Am I Drinking Too Much Alcohol?

Drinking too much alcohol causes physical and mental health problems. How do you know if drinking is a problem for you or a loved one?

Frustrated woman drinking alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol causes physical and mental health problems. How do you know if drinking is a problem for you or a loved one?

How Many Drinks a Day is Considered an Alcoholic?

Recognizing when you are drinking too much is the first step in identifying that you need help. According to health experts, moderate drinking is defined as one standard drinking per day for women or two standard drinks per day for men. Examples of a standard drink include:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor or distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, gin, etc.)

Daily consumption of more than this is excessive. It’s also excessive to binge drink alcohol. Binge drinking includes consuming four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men within two hours. Any binge drinking is unhealthy, but doing it five or more days within the last month is considered heavy alcohol use. 

Binging and excessive drinking does not always mean someone has an alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, it increases the risk of developing the disorder and indicates someone’s drinking habits are problematic. Even if he or she is not alcohol dependent or an alcoholic, they could benefit from treatment for alcohol abuse.

Why Do I Drink So Much Alcohol?

There is no definitive reason why some people drink more than others. Everyone has his or her reasons for consuming alcohol. 

The same is true when someone drinks too much alcohol or has alcohol dependence. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) does have a genetic link, but not everyone who misuses alcohol is genetically predisposed to do so. Likewise, not everyone with a genetic risk of AUD develops the disorder.

It also matters how long you’ve been drinking every day. For example, someone who drinks every day for a month might have a drinking problem, but it is far less likely the severity of their issue is as great as someone who has been drinking alcohol every day for 5 years.

Many people drink more in certain situations or certain phases of their life. Circumstantial overdrinking doesn’t mean a person is an alcoholic, but it could indicate he or she needs better coping strategies. Any time someone drinks to the point of an alcoholic blackout it is a sign that something is not right, be it circumstantial or overall in life. 

It helps to examine your motivation for drinking too much and if it’s not a one-time occasion, you might consider treatment.

Some of the most common reasons people drink too much include:

  • Stress relief
  • Relaxation
  • Peer pressure
  • Escape from reality
  • Self-medicating a co-occurring disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Easy access to alcohol

Signs You Are Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Depending on your circumstances, it might be difficult to determine if you are drinking too much alcohol. Aside from the moderate drinking guidelines listed above, you might be drinking too much if you:

  • Have tried to reduce your alcohol intake and failed
  • Been confronted by loved ones about drinking
  • Felt guilt or shame because of your drinking
  • Struggled with relationships or in school or at work because of drinking
  • Had to drink first thing in the morning to offset nervousness or get over a hangover

There are several assessments available to help you determine if you drink too much. These include:

  • CAGE (Includes the scenarios listed above and qualifies you as an excessive drinker if two or more apply to you)
  • MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test)
  • AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test)

Self-assessments help determine if you should be concerned about your alcohol consumption. However, they are not a final diagnosis. 

You should speak to a medical professional about your drinking habits if you believe you have a problem.

What Happens When You Drink Everyday?

Possibly nothing. For example, some people have a small glass of wine every day for its health benefits. However, anything beyond a minimum daily intake of alcohol could put you at risk.

People who drink more than a serving of alcohol per day might experience alcohol withdrawal if they stop drinking. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to potentially fatal and include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Delirium tremens

Symptoms last just a few hours or for several weeks. The severity of symptoms depends on how long you drink every day. Essentially, the longer and more you drink, the greater the likelihood of intense withdrawal symptoms.

Additionally, daily overconsumption of alcohol damages your body, especially your liver, kidneys, and brain. Younger people who drink everyday experience developmental issues. Drinking every day also interferes with work and school performance, as well as personal relationships.

Risks of Excessive Alcohol Consumption 

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption causes both short-term and long-term risks, including:

  • Increased likelihood of physical injuries from falls, burns, drownings
  • Increased likelihood of being a victim of violence, including sexual assault
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Greater likelihood of participating in risky sexual behavior
  • High blood pressure
  • Live disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease and heart attack
  • Digestive problems
  • Certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, liver cancer, and cancer of the mouth or throat
  • Weakened immunity
  • Mental health problems
  • Memory problems
  • Social problems
  • Greater likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Binge drinkers have less of a risk of long-term health effects, as long as they do not binge for many years. However, the risk of short-term effects is extremely high.

Finding Help For Alcohol Addiction

Help is available to help people with an alcohol addiction or those who drink too much but have not yet developed a disorder. Support and treatment options include:

  • Medical detox
  • Inpatient addiction treatment programs
  • Medication-assisted treatment, including disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate
  • Support groups, including 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Find Help For Your Addiction

You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.

CALL NOW

(855) 772-9047

Resources

“CDC - Fact Sheets-Alcohol Use And Health - Alcohol.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm.

“CAGE-AID Questionnaire - Substance Use Screening - National HIV Curriculum.” Www.Hiv.Uw.Edu, www.hiv.uw.edu/page/substance-use/cage-aid.

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Updated on: January 4, 2021
Author
Kelly Jamrozy
About
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Medically Reviewed
Annamarie
Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
About
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