Beyond Binge Drinking: Spotting Harmful Drinking Patterns

man sitting at bar with heads in his hands

Do You Know Your Loved One’s Limits?

The Alcohol Use Disorder diagnostic test can be self-administered by anyone who is questioning whether they have a problem.  But, taking it requires both self-awareness and a desire for change.  As an outsider, you may not be able to determine someone’s use levels by this checklist.  Here are some signs you can watch for if you’re scared a loved one is struggling with their alcohol use

1. They Have a High Tolerance

The more you drink, the more alcohol you can handle without becoming inebriated.  Those with alcohol use disorders may not get drunk as easily as you, or even as easily as they used to.  Someone in this position has likely increased their alcohol use or is a frequent binge drinker, which could signify a problem.

2. They Are Defensive About Their Drinking

Often, someone who drinks too much knows they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, even if they refuse to admit it.  Their complex emotions may bubble to the surface when others want to talk to them about their drinking habits.  Of course, anyone who’s inebriated may become frustrated with questions about their alcohol use.  However, those who have a healthy relationship with alcohol don’t usually protest discussing the topic when they’re sober.

3. They Have a History of Substance Use Disorders

Addictions can come in many shapes and forms, and they aren’t easy to beat.  If someone you know has a history of drinking too much or abusing other drugs, they could be at risk of falling back into their own ways.  Alcohol Use Disorder often overlaps with other substance use, so watching for one might be key to discovering the other.

4. They Change Their Social Habits                      

Hand-in-hand with the defensiveness about drinking comes a drive to avoid those who will bring the topic up.  Someone with an Alcohol Use Disorder may therefore spend less time with those who question their drinking, and more time with those who accept or even encourage unhealthy habits.  They may alienate themselves from loved ones or drink by themselves to avoid the threat of confrontation.

5. They Use Any Situation as an Excuse to Drink

Some people drink during celebrations; others drink when they’re under a lot of stress.  For someone with an Alcohol Use Disorder, both of these (and more!) may provide a handy excuse to grab a drink.  Of course, many people drink at parties or have a glass of wine to wind down after a hard day at work.  Watch to see if a loved one is always creating or mentioning reasons to use alcohol: They could be searching for socially acceptable situations that will disguise their drinking problem.

What Is “Safe” Alcohol Use?

Alcohol is a toxin and, especially when used irresponsibly, can have adverse effects on both long-term and short-term health.  However, years of research have identified the cutoff for unsafe drinking.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) considers 1 drink a day (for women) and 2 drinks a day (for men) the standards for “moderate” drinking.  Habitually imbibing in more than that could signal an Alcohol Use Disorder. 

Some drinkers don’t partake every day, but when they do, they engage in binge drinking.  Binge drinking, according to the NIAAA, brings one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to or over 0.08.  This usually means having 4 or more drinks (for women) or 5 or more drinks (for men) on one occasion.  Anyone who binge drinks 5 or more days in a given month is defined as a heavy alcohol user and may need help.

What Do I Do if a Loved One Is Drinking Too Much?

It can be difficult to support a loved one through a substance use disorder, especially when they refuse to recognize it or admit there is a problem.  Finding the balance between unwillingly supporting their unhealthy patterns of use and providing them the love that may help them recover can be hard.  Decision Point Center, located in Prescott, AZ, provides multiple scientifically proven therapies that can help with recovery from an Alcohol Use Disorder.  We may be able to help your loved one unlearn their unhealthy drinking habits.

If you’re looking for help, we are here.  Reach out to our admissions team at (844) 292-5010

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