Social Drinking and Alcohol Abuse: Defining the Fine Line

There is a thin line between enjoying alcohol socially and abusing alcohol. Our society tends to glorify drinking and the use of alcohol at parties and social functions for those both underage and of legal drinking age. Moderation in any form is not encouraged in many situations as people see it as a way of just having fun. We are a society of the overworked, overstressed and anxiety ridden and we tend toward the extreme compared to many other countries. None of this bodes well for consuming a healthy amount alcohol in our lives. The National Institute of Health estimates 15% of Americans have a problem drinking, more men than women. Many behaviors, not just alcohol, can slip from a social joy to an addiction – eating and exercise are two examples.

Alcohol abuse can affect any one at any age but in the last decade we have heard terrible stories of binge drinking and alcohol abuse in college students. Many of these young adults have not tasted as much freedom as they suddenly get when they begin college. They also have not fully developed their decision making skills yet and often engage in risky behavior without thought of consequence. Though college students are not the only ones that participate in this type of drinking, dangerous behaviors and habits can start at this point and continue into adulthood.

Most professionals would agree that between 2-5 alcoholic beverages during a week’s time is considered a normal, healthy amount of drinking. Much of what determines the abuse of alcohol however isn’t the amount alone but how and why it’s used. Here are the top 10 common warning signs that alcohol use may have turned to abuse:

  • Drinking to Intoxication
  • Not Having the Ability to Limit Consumption
  • Increased Tolerance to Alcohol
  • Alcohol Use has Affected Work, Home or Personal Life
  • Drinking While at Work or Driving
  • Legal or Financial Problems Stemming from Alcohol Use
  • Changes in Behavior or Values While Drinking
  • Lying About or Downplaying Amount of Alcohol Consumption
  • Craving Alcohol or Irritability if Unable to Drink
  • Using Alcohol to Relieve Sadness, Depression, Stress or Anxiety

The biggest tell-tale sign between use and abuse is the control one feels over their alcohol consumption and drinking behavior. Alcohol abuse can easy and quickly take over healthy decision making. Some safe drinking guidelines are eat before drinking, do not drink when emotionally upset, do not mix alcohol with medication or drugs and do not drink to the point of intoxication. If you are worried about your own or others drinking behavior and think that there may be signs of alcohol addiction, consult a health care professional immediately.

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