Alcohol affects different people in different ways. Drinking alcohol in large amounts, too often, or being unable to control alcohol consumption are each signs of alcohol misuse.
It feeds off of the same reward circuit that anyone with any addiction faces, which you can read about in our drug abuse article.
Alcohol misuse affects all of us across the country. It is associated with around 140,000 deaths per year, with about 2,300 of those being due to alcohol poisoning.
On a personal level, abusing alcohol has known links to increasing one’s risk of developing unwanted chronic conditions. These include, but are not limited to, ailments such as cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
The official recommendations are that women limit themselves to no more than four drinks on an occasion, and no more than eight drinks a week. For men, the recommendation is to limit themselves to no more than five drinks on one occasion and no more than fifteen drinks a week.
One drink is equivalent to:
- 12 ounces of 5% ABV beer
- 8 ounces of 7% ABV liquor
- 5 ounces of 12% ABV wine
- 1.5 ounces of 40% ABV, or 80-proof, liquor
Types of Alcohol Misuse
There are four types of alcohol misuse.
Underage drinking refers to any alcohol use by those under the age of 21.
Pregnant drinking is when any woman consumes alcohol during pregnancy. To learn more about the adverse effects of pregnant drinking, check out this informative article by the CDC.
Heavy drinking is when alcohol use becomes a persistent problem, not limited to one occasion. For women, heavy drinking is achieved when consuming eight drinks or more per week. For men, heavy drinking is when consuming fifteen drinks or more per week.
Binge drinking refers to drinking behaviors on one occasion. For women, binge drinking is considered having four or more drinks on one occasion. For men, this is five drinks on one occasion. Consider this a night out where you decide you want to be drunk for the sake of a “good time.”
Binge drinking is the main problem when it comes to alcohol abuse, seeing as one in six individuals in the United States admit to having done so. 25% of these individuals binge drink on a weekly basis.
Binge drinkers average eight drinks per binge, and most people who do binge drink are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics. However, binge drinking can lead to excessive drinking when one begins to drink more frequently.
If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Drinking alcohol in and of itself is not a bad thing, but drinking in excess or forming a dependency on drinking is when the problems arise.
If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol abuse, you are not alone, and there are resources available to help you get help.
Having support and seeking professional treatment can help you form a healthy relationship with alcohol. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are available to connect you with a group of people going through the same thing you are.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) also offers a free national hotline for people struggling with different types of substance use disorders at 800-662-HELP.