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Difference between social drinking and drinking problem

Difference between social drinking and drinking problem

Alcohol is ingrained into normal society. It is found in nearly every house, restaurant, or social location that expects people. Over 50% of Americans drink alcohol on a regular basis, and while it is a common, moderated substance for most, understanding it and the dangers it can present is critical to keeping yourself safe, healthy and happy.

What Is Social Drinking?

Social drinking can be any kind of drinking that one does out in a bar, restaurant, or in a home with family or friends. It takes many forms, from the small get together for your best bud’s birthday to fully fledged events fully formed around the culture of consuming alcohol.

Social drinkers are usually low-risk individuals. They know their boundaries, drink for enjoyment, and never find themselves in situations where they should be sober but happen to be drunk.

One could characterize a social drinker by the following qualities:

  • Drinks for enjoyment
  • Knows his/her own boundaries, when to stop
  • Does not regularly (if ever) blackout
  • Understands priorities and does not start drinking before they have their priorities done

The line between casual, social drinking and binge drinking can be crossed rather easily though. The CDC characterizes moderate drinking as one to two drinks a day over an entire month, and becomes binge drinking if the person consumes more than 4 drinks during a two hour time frame at least once a month.

What Is Problem Drinking?

Problem drinking is the next step to alcohol abuse. One is not a problem drinker just because they have the regular alcoholic beverage, but one can easily become one if not careful. Problem drinking can often look just like social drinking, but with one major thing changed: motive.

Problem drinkers are not physically dependent on alcohol, but they might feel they need an alcoholic beverage regularly to feel normal.

Problem drinkers do not drink for enjoyment, the atmosphere, or just because it was offered to them. Problem drinkers drink solely to feel the effects of alcohol, or to cope with something that is going on in their lives. Problem drinkers drink to reach a specific state of mind, and one can tell a problem drinker if they:

  • Claim to need alcohol to be comfortable in the social situation
  • Drink alcohol because they won’t have a good time without it
  • Drink alcohol when they have personal problems
  • Drink alcohol to release regular, everyday pressure

Situations in life can be hard, and there are many reasons why someone turns to alcohol. While it’s easy to understand why someone might have turned to this, it’s still important to understand that alcohol is only a temporary solution, and will often make all the problems that initially turned one to alcohol much worse.

Signs of a Drinking Problem

Symptoms of a drinking problem and early signs of alcohol abuse might make someone:

  • Miss class or work because of their drinking
  • Explicitly avoid social situations to drink alone
  • Mood swings
  • General indifference towards life
  • Shopping sprees
  • Having unsafe sex
  • Not knowing when to stop drinking
  • Blacking out regularly
  • Driving under the influence
  • Getting arrested while intoxicated
  • Pushing friends/family away

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is the final step in alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is very similar to problem drinking, but the individual is now physically dependent on alcohol and will withdraw if they do not have a drink. Alcoholism can look like many different things, and can range from minor to severe, with the side effects from severe alcoholism withdrawals being near fatal without treatment.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety, nausea, insomnia, or abdominal pain
  • Hallucinations, fevers, confusion, and elevated/unusual heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

These symptoms are true for those who do experience withdrawal, but they can range in levels of severity and can include strokes, heart attacks, and liver failure.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Spotting an alcoholic might not be as easy as one might think. High-functioning alcoholics are all over modern society, and might not fit any of the above criteria. While they are still functioning, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, ask these questions:

Do they…

  • Consistently drink more than they intend to
  • Have a high tolerance to alcohol and need to drink large amounts to feel the effects at all
  • Constantly think about alcohol/when they can get their next drink
  • Act/talk like a different person entirely when sober
  • Constantly go beyond my limits that are set before drinking starts
  • Lose relationships with friends/unable to keep relationships because of alcohol
  • Pre-drink before going to an event, particularly ones with more alcohol
  • Do not believe alcohol is a problem for me because they can still function properly
  • Drink to reward themselves
  • Separate their drinking life with their sober life
  • Binge drink and blackout
  • Have friends that express their concerns about their drinking behaviors
  • Cannot imagine life without alcohol

How to Combat Drinking Problems and Alcoholism

Drinking is on the rise in the U.S. The horrible Covid-19 quarantine gave many individuals much less to do, and as a result, many turned to drinking and now can’t stop. On top of that, millennials have reported larger numbers of drinking due to the looming financial crisis. While neither of these things are good, and turning to alcohol is seen as a reasonable response, that doesn’t change the fact that if you or a loved one thinks that they have a problem with alcohol, they should seek to get help.

The first step in realizing one has a problem is admitting it, the next steps can look like any of the following:

  • Enrolling in rehab
  • Asking for support from friends and family
  • Write out a list of reasons to stop drinking
  • Identify triggers
  • Keep alcohol outside of the house
  • Start a new hobby
  • Never give up!

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