Simply defined, alcohol abuse is the habitual misuse of alcohol. This substance affects people in different ways. While some can enjoy a glass of wine in a social setting without any problems, others can’t.
When you drink alcohol too much or too often you may have a problem. According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020” set out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture this begins with more than one drink for women or two drinks for men. If you find yourself in this “category,” you may suffer from alcohol abuse or alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependency – medical professionals use two terms interchangeably but these have marked differences.
People who abuse alcohol occasionally drink too much. This results in poor judgment and risky behavior. However, you’re not dependent on alcohol. On the other hand, if you’re an alcoholic these things become a daily reality because you can’t get through a day without drinking.
Drinking Levels and Alcohol Abuse
There are various levels of alcohol abuse. These include:
- Binge drinking: the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says this occurs when a woman drinks four or more alcoholic beverages or a man drinks 5 or more alcoholic beverages in a two-hour period on at least one day throughout a month-long period
- Heavy alcohol: the SAMHSA defines this as binge drinking on 5 or more days throughout the period of a month
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines low-risk drinking in women as only drinking three alcoholic beverages a day or only 7 alcoholic beverages per week and in men as drinking no more than four alcoholic beverages a day or only 14 alcoholic beverages per week
Knowing if You’re Suffering From Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse becomes a diagnosable condition when it:
- Impacts your relationships
- Causes harm or injury
- Has a negative effect on your life’s quality
This is why diagnosing alcohol abuse is subjective. If you’re concerned about a family member or friend who you feel is abusing alcohol, it’s sometimes difficult to convince them of their problem. Doctors also ask about drinking habits when getting your health history. When they feel your behavior is worrisome they’ll run blood tests to check for those areas that alcohol has the biggest impact on – your brain, heart, liver, and central nervous system.