Is it a drinking problem?

October 11, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

All things in moderation. This is key when it comes to alcohol.

There’s a difference between a casual drinker and a problem drinker. How do you know when the line’s been crossed? Let’s look at the stats.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines heavy drinking as having eight drinks or more per week for women, or 15 drinks or more per week for men. Binge drinking is defined as a woman having four or more drinks, or a man having five or more drinks—all in about two hours.

Sadly, excessive drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the United States each year. Drinking too much can lead to car crashes, alcohol poisoning, injuries and chronic health problems, like liver and heart disease, and certain cancers.

How can you tell if too much drinking has led to alcohol use disorder (AUD), previously known as alcohol dependence or alcoholism?

There are five stages that indicate a drinking problem is getting worse. It often goes from occasional abuse or binge drinking, to problem drinking, to alcohol dependence, to addiction.

As someone drinks alcohol more frequently, control over the drinking begins to slip. You know there’s a problem when the drinking takes over a person’s regular routine, causes problems with work, school and relationships, and/or causes health issues like hangovers, blackouts and withdrawal symptoms.

When someone is addicted, they no longer want to drink just for pleasure. They have a physical and psychological need to drink.

Could your loved one have an alcohol use disorder? There are 11 criteria for diagnosing AUD. In the past year, has he/she:

  1. Drank more or for longer than intended
  2. Tried to cut down or stop drinking, but were unable to
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking or feeling sick after drinking too much
  4. Craved alcohol or felt a strong urge to drink
  5. Discovered that drinking or being sick from drinking interferes with daily activities like work, school or family obligations
  6. Continued to consume alcohol even though it causes problems with friends or family
  7. Gave up or cut back on important or enjoyable activities, specifically to drink more
  8. Entered situations where being intoxicated could lead to danger
  9. Experienced blackouts, or continued drinking despite it causing depression, anxiety, or other health problems
  10. Had to drink more alcohol more often to obtain the desired level of intoxication or other effects
  11. Experienced withdrawal symptoms, including shakiness, irritability, restlessness, sweating or nausea, when going without alcohol

The NIAAA estimates that 17 million American adults and 855,000 adolescents (ages 12-17) have alcohol use disorder. It is more than just drinking too much from time to time. It’s a problem that causes trouble in relationships, work, school, social activities, or in how a person thinks and feels.

It may be very difficult to gain control. Unlike most other common addictions, acute alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening, so treatment is vital.

If you or a loved one needs help with drug or alcohol addiction, you aren’t alone. Get help at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

Parents, talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Get tips for talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol.

Related blogs:

Learn signs your teen may be abusing alcohol

What alcohol does to your body

Binge drinking taken to a new level on college campuses

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