Why Heavy Drinking May be More Damaging Than You Think
Heavy drinking is often thought to be a step above alcoholism. Quite often, people think that occasional heavy drinking is OK, as long as it doesn't become a habit. Even if excessive use doesn't cause you to become an alcoholic, it can still be dangerous.
You may be someone who drinks heavily fairly often. You've always thought that it was harmless, but please know that it's not. You can actually do quite a bit of damage to yourself if you drink heavily. This is true even if you only do it on occasion.
It's important to learn as much about excessive alcohol consumption as you can. It is our hope that you find this information to be very useful.
How do You Define Drinking?
Drinking is defined as any level of alcohol consumption. It can refer to having one drink, or dozens of drinks. Of course, there are different levels of drinking. It's important to understand what they are; especially if you're someone who consumes regularly.
What is Moderate Drinking?
Moderate drinking is defined as consuming small amounts of alcohol per day. According to the CDC, moderate drinking involves one drink per day for women, and two for men.
You may have heard the phrase, drink in moderation. However, it should be noted that moderate drinking might not be appropriate for everyone. For example, the following individuals should not drink at all:
- Women who are pregnant
- Anyone under the age of 21
- People who are on certain medications that may have a negative interaction with alcohol
- Anyone who is a recovering alcoholic
- Anyone who needs to drive, or operate heavy machinery
Heavy use may also be called at-risk drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines this as:
- Men who drink more than four drinks on any day
- Men who drink more than 14 drinks per week
- Women who drink more than three drinks per day
- Women who drink more than 7 drinks per week
Most people don't realize how strict these limits are. They may think that having too much occasionally is not a problem. The truth is that consuming too much, too often leads to too many risks.
According to SAMHSA, binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 drinks for men, or 4 for women. These drinks must be consumed within a 2-hour period, and result in a BAC level of 0.08 or higher.
This behavior is very common in the United States, specifically among college students and young adults.
Any consumption outside of moderate alcohol use is problematic and dangerous. In fact, they can all be described as abuse. It's even possible for alcoholism to result if these drinking behaviors continue long enough.
The Definition of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse is defined as the misuse of this substance without an addiction present. Someone who abuses it might not feel compelled to drink. They also might not go through withdrawal when they stop drinking. Abusers tend to drink for fun, and they drink in excess.
Some examples of alcohol abuse include:
- Only consuming it excessively one time per week
- Underage drinking
- Using heavily only on weekends
- Mixing it with medications or illicit drugs
- Drinking when you shouldn't because of a medical condition
What is the Meaning of Alcoholism?
Alcoholism refers to the disease of addiction. Sometimes it may be called having an alcohol use disorder. Someone who suffers from alcoholism is called an alcoholic.
Alcoholism is characterized by several features. These include:
- Having cravings for this dangerous drug
- Feeling a strong and regular need to drink
- Experiencing the loss of control when drinking, and being unable to stop
- Having withdrawal when not consuming it
- Becoming tolerant, and needing more to drink to get the same effects
Alcoholism Facts and Statistics in the United States
Alcoholism is a very serious problem in our country.
The NIAAA tells us that:
- In 2015, more than 86% of people over the age of 18 have had at least one alcoholic drink.
- More than 70% of these individuals said that they consumed it in the last year.
- 56% of them stated that they had drank within the last month.
- Almost 27% of people 18 and older said that they had binged within the last month.
- 7% of them reported heavy use within the last month.
- More than 15 million adults had an alcohol use disorder in 2015.
- Of this group, 9.8 million were men, and 5.3 million were women.
- Not even 7% of these individuals had gotten any type of treatment.
- Close to 625,000 adolescents had an alcohol use disorder in 2015 as well.
- Only 5.2% of them received treatment for alcoholism.
What are the Side Effects of Drinking Heavy?
Drinking heavy does have side effects, even if you're not an alcoholic. These side effects are varied, and they touch all aspects of your life.
The Mental and Emotional Effects of Alcohol
Consuming too much alcohol has many negative effects on the brain. This is a depressant drug. This means that it can affect how you think, feel and behave. It can even impact your mental health long-term.
Drinking heavily may result in:
- Aggressive and even violent behavior
- Bouts of anger
- Abrupt mood swings
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Symptoms of depression
The Social Effects of Alcohol Use
The social effects of alcohol use should not be ignored. The impact on relationships, families and within society in general is tremendous.
Some of the common social effects of alcohol use include:
- Being a victim of alcohol-related physical or sexual abuse
- The risk of divorce
- The risk of alcoholism in children
- The breakdown of important friendships
- An increase in drunk driving accidents
The Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Misuse
Most people drink because of the positive effects of alcohol. It helps them loosen up and feel relaxed. However, there are some negative short-term effects too. These can include:
- Decreased coordination
- Becoming unconscious
- Having trouble breathing
- Problems with hearing and vision
- Diarrhea and an upset stomach
- Blackouts or memory lapses
The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body
The longer someone drinks, the more devastating it is. Heavy consumption should not be done long-term. When it is, it can result in:
- The risk of alcohol poisoning
- Permanent brain damage
- Ulcers in the stomach
- The risk of cancer in the throat and/or mouth
How to Stop Drinking Heavy Successfully
People who drink heavily should seriously consider stopping. However, it's not always easy to quit using alcohol. Here at The Evergreen at NorthPoint, we deal with this challenge all the time.
It might be tempting for you to just quit drinking. However, this could cause problems for you as well. If your heavy drinking has progressed to alcoholism, you may go through withdrawal. Symptoms like delirium tremens can be fatal if they aren't treated promptly and correctly.
What's more, consuming heavily has taken a big toll on you, both physically and mentally. It helps to have the support of others while you go through this trying time. Talking with a counselor and working in a group setting can be so beneficial to recovering alcoholics and heavy drinkers.
The best option is for you to get professional help. We can assist you with that through our IOP program. Intensive outpatient treatment offers you so many benefits that other programs don't. You can get the help you need on your schedule, without having to go inpatient.