When does one drink become too many? When does liquor become more dangerous than enjoyable? When should you say “no”?

The practice of social drinking is common throughout the world. On a Friday night, people gather over drinks with friends or coworkers to unwind and spill the tea. Most of us go to occasions where liquor is served. Everyone participates in it, from college students to corporate professionals.

But, like everything else in this world, alcohol consumption has limitations. With just one more drink, you can slip slowly, almost inconspicuously, into alcoholism. It’s an invisible but highly perilous shift. And it can happen to anyone.

In 2021, 29.5 million individuals aged 12 and older developed an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Alcohol abuse is responsible for a staggering 3 million deaths worldwide each year, representing 5.3% of all fatalities.

Differentiating the social drinker from the alcoholic is not as simple as drawing a line in the sand and saying that one lies on this side and the other on the opposite. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

The article distinguishes between social drinking and alcoholism. It will also identify the threshold people should be wary of in their relationship with alcohol and how to recognize when they have already crossed it. The latter sections will present several prevention measures for preserving a healthy relationship with alcohol.

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Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Understanding Social Drinking

Social drinking is the casual enjoyment of alcohol in a public setting like a bar or diner. Typically, it happens on holidays, celebrations, or special days like New Year’s Eve. Social drinking has been widespread throughout various cultures worldwide.

The social drinker is not dependent on alcohol. Drinking is merely a side effect or an accessory to their activities, not their primary driving force.

A social drinker does not necessarily imbibe a particular amount of alcohol. Still, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as “One drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men.”

The Role of Drinking Culture

Social drinkers often drink for socializing, unwinding, blending in with a larger group, and celebrating, but only on special occasions and through minimal-risk means.

They control when they drink, and it is incredibly vital that their alcohol consumption does not interfere with how they go about their daily lives, their relationships, their work routines, or other obligations.

As the term implies, social drinkers typically use alcohol for pleasure, not as a self-medication, companionship on lonely nights, or a way to block out their thoughts.

Nevertheless, social drinking still demands exercising extreme caution. While drinking is a commonly recognized social activity, there are still hazards that could be dangerous if not controlled and practiced safely.

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Its Hazards and Drawbacks

In social settings, it’s common to consume more alcohol than you intended. One drink can quickly grow into two; before you know it, you’re inebriated and unaware of your surroundings.

Participating in social drinking frequently during the week or exceeding the limit for moderate drinking may lead to excessive alcohol consumption. People might do things in response to this that compromise their health and safety and can potentially lead to substance abuse and alcoholism

Careless social drinking can also lead to people acting violently, driving while intoxicated, having unprotected sex, and doing other things they would typically avoid if they were sober. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records 37 drunk-driving deaths in the United States daily. All of these deaths could have been avoided.

Thus, to avoid such difficulties, social drinkers must understand their boundaries.

Recognizing Alcoholism

Alcoholism and problem drinking sound similar, but the former entails alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Nowadays, it’s more well-understood as alcohol use disorder.

Even when drinking has adverse effects, from losing a career to damaging relationships with people they hold dear, alcoholics will still refuse to quit. Despite being aware of the danger that alcohol brings to their lives, they nevertheless choose to drink.

They may feel stronger cravings for the substance, and despite the risks, they may deliberately abuse it. They go through mental distress and more dangerous withdrawal symptoms without a drop of alcohol in their mouth.

Signs to Look Out For 

Anyone runs the risk of developing alcohol dependence. It’s critical to be aware of warning signs that indicate alcoholism instead of just social drinking. Some warning indicators include:

  • You are unaware of when to quit drinking 
  • You continue to drink despite obvious adverse outcomes 
  • You drink excessively, sometimes even substituting it for meals 
  • You and your peers frequently indulge in binge drinking sessions
  • You use alcohol as a reward for relatively trivial accomplishments 
  • When you drink or are already intoxicated, friends and relatives avoid you

While social drinking is heavily embedded in our culture, reckless drinking can gradually and inevitably result in abuse and addiction. The effects of this are more severe and are sometimes irrevocable.

The Catastrophe of Excessive Drinking

Those who drink more heavily are at risk for adverse alcohol-related complications. Excessive drinking can eventually lead to the development of chronic illnesses and other serious health issues, such as:

  • Heart, liver, and digestion problems 
  • Deterioration of the immune system 
  • Alcohol addiction and dependence
  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems 
  • Cancer
  • Mood and sleep disturbances 
  • Cognitive and psychological complications 

The Interplay of Genetics and Environment

People with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop alcohol use disorders. Parents may impart behavioral characteristics on their kids that could be a future susceptibility to irresponsible alcohol consumption and addiction. In fact, research reveals that genetics account for nearly 50% of alcoholism.

While alcoholic inclinations may be hereditary, alcoholism can also be caused by social and environmental factors such as job-related strain or peer pressure.

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Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

The Fine Line: When Does Social Drinking Become Alcoholism?

The majority of occasional drinkers never develop alcoholism. However, frequent social drinking might enhance tolerance and a persistent urge to consume more alcohol. These are some of the earliest hallmarks of alcoholism.

The most common sign of alcoholism is the inability to quit without help. Alcoholics revolve their world around alcohol. They act in certain ways for this reason, and when they drink, they do it with the aim of becoming wasted. Additionally, they turn to alcohol as a last resort to cope with their problems, including stress, loneliness, social anxiety, and the like.

You are at risk of developing alcoholism if alcohol becomes the crutch that you lean on and you find yourself unable to thrive and keep up without it.

Consider your actions and relationship with alcohol if the dependency becomes overwhelming to manage. Your drinking may be more than just a social activity at this point.

The Need for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Alcohol-related disorders are one of the largest health issues of our time. The good news is that regardless of the seriousness of the issue, anyone who needs help will benefit from treatment. What matters is that you speak up and do it right away.

Recovery from alcoholism is an exhausting and laborious endeavor. But it is not impossible, especially if you allow someone to guide you.

Alcoholism treatment enables patients to quit drinking and stay abstinent for the long term. Detoxification, personal and familial counseling, collaborative therapy, social support, rehabilitation programs, and procedures are among the numerous treatment options available to cater to your needs.

Professional advice could keep you on track and gradually reduce your alcohol consumption. 

There is still hope. Many can recover from alcohol addiction with the right approach, commitment, and determination.

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Combating Drinking Problems and Alcoholism

Alcohol has a significant impact on your life. It weakens your body’s immunity and disrupts the neural pathways in your brain that lets you perform ordinary tasks efficiently. A glass of wine, however, is entirely different from drinking two buckets of beer a day. When used excessively, it gradually develops into an addiction, eventually wreaking havoc on your overall well-being. Such an addiction can leave lasting wounds if left ignored.

Alcoholism hurts the drinker and his family and friends, the same people who desire nothing but his complete recovery. It’s just as dreadful to see a family member suffer from addiction as to go through it yourself.

Substance abuse and addiction have destroyed thousands of aspirations throughout the years, and this battle has only begun. Start creating better habits today and be mindful of how much alcohol you and your loved ones consume.

Most importantly, we must learn to refuse, especially when our health demands it. Small changes make a big difference. Here at Oregon Trail Recovery, we empower you to take the first leap toward sobriety, the most excellent and rewarding adventure of a lifetime.