How do you know when someone has crossed the line between social drinking and being an alcoholic? It is a fine line, true, but there are several signs that will tell you if a person you know or someone you love has become an alcoholic and is no longer simply a social drinker.
Social drinking only occurs when everyone else is drinking. A person might have one or two drinks, and might even get drunk, along with their friends or a group of people. This is social drinking, and even if someone drinks to excess, it is still considered social drinking. Someone stops being a social drinker and becomes an alcoholic when they progress to drinking on their own, or drinking in situations where no one else is drinking.
If everyone else is doing something where no drinking is required, the alcoholic might decide he or she does not want to be a part of that activity. They might be bored by things that don’t involve drinking, and they might suggest that people bring along alcohol to events that are not usually associated with alcohol. An alcoholic might not be able to have any fun without drinking, and if someone complains that they aren’t having fun without alcohol, that is a sign that they have a problem with alcohol abuse.
Social drinking is also usually not binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as having more than three or four drinks at a time, and getting very intoxicated. Often, social drinkers will have a few drinks, but people who are alcoholics will not be able to stop with just a few, and will continue to drink until they are very intoxicated. They will not be able to say no to a drink, and will not be able to realize when they have had too much to drink. The alcohol addiction will create craving and intense desire to consume alcohol.
Social drinkers also do not black out or lose chunks of time when they are drinking. Often, an alcoholic will pass out from too much alcohol in their system. They also might black out while they are drinking. Blacking out or losing chunks of time is a very serious problem, and it is not something that social drinkers experience. If a person experiences moments that they cannot remember, they are probably an alcoholic, and should seek help with their problems.
Social drinkers will also be able to go for long periods of time without drinking. They will not feel the need to drink as alcoholics do, and will not feel like they cannot get through the day without a drink. An alcoholic will feel like they cannot get through the day without drinking, and they will not want to do anything that doesn’t require drinking.
If someone is developing a problem with alcohol, they might become introverted and not want to see their friends or do anything outside of their home. They might have an idea that they are developing a problem with alcohol, but might think that they can control it on their own. In these types of situations, you should encourage someone who has a problem with alcohol to get help. It is only through getting help that a person can really get over their addiction problems, and in the case of alcohol, sooner is much better than later.
Is Social Drinking Alcoholism?
The regular use of alcohol in social settings does not necessarily indicate alcoholism. Alcohol can be a relaxing complement to social affairs. However, should a person begin feeling like they must have the alcohol to function normally, this would indicate a problem. The appropriate amount of alcohol consumption varies by person, depending on many factors: their size; their gender; how recently they ate a meal and how well-accustomed they are to consuming alcohol.
A good rule of thumb is as follows:
- Up to two drinks per day for men
- One drink per day for women and elderly
One drink equals one 12-ounce beer or wine cooler, one five-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
The following people should never consume alcohol:
- People under age 21
- Women who are pregnant or attempting pregnancy
- People who will be driving or operating machinery shortly thereafter
- People taking certain medications (read the labels for more guidance)
- People with medical conditions that can be made worse by drinking
- Recovering alcoholics
A social drinker must be especially cautious of drinking alcohol and then driving, as many social functions involving alcohol consumption take place away from home. If one is not careful and controlling with their alcohol consumption, it can turn into alcohol abuse. This is different from alcoholism because the drinker is not dependent on the drink, but simply consumes too much too often. Generally, social drinking of alcohol includes at least two people and does not have a negative effect on their health or interactions with each other.