Are You Drinking Too Much?

It’s hard to avoid alcohol in Western culture. In Europe, the United States, and Canada, alcohol seems to be everywhere. It’s a go-to for first dates, second dates, and anniversary celebrations. It’s an after-work staple, too. Even at academic conferences, scholars reportedly find it hard to make connections without booze. What a world!

So, naturally, most people partake. Roughly 80 percent of Canadians say that they drink alcohol at least occasionally. The numbers are a bit lower in America, but at least two-thirds of all American adults drink, and recent studies have put the number as high as 70 percent. And, in both countries, there are far too many drinkers who drink too much.

Consider this: Studies have found that 40 percent of Americans drink too much. Recall that only somewhere between 66 percent and 70 percent of Americans drink at all, and you’ll quickly see the alarming truth: Most people who drink do so more than is healthy.

Are you one of these people? If you are, you need to find out — and you need to do something about it.

How much is too much?

There are a few different ways of identifying a drinking problem. The first and most comprehensive is to ask a simple question: Is alcohol negatively impacting your life? If you find yourself coming into work hung over (or coming in late because of hangovers — or missing work entirely), that’s a sign that you likely have a problem. If alcohol is hurting your relationships, that’s bad news, too. If alcohol keeps you from enjoying things you used to or has replaced other hobbies, that’s a huge warning sign.

Then there’s a simpler method: You can just count your drinks. If you’re drinking enough to get your blood alcohol level to 0.08 (the legal limit for driving in most places), then you’re bringe drinking, experts say. Getting there takes about four drinks for women and five for men (in two hours). If you’re drinking more than one or two drinks per night or more than five to seven per week, most experts will agree that your total drinking is a problem, even if your individual sessions are not “binge” sessions (though it’s worse if they are).

If you’re running afoul of either of these two standards, you most likely have a drinking problem.

Drinking problems and addiction

Let’s say that you drink more than is healthy. Does this mean that you are an alcoholic?

Maybe, maybe not — but, experts say, you need to take the issue seriously either way.

Alcoholism is usually defined as being a dependence on alcohol. That dependence usually has a physical component, which means that alcoholics go through withdrawal symptoms when they quit. There’s also, of course, a psychological component. Alcohol abuse is common in part because alcohol is so readily available and so tied into our social institutions. And alcohol can numb the mind and body, make it appealing on a psychological level to those who are suffering.

All of this is a bit academic, though. Even if you think you could “quit anytime you want to” (and even if you’re right, despite denial being a major part of addiction), the fact of the matter is that excessive alcohol consumption is incredibly dangerous. In one way of looking at things, you could say that alcoholism is only unhealthy insofar as if triggers large amounts of drinking. If you’re drinking a lot, you may not be an alcoholic — but, as far as your health is concerned, you might as well be.

Getting help

So you have a drinking problem: Now what?

Now, say experts at a Toronto alcohol rehab, you need to seek help. No matter how strong or determined you may be, alcohol abuse is not something you are likely to overcome alone. If you have a true addiction, you will need the help of mental health professionals, rehab facilities, and/or peer support groups to sober up and start living a life free of alcohol.

If your drinking is relatively moderate, you could start by trying to quit on your own. But if you have a more severe issue or you have tried to quit on your own and failed, then you owe it to yourself to get help. Sobriety is a lifelong journey, but it’s not one that you have to make alone.