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Am I Drinking Too Much? Identifying Heavy Drinking

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.
Clinically Reviewed By: Karen Williams, LPC
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

If you’re asking yourself, “am I drinking too much?”, then this article is for you. 

Here we explain all you need to know about excessive drinking, Alcohol Use Disorder, and what taking action and getting help looks like.

Searching for help with drug and/or alcohol addiction? Call us now at (888) 201-4610.

Contents

What is Heavy Drinking?

Heavy drinking is defined as excessive and/or binge drinking that can lead to serious health risks and other consequences. Heavy drinking involves consuming large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time, usually five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, within two hours. It can also involve consuming large amounts of alcohol over an extended period.

What is binge drinking?

One type of heavy drinking behavior is binge drinking. Binge drinkers consume a large quantity of alcohol quickly to become intoxicated (five or more drinks in two hours). In 2019, 25.8%1 of adults aged 18 and up reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month. This form of heavy drinking has been linked to numerous adverse effects. These adverse effects include an increased risk for medical problems such as liver damage, heart disease, stroke, and depression; increased risk for physical injury due to impaired motor skills; higher rates of sexual assault and violence; negative academic performance; and greater likelihood of developing addictions.

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What is chronic drinking? 

Another type of heavy drinking is chronic alcoholic intake which occurs when people consistently drink heavily over an extended period.

Chronic alcoholism can have even worse consequences than binge drinking because it often leads to tolerance levels rising so high that the individual needs larger amounts to get drunk – risking even greater harm from the physical effects associated with long-term exposure to high levels of alcohol consumption on the body’s organs, such as the liver.

Chronic heavy drinking also increases one’s risk of developing psychological issues, including depression and anxiety, as well as social problems related to job loss and relationship difficulties.

Why heavy drinking is a problem

Heavy drinking is a serious problem and can have long-term consequences for both physical and mental well-being.

It is important to recognize when your own or someone else’s drinking has become problematic and to take steps to address it before any further damage occurs.

If you’re concerned that someone you know is heavy drinking, it is important to talk about the behavior openly with them and offer to get them professional help.

Signs You're Drinking Too much

1. You drink more than the recommended limits of alcohol (4-5 drinks for men and 3-4 for women) in a single sitting.

2. You drink alone or in secret

3. Your drinking begins to affect your relationships with family, friends, or co-workers

4. You make excuses to drink or hide your drinking habits from others

5. You have increased tolerance levels – meaning you need larger amounts of alcohol to get drunk as opposed to before

6. You experience blackouts when you’ve been drinking heavily

7. You no longer enjoy things that used to give you pleasure while sober

8. You have difficulty functioning without alcohol

9. Your physical health is deteriorating due to heavy drinking

10. You find yourself unable to stop drinking despite your best efforts.

I think I'm Drinking Too Much, What Can I Do?

1. Talk to someone you trust about your drinking and how it has been affecting your life.


2. Make a plan to reduce or stop drinking entirely, such as setting limits for yourself on the number of drinks per day/week, avoiding certain situations where you know alcohol will be present, or finding new activities that don’t involve drinking.


3. Seek professional help from a doctor if needed in order to get an evaluation and receive treatment options such as counseling, therapy or medications that can help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with heavy drinking.


4. Participate in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which provide additional assistance through peer support from others who are also dealing with similar issues related to alcohol abuse/addiction.


5. Avoid risky behaviors while under the influence of alcohol – this includes driving while impaired or engaging in any other dangerous activity that could put your safety at risk due to reduced motor skills caused by intoxication.

Should I go to rehab if I’m drinking too much?

The decision to go to rehab for heavy drinking should be made individually. If you are unable to reduce or stop your alcohol consumption despite your best efforts, then it may be beneficial to seek professional help and consider attending a rehabilitation program. Rehab programs can provide intensive counseling and therapy to address the underlying causes of excessive drinking and offer guidance in developing healthy coping strategies that do not involve using alcohol as a crutch. Some rehab facilities also offer medical treatments such as medications that can help with cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse prevention. It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting treatment for heavy drinking. However, seeking professional help from an experienced counselor or therapist can provide invaluable insight. These insights will help you make better decisions and lead a healthier life.

Why am I not able to drink moderately?

You may have a higher risk for developing an alcohol use disorder or AUD, which means that your body cannot process and metabolize alcohol in the same way as those who can drink moderately. Additionally, it could be related to other underlying issues such as genetics2, mental health disorders like depression or anxiety, traumatic life events, peer pressure, or social influences. If you cannot moderate your drinking and think that this might be the case for you, then it is important to talk with a doctor or therapist about these potential causes so that they can guide how best to manage them. In some cases, certain medications may also help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with heavy drinking.

Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over 14 million adults1 in the United States suffer from an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, it is estimated that 140,0003 people die every year as a result of excessive drinking.

Excessive drinking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Furthermore, 1 in 8 children aged 12-17 report being exposed to secondary effects such as violence or neglect due to someone else’s drinking habits.

There are also gender differences in drinking; women tend to develop AUD at lower levels of consumption than men, and they experience more physical health consequences related to heavy drinking than their male counterparts.

These are just some of the many alcohol abuse statistics in the United States, and it is important to recognize these risks so that we can work together to reduce them.

[1] Alcohol Facts & Statistics

[2] Genetics & Alcohol Use Disorder

[3] CDC Alcohol Fact Sheet

Published: 12/5/2022

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Author: Susana Spiegel

Author: Susana Spiegel

Susana is a recovery, mental health, and addiction education enthusiast with other 7 years of experience in addiction recovery herself. Susana holds a Bachelor of Arts from GCU. She is anti-addiction stigma and believes that accurate and factual information is essential to beginning the recovery process.

Clinical Reviewer: Karen Williams, LPC

Clinical Reviewer: Karen Williams, LPC

Karen is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 15 years experience. She not only specializes in addiction, but is in recovery as well. Karen is our clinical director.

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