Many holidays, celebrations, weddings, backyard picnics, and other social events include alcohol. Some people enjoy cold beers at sporting events, and others interact socially over glasses of wine. However, you must monitor your alcohol consumption to ensure that you are not creating a problem. The most common types of problem drinkers are low-risk, high-risk, binge, and high-functioning drinkers.
Low and High-Risk Drinkers
Michigan State University’s Physician’s Office informs its students about drinking: in the article, Thinking About Drinking, they describe a low-risk drinker as a male who drinks no more than four drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week; for females, a low-risk drinker consumes no more than three drinks per day and no more than seven per week. However, the article clearly states that a low risk still entails risk, so the following people should avoid drinking entirely:
- Children and adolescents
- Pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant
- People who plan to drive or operate heavy machinery
- People who are taking medications that interact with alcohol
If you consume more than the limits stated in the article, then you may be a high-risk drinker. What is most problematic about high-risk drinkers is the potential for an alcohol use disorder. For men, one heavy drinking day per month puts one out of every five men at risk for alcohol abuse. More startling is the fact that one heavy drinking day per week increases the percentage with one out of every three men at risk for alcohol abuse; two heavy drinking days per week increases the percentage further by putting one out of every two men at risk for alcohol abuse.
A common setting for binge drinking in college. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the most common form of excessive alcohol use in the US is binge drinking or drinking so much that blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams percent or higher. For men, this concentration typically occurs in about 2 hours after five or more drinks, and four or more for women.
According to the CDC, binge drinking is associated with the following health problems:
- Unintentional injuries (car crashes, falls, burns and drowning)
- Intentional injuries (firearm injuries, sexual assault, and domestic violence)
- Alcohol poisoning
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unintended pregnancy
- High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases
- Liver disease
- Neurological damage
- Sexual dysfunction
- Poor control of diabetes
Even with these serious health risks, the CDC reports that one in six adults binge drinks about four times a month. The center also claims that binge drinking is more common in the 18-34 year age group, but they further notice that adults 65 and older also struggle with binge drinking. Additionally, binge drinking is more common among men, but more than half of alcohol consumed by adults in the US is in the form of binge drinking.
The most difficult drinkers to identify and treat are probably the high-functioning drinkers. Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C., LPC, specializes in alcohol abuse; according to her article, Characteristics of High-Functioning Alcoholics (published in Psychology Today), high-functioning alcoholics defy the stereotypes of a typical alcoholic, so they often go undetected.
The term, high-functioning alcoholic describes alcoholics who hold a job, meet home and family responsibilities and engage in social and community activities. However, throughout all of these events, such alcoholics are drinking. In fact, many high-functioning alcoholics are not only flourishing in their lives, but many have achieved great successes.
Because they are successful in many areas of life, many high-functioning alcoholics strongly deny their problem, which prevents them from seeking the treatment they need. Their denial is often coupled with denial from colleagues and loved ones, thus increasing the strength of the addiction. In addition, high-functioning alcoholics engage the following behaviors:
- Justify their drinking to relieve stress or reward themselves for accomplishments
- Succeed at work
- Maintain romantic relationships
- Crave drinking and are obsessive about it
- Compartmentalize their drinking
While it is often more difficult for high-functioning alcoholics to admit their addictions, it is important that they seek treatment.
If any of these drinking patterns sound familiar to you, then consider getting help. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive and lifelong disease that does not go away without treatment, so seek help as soon as possible to begin recovery.