to slow down or give it up.

The 30-Day Sobriety Test

One way to differentiate between problem drinking and the disease of alcoholism is the 30-day test. If you cannot go 30 days without consuming alcohol, you may be in the early stages of alcohol addiction. If you are able to go 30 days without alcohol, consider ways you could change your drinking patterns to reduce overall physical harm and harm to others. For example, limit yourself to one drink at a social gathering or consider involving yourself in activities that do not involve drinking.

This is also a time to re-evaluate your relationship with others. Is someone truly interested in spending time with you, or are you becoming their drinking buddy? If you find yourself surrounded by people who tend only to invite you to activities involving drinking, it’s time to consider new friends.

Signs Of Problem Drinking

Problem drinking shares many of the signs of early alcohol addiction. In the past 30 days, have you found yourself:

  • Drinking more than four to five standard drinks in a two hour period
  • Passing out from consuming alcohol
  • Unable to remember the night before
  • Avoiding plans that correspond with likely hangovers
  • Missing work as a result of excessive drinking
  • Behaving out of character as a result of alcohol
  • The victim or perpetrator of a crime due to alcohol consumption
  • Involved in an accident related to alcohol consumption
  • Unable to resist a second drink after the first

If you said yes to any of these questions, you may have a drinking problem. If you are unable to stop drinking alcohol without experiencing alcohol withdrawals, you may be in the early stages of alcohol addiction.

Evidence-based Alcohol Treatment Options Near You is your online resource for the evidence-based alcohol treatment options available to meet your individual needs and preferences. Contact us today to connect with the support professionals and compassionate care to take you from a place of addiction to a rewarding life in recovery.

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