When Alcohol Consumption Becomes A Drinking Problem


At most parties and gatherings alcohol is a common staple utilized for celebrating almost any milestone or holiday. For many, alcohol is also consumed as a means of relaxation after a stressful day or to cope with unwanted feelings.

Those in recovery report drinking as being a part of their daily lives and find it very difficult to escape the social norms of alcohol when trying to get sober.

Often when asked to provide a drinking and drug history in recovery many find it very easy to pinpoint when their alcohol consumption went from normal drinking to problematic further escalating to abuse and alcoholism.

Know The Limits

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as no more than one drink per day or no more than seven drinks per week for women and no more than two drinks per day or no more than 14 drinks per week for men.


For men, heavy consumption is considered more than four drinks per day and for women, more than three drinks daily.

Binge drinking is reported as when a woman consumes more than four drinks in a two hour period, for men it is considered binge drinking after five drinks in a two hour period. These amounts may vary based on age, weight, health, medication, genetics, gender and what type of alcohol is consumed. The guidelines are based on the average person and standard alcoholic beverages.

Standard US Alcoholic Drinks (adapted from NIAAA)


Each of these drinks contain approximately the same amount of alcohol. Note that not all companies provide alcoholic percentages on labels. When consuming more than the recommended amount, it may increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder or have negative impacts to physical health and well-being.


Signs Drinking Has Become A Problem

The fundamental difference between alcoholism and problematic drinking is dependence. An alcohol use disorder is characterized by increased tolerance, cravings, urges to drink, inability to stick to set limits and withdrawal symptoms. Problematic drinkers have not yet become physically and mentally addicted to alcohol. Problematic drinking is usually identified based on consequences that occur due to substance use. Signs of problematic drinking:

  • Isolating to drink alone.

  • Missing obligations to drink.

  • Attitude changes (ie., violent behavior while intoxicated).

  • Risky behaviors (ie., drinking and driving, promiscuity).

  • Legal issues (ie., DUI, domestic violence).

  • Concerned loved ones, estrangement of family members caused by substance use.

  • Black outs.

  • Binge drinking.

  • Alcohol poisoning, hospitalization attributed to alcohol consumption.

  • Minimization of use and denial

  • Frequent hangovers.

Emotional signs of problematic drinking:

  • Needing to drink to feel happy.

  • Needing to drink to feel social or to attend social events.

  • Looking forward to parties because there will be alcohol.

  • Drinking to numb or escape feelings.

  • Feeling guilty about use.

  • Feeling good about yourself only when intoxicated .

  • Rationalizing alcohol consumption .

  • Feeling angry when a loved one mentions drinking habits.

  • Thoughts about cutting back.

Problematic drinking may not always lead to dependence, however there are still serious risks when a person is consuming more than the recommended amount. For example: legal issues, relationship problems, increased chance of developing certain health conditions, motor vehicle accidents, alcohol poisoning, overdose, and violence. Pregnant women, individuals under 21 and those who are taking certain medications should not consume alcohol. Abstinence from alcohol and other substances is the best way to ensure that a person will not experience any negative substance related impacts. If a person believes they are experiencing signs of problematic drinking they should seek advice from a healthcare professional as soon as possible. There are many forms of substance abuse treatment catered to helping individuals struggling with alcohol related problems.

If you or a loved one need help for an addiction or alcohol problem and want to know more about treatment options, call us at: (630) 402-0144.

Care Addiction Center

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Geneva, IL 60134

(630) 402-0144

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