Alcohol consumption is woven into the fabric of so many of our day-to-day social interactions. We celebrate good news with a champagne toast and let loose at the end of a stressful week with a few happy hour cocktails. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the average American drinks at least one alcoholic beverage per day.
With daily drinking being such a common occurrence, it can be easy to dismiss the warning signs of alcohol addiction, especially if you otherwise seem to "have it all together." But even responsible, productive people struggle with drinking problems and, left untreated, alcohol abuse can lead to chronic, long-term health conditions and major difficulties in every aspect of your life.
Defining a Drink
To understand whether your drinking patterns are potentially problematic, it can help to know what the definition of a standard drink is. According to the NIAA, a standard drink contains around .6 ounces (or 14 grams) of pure alcohol, and can be found in any of the following drinks:
- 5 ounces of table wine
- 2-3 ounces of fortified wine (such as sherry or port)
- 1.5 ounces of spirits (such as vodka or whiskey)
- 8-9 ounces of malt liquor
- 12 ounces of regular beer
Alcohol content for individual drinks may vary, depending on the manufacturer or variety. Therefore, it's always best to check the label to determine the exact percentage of pure alcohol (also known as the alcohol by volume) in your drink. It's also important to recognize that these serving sizes are generally smaller than drinks served in restaurants or sold in containers; for example, a pint of regular beer is actually one-and-a-third standard servings.
How much alcohol is too much alcohol?
With these measurements in mind, it's possible to drink every day and still be considered low-risk for developing an alcohol addiction. The NIAA defines a low-risk drinking pattern as:
- For men: No more than 4 drinks on any day, and no more than 14 drinks in any week.
- For women: No more than 3 drinks on any day, and no more than 7 drinks in any week.
Anyone who exceeds these limits is considered a "heavy drinker," and therefore at risk of alcoholism. In fact, half of all people who have two heavy drinking days per week have been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.
Consuming alcohol in a low-risk drinking pattern doesn't mean you're completely free of risk, though. You may still have a problem with alcohol if you find yourself drinking too quickly, if you're on medication or dealing with a health issue, or if you're under 21 or over 65.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism
If you're unsure whether your drinking habits are problematic, here are a few warning signs that you may be at risk of alcohol addiction:
You find yourself drinking larger quantities of alcohol than you used to.
- In social situations, you usually drink more than your friends or acquaintances.
- You have cravings for alcohol and feel you need to drink to be comfortable.
- When you're feeling unhappy or angry, you drink to escape the bad feelings.
- You've blacked out.
- You drink alone.
- You've missed work or school because of your drinking.
- Your friends and family members have complained about your drinking.
- You've put yourself in dangerous situations while drinking.
- One or more of your immediate family members is an alcoholic.
- You struggle with mental illness, such as anxiety or depression.
Over time, persistent heavy drinking can cause significant problems. But with comprehensive treatment, the effects of alcohol abuse can be stopped, and possibly even reversed.
Recovery from alcohol addiction begins at Alvarado Parkway Institute.
For over 35 years, Alvarado Parkway Institute has provided alcohol rehabilitation services to patients in the San Diego area, offering both inpatient and outpatient treatment uniquely customized for each individual. With careful detox, intensive therapy, and in-depth counseling sessions, we ensure a safe environment for your recovery, surrounded by supportive staff.
Call us at (619) 485-1432 to find out more about how our alcohol treatment center can help you conquer your addiction.