Social Drinking vs. Problem Drinking
People who have alcohol dependence can't always predict how much they will drink,
when they will stop, or what they will do while drinking. And it is common for alcoholics
to deny the negative effects of drinking or that they even have a problem.
Alcohol is considered a drug because it depresses the central nervous system and can
disrupt mental and motor skills. It can also damage internal organs when used excessively.
Alcohol can be harmful both physically and economically.
The effects of alcohol
Alcohol can lessen tension, reduce inhibitions, and ease social contact. When used
in excess, however, it can be physically and psychologically addicting; cause impaired
memory, coordination, and judgment; damage the heart, liver, and nervous system; and
lead to birth defects. The abuser also places himself or herself and others at risk
if he or she drives or operates machinery after drinking too much.
Alcohol abuse and dependence can start at any age. There are no good predictors of
when it may start, though a family history or current family alcohol or drug abuse problems
may influence the start of personal drinking problems. Some people have been heavy
drinkers for many years, but others develop a drinking problem later in life. Sometimes
the onset is triggered by major life changes that cause depression, isolation, boredom,
If you drink alcohol, take these steps to reduce risks:
Make sure you eat before drinking to help slow the alcohol's absorption and slow
Don’t drink alcohol when you are thirsty. Reduce your thirst before beginning
to drink alcohol.
Don't drink when you are under stress, emotionally upset, or tired.
Know when to stop. Think why you want to drink. You should not drink just to
Don't mix alcohol with drugs or medications.
Signs of problem drinking
If you suspect someone has a drinking problem, look for these signs:
Frequent uncontrolled drinking episodes
Drinking until drunk
Going to work drunk or drinking on the job
Driving while drunk
Doing something under the influence of alcohol he or she would not otherwise
Getting in trouble with the law or injuring himself or herself as a consequence
Problems at school, with social relationships, or with his or her family because
Using alcohol to decrease anxiety or sadness
Frequently having more than 2 drinks a day for men or 1 drink a day for women
or older adults (with a standard drink being one 12-ounce bottle or can of beer
or a wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled
Lying about or trying to hide drinking habits
Needing more alcohol to get high
Feeling irritable, resentful, or unreasonable when not drinking
Having medical, social, or financial worries caused by drinking
What you can do
Learn more facts about alcoholism.
Treat alcoholism as a disease, not a moral failure or lack of willpower.
Be understanding, but don't become an "enabler" by protecting or lying for an
alcoholic, or denying the problem exists.
Encourage treatment. Your health care provider can help find treatment resources.
Respect the recovered alcoholic's choice to avoid alcohol.