1 in 8 Americans Has a Drinking Problem: Are You One of Them?

Have you ever gone out with friends for a drink or two but ended up having four or five? Everyone needs to let loose every once in a while, but drinking too often and too much can lead to an alcohol dependency problem. If you’ve found your tolerance is getting higher or you’re making dangerous mistakes under the influence, it’s time to reevaluate whether or not you might have a drinking problem.

The magic number (of drinks)

Whiskey in glasses

Learn the numbers to know if you have an alcohol problem. | iStock.com

To determine an alcohol problem, it’s important to know how much is too much. With alcohol use, the numbers depend on your gender. For women, one drink per day is considered moderate. For men, it’s two drinks.

Binge drinking is when you consume multiple drinks in a short amount of time. For women, having four drinks in two hours is considered binge drinking. For men, it’s five drinks.

Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking at least five times in the past month.

To create a low risk of developing an alcohol disorder, women should never consume more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks in one week. Men should never consume more than four drinks on any given day or more than 14 drinks in one week. If you think you’re developing an alcohol abuse disorder, here is what to look for:

You often drink more than you intended

Group of friends partying in a nightclub and toasting drinks.

Do you often overdo it when you are out with friends? | jacoblund/Getty Images

Going out with friends means you’re bound to have a good time. However, if you tell yourself you’ll only have one or two drinks and you end up having four, it could be a red flag. If it only happens once a month, it is likely nothing to worry about. If you’re noticing a pattern of drinking too much every time you grab a seat at the bar, you may want to look into why it’s happening so often.

You’ve tried to cut down, but you can’t

two men clanging glasses of alcoholic beverage together

Is it difficult for you to cut back? | GeorgeRudy/Getty Images

Drinking more than one or two drinks per day does not always mean you have a drinking problem. However, if you find yourself trying to cut back on your drinking only to be met with difficulty, it may signal a dependency issue. Plus, if you don’t think you have a problem, you might not see any reason to cut back even though your liver thinks otherwise.

Your tolerance is getting too high

Friends hands toasting red wine glass and having fun outdoors cheering with winetasting

You may have a much higher tolerance than your friends. | ViewApart/iStock/Getty Images

Your tolerance, or your ability to handle your alcohol, is a representation of how you feel — not necessarily how much alcohol is in your system. This can lead to alcoholism because the less drunk you feel, the more you will drink. Before you know it, you’re consuming two or three times the amount of alcohol as those you’re with. This can lead to liver complications and dependency in the long run.

Your drinking leads to dangerous situations

Group Of Friends Enjoying Night Out

Alcohol can seriously impair your decision making skills. | iStock.com

Alcohol can have negative effects on the brain that lead to bad decision making. It releases stimulants like adrenaline and norepinephrine, which can hype you up and make you think differently than when you’re sober. It also releases dopamine, which makes you think you’re having a really good time, even if you’re not doing much. This can lead to dangerous decisions, like operating a vehicle or having unsafe sex — things you otherwise wouldn’t do while sober. If this is a frequent occurrence, it may be time to step back and learn to lower your consumption.

It makes you feel depressed or anxious

Friends enjoying drinks

Do you feel depressed before or after you drink? | iStock.com

Too much alcohol can leave you feeling depressed or shaky the next day. Alcohol is considered a depressant, and too much of it an affect your mood, especially the next day. Plus, people with depression are more likely to have a drinking problem. If it’s making you feel anxious or depressed but you’re still drinking, it means the desire to drink might be outweighing your negative thoughts and feelings. If that’s the case, it’s time to get help.

It interferes with your family life

Family and friends posing for a picture

Alcohol should never interfere with family time. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Family time should be number one on your priority list. If you drink too much, sometimes battling a hangover or being too drunk can prevent you from playing catch with your kids or having a fun night with your partner. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, if alcohol is making it harder to communicate with your family or carve out time to be with them, it may signal a drinking problem.

It interferes with your personal activities

Man playing tennis

Alcohol should not interfere with your favorite activities. | iStock.com

The NIAAA also says that giving up activities you once enjoyed are a serious sign of a problem. If playing tennis with friends used to be the best part of your week, and now you’d rather drink than socialize and be active, alcohol has become a big interference with your daily life. If alcohol is changing your life by preventing you from doing what you used to love, it’s time to talk to someone.

You have withdrawal symptoms

Man upset

Withdrawal symptoms are a huge sign that you have a problem. | iStock.com

Cutting back on drinking is not easy if you have a problem. If you quit drinking and find that you have withdrawal symptoms, your body has become physically dependent on alcohol. According to the NIAAA, withdrawal symptoms include trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, or sweating. Serious withdrawal symptoms include a racing or irregular heartbeat and even seizures.

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