April is Alcohol Awareness Month
When Does Alcohol Abuse Become Alcoholism?
Heavy drinkers may appear to function day to day yet still be putting themselves and others at risk. Learn how to recognize problem drinking.
It’s not easy to pinpoint the moment when someone starts having a problem with alcohol. Instead of clear lines, there are shades of gray between social drinking, alcohol abuse and alcoholism. For some people, abuse begins before they – or their family – know it’s happening. One glass of wine after dinner can turn into four.
Knowing your limits
For men, experts define heavy drinking as more than two drinks per day on a regular basis. For women, it’s an average of more than one drink per day. But it may still be hard to tell when drinking has become a problem.
Drinking is common in our culture, and some people do it without harmful effects. For others, drinking escalates until they lose their health and put themselves and others in danger. The reasons for these differences are complex. People with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to have addiction problems. So are those who face depression or some other mental illnesses. Your upbringing and social environment may also make a difference.
The effects of alcoholism can be devastating. Heavy drinkers are more likely to have heart disease, liver disease, depression and several types of cancer. Family and work relationships usually suffer. And of course, drinking too much alcohol on even one occasion can lead to injuries or death from a car crash, drowning or other type of accidents.
If you need help with a drinking problem, your doctor is a good place to start finding the counseling or treatment you need. You can also contact the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).