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How Much Drinking is Too Much Drinking? Understanding When it’s Time to Get Help

drinking too much alcoholAlcohol is the most widely abused substance in the United States. More than 50% of men and women drink alcohol each month, and some people drink more than others.[1] With alcohol being such a socially acceptable part of gatherings, celebrations, and even meals, it can be difficult to spot exactly when your drinking has crossed the line from “acceptable” to “too much.”

Having too much alcohol in one sitting can have a lot of negative short-term effects, ranging from poor decision-making and blackouts to a hangover the next day. However, long-term heavy drinking is even more dangerous as it can affect every aspect of your life.

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use has resulted in more than 140,000 deaths between 2015 and 2019, and that excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in every 10 deaths among working-age adults between ages 20-64.[2] As a result, it’s important to understand how much drinking is okay and how much is simply too much.

Drinking in Moderation vs. Binge Drinking vs. Heavy Drinking: What is Too Much?

If you are wondering whether or not your alcohol consumption has become problematic, consider keeping track of how many standard drinks you have each day and each week. Remember, one standard drink refers to:[3]

  • 12 ounces of 5% ABV beer
  • 8 ounces of 7% ABV malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of 12% ABV wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 40% ABV (80-proof) distilled spirits or liquor (examples: gin, rum, vodka, whiskey

Once you know how many drinks you usually have, you can compare that number against the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA) drinking level guidelines. These guidelines describe the definitions of moderate drinking, binge drinking, and heavy drinking.[4]

Moderate Drinking Guidelines

Adults who are of legal drinking age can drink alcohol safely in moderation. Moderate drinking is defined as two or fewer drinks per day for men and one drink or less per day for women. If your alcohol use does not exceed this amount, you may not have a problem with alcohol.

Understanding Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a dangerous pattern of alcohol consumption that brings your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to greater than 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter. In most adults, this happens after men have five or more drinks in two hours or if women have four or more drinks within two hours. Taking into consideration the standard drink size, this is much easier to do than it may sound. Over 90% of excessive drinkers engage in binge drinking.[3]

If you are a frequent binge drinker who feels as though alcohol is negatively impacting your life, you may have a problem with alcohol.

What Qualifies as Heavy Drinking?

The exact definition of heavy drinking varies depending on what source you go to, but the two most accepted definitions are:

  1. Engaging in binge drinking on five or more days in a month
  2. Men drinking more than 4 drinks a day or more than 14 drinks a week OR women drinking more than 3 drinks a day or more than 7 drinks per weed

If you are a heavy drinker, it’s likely that you are consuming more alcohol than what is considered safe. You could become addicted to alcohol or suffer the consequences of alcoholism.

Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Even if you admit to being a heavy drinker, you may think you aren’t an alcoholic. While not everyone who engages in binge drinking or heavy drinking has an alcohol use disorder, it’s important to recognize the signs that your drinking has become problematic.

Signs that you may have a problem with alcohol include:

  • Feeling a loss of control over how often or how much you drink
  • Regularly drinking more than you intended to in various situations
  • Continuing to drink even if it is harming your health or personal relationships
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol where you need to drink more to feel the desired effects
  • Having symptoms of withdrawal when you suddenly stop drinking alcohol
  • Making multiple failed attempts to stop drinking alcohol
  • Your friends and family are concerned about your alcohol consumption

If you identify with more than one of these symptoms, you may be drinking too much and have a problem with alcohol.

The Consequences of Heavy Alcohol Consumption

Long-term, heavy alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on your mental, physical, emotional, and social health. Possible risks include:[2]

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Some types of cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social problems
  • Economic problems
  • Alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence

You can avoid these health risks by cutting back on your alcohol consumption or seeking treatment for an alcohol use disorder.

Find The Right Alcohol Rehab Center For You

Are you drinking too much or concerned that your alcohol abuse has progressed into alcoholism? If so, Woburn Wellness can help. We offer alcohol abuse treatment at multiple levels of care including day treatment, IOP, and OP. We can also connect you with a local alcohol detox center so you can detox safely before starting treatment. No matter your situation, we’re prepared to assist.

Don’t wait any longer to get the help you deserve. Call now to speak with a qualified admissions specialist.

References:

  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/onlinemedia/infographics/excessive-alcohol-use.html
  4. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

Ready to Make a Change?

We know that overcoming addiction is not easy and requires courage to ask for help. At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our team of professionals has decades of combined experience in helping men, women, and families overcome substance abuse.

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