Social Drinking vs. Alcoholism

a group of people drink mead at a bar safely after learning about social drinking vs alcoholism

Drinking is a longstanding tradition in American society. It’s also the nation’s top source of serious substance problems. Most people can drink socially if they stick to specific health guidelines. However, if your consumption regularly exceeds these guidelines, you may need alcohol detox and rehab. What criteria signify the divide between social drinking vs. alcoholism and serious alcohol abuse? The answer to that question may vary with your sex, health, past alcohol use, and current situation.

What Is Social Drinking?

There is no set definition of social drinking. That’s true because different social groups may have differing ideas of how much drinking is acceptable. Instead, public health experts use another indicator of alcohol use: moderate drinking. This term refers to a relatively safe drinking level for most adults in most situations.

The level of consumption that qualifies as relatively safe is not the same for men and women. That’s true because of the differences in the ways that men’s and women’s bodies process alcohol. As a result of these biological differences:

  • Most men can safely consume up to two drinks a day
  • Women have a maximum safe intake of just one drink a day

Be aware that these are upper limits. You might not be able to drink at all without creating a substantial health risk. All underage drinkers fall into this category. The same holds true for adults taking medication that produces a harmful reaction in combination with alcohol. It’s also true if you’re pregnant or have a health condition that makes drinking too risky.

Finally, casual drinking is not typically realistic if you have a past or current history of alcohol problems.

When Is Too Much Drinking a Diagnosable Health Issue?

When is too much drinking an immediate concern? In other words, when do you need to seek treatment? People affected by alcoholism have something called alcohol use disorder (AUD). The same disorder also includes non-addicted alcohol abuse that’s significant enough to interfere with your daily life.

You must have two or more out of 11 potential symptoms to be diagnosed with AUD. The effects of both alcoholism and alcohol abuse count toward this total. Depending on the number of symptoms present, your condition may be:

  • Mild (2 – 3 symptoms)
  • Moderate (4 – 5 symptoms)
  • Severe (6 or more symptoms)

Only an official diagnosis can determine how much you’re affected.

What If I’m a Borderline Alcoholic?

You may sometimes see someone referred to as a borderline alcoholic. That same person might also be described as a high-functioning alcoholic. The basic concept behind these two descriptions is the same. Namely, you drink excessively but don’t appear to suffer from diagnosable alcoholism.

But in reality, the borderline alcoholic is a mythical being. By definition, everyone affected by alcoholism experiences some kind of severe functional harm. The signs and symptoms of that harm may be glaringly obvious. However, they may also be much more subtle and hard to spot. In either case, you need the help provided by professional alcohol treatment. That’s the only reliable way to stop your condition from worsening over time.

Turn to Northpoint Colorado for More on Social Drinking Vs. Alcoholism

Need more information on the question of social drinking vs. alcoholism? The addiction specialists at Northpoint Colorado can help you clarify the difference between the two. Concerned that social alcohol use has turned into a serious problem? Northpoint features a full selection of services for anyone in need of help.

We support your recovery from the first day of detox to the last day of rehab. Call today at 888.231.1281 to learn about our customized treatment plans. You can also complete our online contact form.