When Does Drinking Alcohol Become a Problem

When Does Drinking Alcohol Become a Problem

When does drinking alcohol become a problem vs a night of fun or a complement to a lovely meal with friends? What can a person do to keep from crossing the line from “safely” drinking alcohol to abusing alcohol or developing alcoholism? Is there such a line – isn’t drinking either normal or alcoholic?

You have likely heard one or more of the following statements:

  • Drinking coffee sobers a person up.
  • Alcoholism is not a disease. Cancer is a disease. Alcoholism is a choice – put down the bottle!
  • Letting your teen drink at home teaches them how to drink safely.
  • An employee’s alcohol use is none of a company’s business.
  • “Forgetting” what happened while drinking is just a convenient way of pretending you don’t remember the horrible things you did last night.
  • An alcoholic has to hit bottom.

Thankfully, the latest brain and addiction-related research and science discoveries are debunking the common myths about drinking alcohol. For it is in believing these myths that a person’s drinking can cross the line from alcohol use to abuse to alcoholism [aka dependence].

About This “Line?”

It represents the three stages of drinking briefly described below:

  • Alcohol Use = “low-risk” or moderate drinking – defined as no more than 7 standard drinks per week, with no more than 3 of those 7 on any one day for women; and no more than 14 standard drinks per week, with no more than 4 of those 14 on any one day for men. A standard drink is defined as 5 ounces of table wine, 12 ounces of regular beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor.
  • Alcohol Abuse = repeated binge drinking and/or routine heavy social drinking – heavy social drinking defined as drinking more than one standard drink/day for women or 2 standard drinks/day for men; repeated binge drinking defined as repeatedly drinking 4 or more standard drinks on an occasion for women and 5 or more for men.
  • Alcohol Dependence = alcoholism, one of the brain diseases of addiction – defined as a chronic, often relapsing brain disease.
When does drinking alcohol become a problem?

When does drinking alcohol become a problem?

What Does it Take to Cross the Line from Drinking Alcohol to Developing a Problem – Either Alcohol Abuse or Alcoholism?

Most people are unaware there is a line comprised of these three stages of drinking, believing instead that drinking is either “normal” or “alcoholic.” Most people are unaware there are increments along the line itself, that 35% of American adults never drink alcohol, or that 37% of American adults always drink within “low-risk” drinking limits. (NIAAA “Rethinking Drinking”) Thus examining and challenging the common myths from a scientific perspective – based primarily on 21st century brain and addiction-related research – can help readers recognize what it takes to cross the line from alcohol use to abuse to dependence and what it takes to stop the progression.

As for the research itself…

Much of the breakthrough research being presented is the result of two very important decades: the Decade of the Brain – the 1990s – and the Decade of Discovery – the 2000s. Much of it is the result of new imaging technologies that allow neuroscientists and medical professionals to study the live human brain in action and over time.

It is being conducted and reported by numerous national and international agencies and organizations, such as the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency), the Partnership at DrugFree.org, the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), the American Academy of Pediatrics, ASAM [The American Society of Addiction Medicine] and the WHO (World Health Organization), to name a few.

To Better Understand This Line and What It Takes to Cross

I suggest you order my eBook, Crossing The Line From Alcohol Use to Abuse to Dependence. This is not about selling eBooks (it’s only $3.99, by the way). It’s about debunking the common myths or other common misperceptions, such as those listed in the opening.  For it is these myths that cause a person to drink more than their brains and bodies can process and thereby cross the line.

In this short, 80-page eBook, readers will find the latest brain and addiction-related research and science discoveries written for the general public that debunk the common myths about drinking alcohol. Examining and challenging these common myths from a scientific perspective can help readers recognize what it takes to cross the line and what it takes to stop the progression.

Some of the myths:
Myth 2: A Drink is A Drink
Myth 3: Throwing up, drinking coffee, taking a cold shower or walking around the block will sober a person up.
Myth 4: Eating a big meal absorbs the alcohol and drinking lots of water dilutes it so a person can drink more and not get drunk.
Myth 5: Some people can just hold their liquor better than others
Myth 6: The best thing to do for a drunk friend is to let them sleep it off.
Myth 7: People who get DUIs (DWIs) had to know they were too drunk to drive.
Myth 12: Teens are too young to be alcoholics, and besides, all teens drink at some point.
Myth 17: If an alcoholic relapses, it’s their fault. They just didn’t want it badly enough.
Myth 18: Family members and friends may worry about a loved one but once the drinking stops, they’ll be fine.

A few of the appendices:
Appendix A: Key Reasons a Person’s Drinking Crosses The Line From Alcohol Use to Abuse to Dependence (Alcoholism)
Appendix B: Neural Networks and Brain Development Explained
Appendix C: How Alcohol Hijacks the Brain; the Brain Disease of Alcoholism
Appendix E: Health Consequences of Secondhand Drinking (SHD)

To Order Information Resource

Whether any of the above myths sound familiar or you’ve questioned any number of the other common presumptions about drinking alcohol, this eBook is for you. It can be used by parents, students, people worried about their drinking, clinicians, policy makers, law enforcement officials, doctors, veterans, domestic violence professionals, social workers, family law attorneys, medical school students, family members, business leaders and treatment center providers – the list is endless.

