A Culture of Drinking
For many people having a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail seems like a natural, or even necessary, accompaniment to dinner, a sporting event, or hanging out with friends. Clips, images, commercials, movies and ads routinely and continuously depict alcohol in social situations paired with images of comradery, fun, and happiness. Unfortunately, these same media forums often depict alcohol as a tool for relaxing, coping, and managing life’s hardships. Alcohol is so deeply imbedded and ingrained in our society and culture that it is not likely to go away anytime soon. What each of us can do is look beyond the glamorized and sensationalism of alcohol and gain a better understanding of the risks and danger that alcohol poses to a great many people.
Levels of Alcohol Use
Broadly speaking there are four levels, or degrees, of alcohol use.
- Abstainers – At the bottom the ladder are those people who do not drink at all which can occur for any number of reasons such as religion, lack of interest, cost, medical reasons, or known risks for addiction.
- Social Users – These are people who drink for the taste rather than the effect. Examples may include having a glass of wine with dinner or an Amaretto for dessert. These folk can set down their drink and completely forget about it getting swept up in the activity of conversation.
- Abusive Drinking – These are people who drink for the effects of alcohol. They enjoy getting tipsy, buzzed, or all out intoxicated. Many people do this consciously and intentionally whether it’s a wedding, birthday celebration, fourth of July, or a bachelor party. Most people have done this from time to time, but they do not do it very often, maybe a handful of times per year. Others are doing this with a fair degree of regularity and frequency. It is estimated that 10% of Americans are regular abusers and at high risk for developing a problem.
- Addiction/Alcoholism – The highest level is those who have developed a problem and cannot stop drinking. They have lost control and alcohol is taking over their lives and creating consequences. It is estimated that 10% of Americans fall into this category.
When Abuse Turns into Dependence
There is a gray line between abuse and dependence. Some of the red flags that differentiate abuse and dependence are noted here. One thing to note is that often with dependence there is an escalating pattern of quantity and frequency over time. Symptoms of dependence can include routinely drinking more than intended; attempts (especially failed attempts) to cut down, control, or quit; spending a lot of time recovering from its effects (hangovers); cravings to drink; negative impact on work, school, legally, financially, or home life; increasing tolerance (needing more to get to the same buzz); withdrawal symptoms such as shakes, sweats, or chills; drinking despite medical conditions that make it contraindicated (Diabetes, Depression, etc.); or a negative impact on relationship (people annoyed or criticizing your use). Generally, two or more of these symptoms in the course of a year merits a diagnosis of dependency.
Another broad guideline to be mindful of relates to frequency and quantity. Experts generally say that for men having more than 4 drinks in one sitting, or more than 14 drinks per week, is indicative of a problem. For women, having more than 3 drinks in one sitting, or more than 7 drinks weekly is indicative of a problem. This barometer of frequency and quantity in conjunction with the symptoms noted above is usually how professionals differentiate when someone has gone from abusing alcohol to being dependent on it.
Maple Grove Psychiatrists
If you are unsure or concerned about your drinking, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an individual consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
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