The Different Types of Problem Drinking

The Different Types of Problem Drinking

The term “problem drinking” can mean different acts to different people. In fact, any of the following behaviors could be considered problem drinking:

  • Underage drinking of any alcohol
  • Occasional binge drinking
  • Regularly drinking more than the daily recommended amount
  • Drinking in secret
  • Using alcohol to cope with anxiety
  • Combining alcohol with other drugs
  • An inability to quite drinking

For some people, the term “problem drinking” is a euphemism for alcoholism—many people with drinking problems do not like the word “alcoholism” because of the stigma it carries. Other people believe “problem drinking” refers to some kind of alcohol abuse that is problematic, but less than a full-blown disease. Semantics aside, it is important to understand that alcohol dependence comes in many forms, all of which require help.

Low-Level Alcohol Abuse

Although precise levels vary, medical and mental health professionals have established the following guidelines for safe alcohol consumption:

  • Men should limit their alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks per day
  • Women should limit their alcohol to 1 drink per day
  • Using alcohol as a coping tool is dangerous at any level

However, some people take risks even with one drink per day, because there is a genetic component to addiction. Someone born with a biological predisposition toward alcoholism can develop a problem the first time they drink. Other people can drink more than these amounts for years and not develop a problem, but many people engage in a some low-level alcohol abuse that eventually catches up to them. The businessman who pours a drink every time he walks in the door may end up unable to stop that habit when he tries. The young woman who only drinks on Friday and Saturday night to feel tipsy can develop a problem if this habit persists. One of the most challenging tasks about low-level problem drinking is that it is difficult to recognize. To determine if your low-level drinking is a problem, skip all alcohol for 1-3 months to see how you feel. If you crave a drink or even think about it a lot, then you might have a problem.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is such a common fixture among college students and young people that it is difficult to see the act as a major problem. Binge drinking is alcohol consumption with the intent of getting drunk. Many binge drinkers assure themselves that they do not have a problem, because they avoid completely or mostly during the week, but they see heavy drinking as a reward or entitlement once the weekend comes.

In addition to laying a foundation for alcohol dependence, binge drinking can also cause the following problems:

  • Millions of young women are sexually assaulted after binge drinking
  • Decision-making skills are seriously damaged by severe intoxication, which can lead to reckless behavior
  • Fighting and other criminal activity increases when someone is seriously drunk
  • Blackout drinking can cause permanent brain damage
  • Liver disease and other gastrointestinal disorders are more common among binge drinkers
  • Binge drinking quickly increases tolerance of alcohol, which leads to more drinking

As tolerance increases, people need larger, more frequent doses of alcohol to feel the desired effects, but the amount of alcohol consumed can reach life-threatening levels. Drinkers who binge drink without overdosing can develop the wrong belief that the amount they drink is safe, so that amount will become their new baseline from which to push further. Alcohol poisoning and organ failure become real risks at severely high intake levels.

Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is a problem, because the brain does not finish developing until age 21 to 25. Ergo, teen drinkers greatly increase their odds of becoming addicts and of suffering from irreversible brain damage. No amount of alcohol is safe for minors.

Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

The following issues may indicate problem drinking:

  • Any use of alcohol that disrupts a healthy life and relationships
  • Any level of drinking that cannot be stopped without experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Failed attempts to quit drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite negative personal, relational, professional or legal consequences
  • An inability to limit drinking to safe levels once you start drinking

Whether you have 3 drinks a day or week, you may have a drinking problem if any of these symptoms describe your alcohol habits. Seek help before this deadly disease ruins you.

24 Hour Drinking Help

If you would like more information about problem drinking, or if you want to speak with a professional about your alcohol habits, then please call our toll-free helpline now. In addition to providing advice and answers at no cost, our admissions coordinators can connect you with the most effective and successful recovery programs.

Alcoholism is a serious disease, and our staff can help you find the healing that you need. Don’t wait for things to get “really bad;” call now for instant help.