Kindle version,  http://tiny.cc/d8jccw

Nook version, http://tiny.cc/755okw

There are also reading apps you can download to allow you to read these eBook versions on any device (laptop, cell phone, tablet).

Kindle reading app – free download

Nook reading app – must be a B & N member to download

Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Author | Speaker | Consultant | Founder at BreakingTheCycles.com
Lisa is the author of hundreds of articles and 11 books, including "If You Loved Me, You'd Stop!," "Addiction Recovery: What Helps, What Doesn't," and "Secondhand Drinking: the Phenomenon That Affects Millions." She is a national keynote speaker with over 25 years speaking experience, consultant, and founder of BreakingTheCycles.com. She has spent more than 14 years studying 21st century brain research in order to write, speak, and consult on substance use disorders prevention, intervention and treatment; mental disorders; addiction (aka substance use disorders) as a brain disease; adolescent addiction treatment vs adult addiction treatment; effective treatment for co-occurring disorders (having both a substance use and mental disorder); secondhand drinking | drugging; help for the family; and related subjects. In 2015, she founded SHD Prevention, providing training and consulting to companies, public agencies, unions, nonprofits and other entities to address the workplace impacts of employee secondhand drinking and alcohol misuse.
Lisa Frederiksen

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29 Responses to When Does Drinking Alcohol Become a Problem

  1. Great article, Lisa. I’m sure your e-book will definitely help many. Bless you for all you do.

  2. Gina says:

    Thanks for posting, people often ask me how to determine if their use is a “problem.” Part of me thinks that if you have to ask that question, it’s a good indicator things are out of alignment for you!

  3. Thank you Lisa, for this information about alcohol addiction. As a former critical care nurse, I saw the the most challenging affects of alcohol addiction. I saw how these loving individuals left this physical plane, without a single family member at their bedside. Nurses everywhere care for these people in a way that transcends the average. God bless you Lisa, for your work. You are helping many rather than the few.

  4. Sherie says:

    Lisa, your book looks like such a valuable resource for debunking myths about alcohol use and misuse. Bravo!

  5. This is important information for families who are struggling to know if a loved one or friend has become dependent on alcohol.

  6. Anita says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight. I got a chuckle out of the myths…I have used them before when I was addicted…Its amazing how we can kid ourselves into thinking and believing these things.

  7. Tom H says:

    Thanks for leaving some of the guidelines around use, abuse and dependence. This is a helpful tool when chatting with the teenagers we work with.

  8. Very interesting article and I will pin your book to my pinterest site if you will send it to me.

  9. Lisa these are a great list of standards and I doubt most people are aware of how often they cross the line and what the standards are. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and awareness with us and helping educate the public about alcohol.

  10. Great article about debunking the myths about alcohol abuse. Your ebook sounds like a great tool to help with this issue.:)

  11. Thanks for sharing your wisdom here and debunking myths that I’ve used in the past also! I appreciate your work on raising awareness – it’s important to recognize what really is going on behind the *stories* people tell inwardly and outwardly.

    • I used many myself, Moira – which is what happens to those on the receiving end of the drinking behaviors. When you don’t understand, you believe it was because they hadn’t eaten, for example, and go along with the excuse. I appreciate you commenting – thank you!

  12. Pat Moon says:

    It is so important to understand the myths that go along with drinking alcohol.. thank you for informing.

  13. Hi Lisa,

    Great information here as always. There are so many myths about drinking and your book is such a gift and so needed to get the facts out about when people cross the line with their drinking. Your book is a wonderful resource for everyone, especially those families with teens.

    • Thanks, Cathy! As a Recovery Coach for parents of children with substance abuse | addiction, yourself, getting your feedback of its use as a resource for families with teens is wonderful!

  14. Sharon O'Day says:

    “Outing” the myths and bringing clarity to the line of demarcation offer such valuable information, Lisa. These forms of addiction have probably suffered more than any other in terms of misinformation … probably because there is a “socially acceptable” component to them at one stage. Thanks for the great work!

    • You’re absolutely right, Sharon, “These forms of addiction have probably suffered more than any other in terms of misinformation … probably because there is a “socially acceptable” component to them at one stage.” Thanks so much for your comment!

  15. Thank you for clearing up some of the myths of alcoholic drinking Lisa. It’s only by having the facts that an individual (or their families) can establish the nature of their drink problem and seek the appropriate help.

    • You’re welcome. I agree – now that we know and have the numbers of standard drinks considered “normal” or “moderate,” hopefully people can make better decisions about their drinking patterns. Thanks for the comment, Carolyn!

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