The Difference Between Social Drinking and Alcoholism
Alcohol is a fixture of everyday life in the United States and most countries in the world. This means that drinking– even excessive drinking– is socially acceptable in a variety of common situations. These situations include everything from business lunches and office parties to sporting events and a few drinks every night after dinner. This easy acceptance of drinking makes alcoholism difficult to spot and almost impossible to overcome without help.
Let’s have a closer look at the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic.
Signs of Alcohol Dependence
Alcoholism is a sneaky disease. It can begin as little more than a harmless habit– like drinking with friends in an appropriate context. But while drinking remains little more than a social activity for most people, it can develop into a destructive disease very quickly for many others. There is a difference between social and problem drinking, however, and here are some of the signs that someone may be dependent on alcohol:
- They drink more than a few times a week
- The person begins to have intense cravings for alcohol between uses
- Withdrawal symptoms like trembling or excessive nervousness occur without alcohol
- They consume more than a few drinks during almost every sitting
- Anyone who drinks daily or needs alcohol to start their day very likely has a problem
- Dishonesty about their drinking is definitely a sign that someone might be dependent on alcohol
- When friends or family have expressed concerns over the person’s drinking
- People who drive or go to work under the influence of alcohol might be dependent
- If they’ve lost a job or suffered financial difficulties because of their drinking
- They’ve experienced legal problems as a result of their drinking
- If someone’s drinking has caused a strain on their interpersonal relationships, there’s a good chance they need professional help
The Blanchard Institute provides a welcoming, comfortable setting for outpatient alcohol treatment. Along with our compassionate staff, this environment helps clients transition much more smoothly into the recovery process. Our North Carolina drug alcohol center can help you develop the skills that you need to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life and guide you toward a brighter future.
Types of Alcohol Abuse
Although there are often significant areas of overlap, alcohol abuse can come in a variety of different forms. First, you can characterize a drinking problem in terms of its severity– minor, moderate, and severe. The following factors can be used to describe how far the disease has progressed:
- The amount of alcohol someone consumes
- How often they drink
- The amount of time they spend drinking
- The effects that alcohol has on important life areas
- How much physical, psychological, and emotional damage their drinking has done.
Of course, this is an incomplete list, but it’s still enough to give you a fair idea of how to assess the severity of someone’s drinking. There are two more important things to remember regarding the severity of an individual’s problem drinking. First, even mild alcohol abuse can necessitate professional treatment. Second, people can (and often do) move back and forth between these levels of severity. However, even people who can reduce the severity of their drinking might still require some form of treatment.
Understanding the various patterns of drinking can also help you determine if you or someone you love needs professional help. We’ll examine these in the next two sections.
Types of Drinking Patterns
Every alcoholic is a unique individual, but their drinking usually happens in one more recognizable patterns. Binge drinkers are those people who go on regular ‘drinking sprees.’ These sprees come in a variety of forms, but they all share a few things in common. First, a binge drinker starts consuming alcohol for the sole purpose of getting drunk. Second, binge drinking entails consuming a great deal of alcohol in a short amount of time. Lastly, these drinking sprees are not usually restricted to a single sitting. They can span days, weeks, or even months.
Another type of alcoholic is one who has the urge to drink every day. Others might start drinking early in the morning and continue until they pass out. Even if they don’t go on full-fledged binges, some alcoholics only start drinking in order to get intoxicated. Lastly, many alcoholics feel an irresistible compulsion to consume large amounts of alcohol whenever they find themselves in certain social situation
How to Know When to Seek Help For Alcoholism
Many people ask ‘When should you start to seek professional help for alcoholism?’ The short answer: as soon as your recognize you have a problem. We’ve already discussed the signs that indicate a possible drinking problem, but there are also ways to determine when the disease is progressing.
Here are some of the signs that someone’s drinking is getting worse and that it’s past time to seek treatment:
- Withdrawal symptoms due to lack of alcohol
- Increased tolerance
- A desire to stop drinking coupled with repeated failures to do so
- A preoccupation with alcohol that can border on obsession
- Continuing to drink despite enormous negative consequences
Once these signs start appearing, the disease of alcoholism has fully taken root. It’s never too late to seek professional help, but finding recovery becomes much harder the longer you wait. If you’ve reached the state of mental and physical health we described, please seek help immediately.