Am I Drinking Too Much?
Medically reviewed byDr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS
March 13, 2019
Some individuals allow themselves to drink every day, while others choose to refrain from drinking during the week, only to binge drink on the weekend. It is important to note that not everyone that chooses to drink every day has a problem, however, these may be signs of a more deeply rooted problem. There are several other factors that need to be taken into consideration to determine if someone is on the dark path toward addiction.
Understanding Drinking Guidelines
In order to know if you are drinking too much, you first have to know what is considered above the recommended guidelines. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in order to be at low risk for developing an alcohol use disorder, women should have no more than three drinks in one day, with no more than seven total throughout the week, and men should have no more than four drinks in one day, with no more than fourteen within a week. In addition to these established drinking levels, there are several other factors that should be taken into account.
Determining a specific number of drinks is not necessarily always useful, because everyone’s body is different. Some people may find that they should drink even less than this. The number of drinks your body can handle will depend on your height and weight, your gender, your body’s alcohol tolerance, and the way your body processes the alcohol. In order to better assess how many drinks is recommended for you specifically, it is best to talk to a health professional.
It is also important to take into consideration the alcohol content of what you are drinking. Moderate and low-risk drinking guidelines are based on what is considered a standard drink. If you are drinking a beverage with higher alcohol content, you should be drinking even less than the recommended amount. Even though the serving size appears to be one drink, you may actually be consuming more than one standard drink per serving.
Because it is more difficult to assess a drinking problem based solely on the number of drinks you consume on a weekly basis, there are other ways to determine if you might have a problem.
Drinking In Social Situations
While occasionally consuming an alcoholic beverage or two when you are out with friends or have guests over is perfectly normal, feeling like you need to have a drink in each and every social situation is a good indicator that you may develop an addiction.
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People who are drinking too much or developing an addiction to alcohol may drink excessively in social situations. A person might use alcohol to feel more comfortable about socializing, or this may be because they are unable to control their alcohol intake and not know when it is appropriate to cut themselves off.
If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable without a drink in hand, if you are unable to attend a social function without consuming any alcohol, or if you’re unable to stop drinking once you’ve started, you might be developing a problem, and it may be time to get some help.
Many people like to come home after a long day at work and relax with a glass of wine or a cold beer. While having one drink is not problematic, if you find yourself drinking an entire bottle of wine or even a six pack of beer in one sitting, this should raise a red flag. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines heavy drinking “as drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days.”
The problem with drinking every day, especially heavy drinking, is that your body eventually develops a dependency on alcohol, and in turn, your body craves the alcohol. These cravings will make you feel worse when you are not drinking and better when you are, even though the alcohol is ultimately negatively affecting your health.
If you are unable to control your drinking and find yourself reaching to finish the rest of the alcohol you have on hand, this could be a sign you are developing an addiction.
Drinking alone may indicate a drinking problem because more often than not, alcohol is consumed in a social setting. Though some people may allow themselves to indulge in an alcoholic beverage alone, and in a healthy manner, ask yourself how many times you find yourself drinking alone, and in what quantity.
If you are consuming most of your alcoholic beverages by yourself for no real reason other than to drink, this could increase your risk of developing a dependency on alcohol. Count the drinks you are consuming when you are by yourself. Ask yourself why you feel like you need to have a drink alone, and in what capacity. Test yourself to see if you are willing and able to stop after one or two drinks. This will better help you assess if there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
While some people may think they drink too much because they are drinking every day, many who binge drink less often do not realize they have a problem until their body has begun to develop a tolerance and incur damage.
Binge drinking means you consume enough drinks in a short amount of time to increase your blood alcohol concentration level over 0.08 g/dL, according to NIAAA, “This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours.”
Some people choose to refrain from alcohol during the week, but when the weekend comes they drink in excess. Many people may even drink excessively throughout the entire weekend. Binge drinking can actually be worse for your health than drinking less alcohol more frequently.
If a person binge drinks, they increase their chance of developing an addiction. This is sometimes difficult for people to understand because they feel that when they are drinking less frequently, they experience less risk. In addition to an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, binge drinking carries a host of other risks and concerns.
Drinking For Comfort
Many people turn to drink when they are feeling a certain way to help them feel better, this is called self-medicating. Alcohol releases dopamine in the brain and tricks the reward center into thinking it is helping you and making you happy when in reality alcohol is actually a depressant.
If you are turning to alcohol because you think it may help you feel happy or ease your mind of stress, this may develop into a problem. Drinking your feelings away or turning to alcohol to comfort you can be extremely dangerous because of the way alcohol tricks your brain. This is one of the easiest ways to develop an addiction.
Instead of turning to alcohol when you are feeling sad or upset, try talking to a friend or a professional, exercising, or writing down what you are feeling. There are many other forms of therapy that are much better for you, rather than trying to squash uncomfortable feelings with alcohol.
Ask Yourself These Questions
In order to better assess your personal situation, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you need to have alcohol in every social situation?
- Do you drink excessive amounts (more than five drinks in one night)?
- Are you defensive when confronted about your drinking?
- Do you have trouble controlling how much alcohol you consume once you have started?
- Do you use alcohol to make you feel better?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be time for you to seek out help. Many people do not realize they have fallen victim to alcohol abuse or addiction and continue to drink, which only harms their bodies more. Alcohol is a toxin that we choose to put in our bodies. Even though it is a toxin, we still find it socially acceptable to consume alcohol alone or with friends, which makes it harder to assess a problem if there is one.
If you find that others are starting to worry about you, or if you become defensive because you do not think you have a problem, you may need to reassess your situation and reach out for help.
Let Us Help You Manage Your Drinking
It’s never too early or too late to reach out to a professional, a rehab facility or even a loved one, and talk to them about your drinking concerns. If you are even slightly concerned about yourself or a loved one, the sooner you reach out for help the better. RehabCenter.net is here for you. If you are concerned about your drinking habits or someone else’s, please contact us and we will do everything we can to get you the help you need.Article Sources
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Drinking Levels Defined
Rethinking Drinking - What’s a “standard” drink?
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Binge Drinking: Terminology and Patterns of Use
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Fact Sheets - Alcohol Use and Your Health