How Much Drinking is Too Much? How to Spot an Alcohol Problem

How Much Drinking is Too Much? How to Spot an Alcohol Problem

Many people in America drink alcohol from time to time. Research shows that over half of the population reported drinking alcohol in the previous month.[1] People drink to celebrate special occasions, unwind after a long day, and socialize with friends and family members.

While many people have a healthy relationship with alcohol, some develop unhealthy drinking patterns that can lead to short and long-term problems. People who regularly consume alcohol excessively are more likely to develop certain forms of cancer and other chronic health conditions, struggle with the symptoms of a mental illness, or face life-altering legal and financial trouble.[2]

The National Institute of Health found that just over a quarter of adults in the United States reported binge drinking in the last month, and 6% admitted to heavy drinking during the same period.[1]

People have many opportunities to drink alcohol in their daily lives–at barbecues, parties, weddings, happy hours, and at home. When alcohol is so readily available, some people may struggle to avoid drinking too much from time to time.

But how much drinking is too much? Understanding the guidelines for healthy drinking and learning to identify problematic drinking habits may help you keep your drinking in check–or help you realize that you need to go to rehab.

For more information about how to tell if you’re drinking too much or to learn more about our treatment programs, reach out to the Arise Treatment Center staff today.

How Much Drinking is Too Much?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that people can drink alcohol in moderation without risk to their well-being. For men, moderate drinking is defined as having two drinks or fewer per day, while women can have one.

An alcoholic drink is defined as:[2]

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, such as vodka, gin, or rum
  • 5 ounces of wine

Binge and heavy drinking are examples of excessive drinking that can lead to alcohol dependence and other serious consequences.

Binge Drinking vs. Heavy Drinking

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is a pattern of excessive drinking that often results in a person having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more. The CDC defines a binge as having four or more drinks during a single occasion for women and five or more for men.[3] When people consume large amounts of alcohol in a short period, they are likely to become intoxicated. This may increase a person’s risk of being involved in an accident or engaging in risky behaviors, including driving while intoxicated.

About one in six adults in the US report binge drinking. Of those who binge drink, about 25% report binge drinking on a weekly basis.

What is Heavy Drinking?

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming more alcohol than the CDC recommends in the span of a week. For women, heavy drinking means having more than eight alcoholic drinks weekly. For men, it is defined as having 15 or more alcoholic drinks.

How to Tell if You’re Drinking Too Much

Drinking excessively can change your appearance and behavior. Some of the signs you’re drinking too much and may need treatment include:

  • Drinking more than planned
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect (tolerance)
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences
  • Changes in mood, sleep, or appetite
  • Falling behind at work, school, or in responsibilities at home
  • Legal or financial difficulties
  • Lying, being secretive, or hiding their drinking
  • Developing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

Drinking too much alcohol can harm your short and long-term health and wellbeing. First, alcohol abuse may lead to immediate harm from accidents, injuries, or fights that happen because you are intoxicated. Alcohol suppresses activity in your central nervous system (CNS), and drinking too much can lead to slow or shallow breathing, loss of consciousness, or coma.

A prolonged period of excessive or heavy drinking can impact your long-term health, too. Drinking too much may increase your likelihood of developing heart or liver disease, brain damage, and some cancers.

It is important to be aware of the signs of excessive drinking and get the help you need as soon as possible.

How to Keep Track of Your Drinking

If you are concerned that you are drinking too much, you can take steps to determine how much you actually consume during the week. Make a note of every drink you have during the week. Be honest, and remember the CDC’s guidelines for what counts as a drink. For example, the 16-ounce pint of beer served in a bar counts for more than one alcoholic drink. Mixed drinks may contain several ounces of spirits.

Talk to a medical professional or addiction specialist if you realize you are drinking more than recommended. You may require substance abuse treatment to help you achieve a safe, complete alcohol detox and learn the skills to live a healthy, sober lifestyle.

Get Help for Alcoholism Now

Our alcohol rehab center in Vista, California offers comprehensive individualized alcohol treatment programs that help you properly treat and heal from addiction. Our treatment program for alcohol addiction provides a safe, peaceful and structured environment where you can focus on long-term sobriety.

If you or someone you love require substance abuse treatment or support during recovery, reach out to the Arise Treatment Center specialists today.