Concerned about your alcohol consumption? Confused as to whether you are drinking too much? You’ve come to the right place.
Alcohol abuse is the most common type of substance abuse worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are 3 million deaths per year resulting from alcohol misuse. Despite this, there is still a stigma around alcohol use disorder.
In this article, we’ll explore what a unit of alcohol is, how much alcohol is too much , how alcohol impacts your life, what is considered potentially harmful drinking, how to access your drinking pattern, and how to get help when it is a concern and when it makes sense to go to rehab. Plus steps that you can take to help yourself or a loved one escape alcohol addiction.
Many people who come to Serenity Vista say that they wish that they had come earlier. Making the decision to get help sooner rather than later, is a key step to making a full recovery. Alcohol can seriously damage the brain and liver. But often much more insidiously, it also steals your life.
How Alcohol Steals Your Life
There are many ways that alcohol robs you of months or years. The body loves alcohol; it feels as though it gives you energy. It’s a good idea to think of this energy as stealing energy from the future you. Alcohol can take over your life slowly, without you even knowing it.
While playing in the park with your child or grandchild your body can feel heavy and “hanxiety” (hangover plus anxiety) can take over your mind. This hung-over feeling can make it impossible to enjoy those precious moments. You or your grandchild in this case can’t get those moments back, so it’s sad to the whole family to not be able to enjoy them.
The rest of the day may be propelled by the thought of drinking in the evening. This leaves you unable to live in the moment. Life simply rushes by, which can make a person who is addicted to alcohol feel worthless and out of control.
If your drinking goes too far, then permanent damage to the body can begin to happen. This is represented in the external world as damage to your relationships, family, home, job or finances. Not to mention the 10,497+ people per year who die due to alcohol-impaired driving in the United States. Did you know that 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the US are due to alcohol?
How Much Alcohol?
It can be hard to keep track of how much you are drinking, especially if you go out a lot. It’s easy to have just one more and not register that you have had way too much. Often tolerance develops with the amount of alcohol gradually increasing with increasing consumption. The realization that drinking too much has become a problem may be obscured. With continued consumption, harm to self and loved ones is inevitable.
Therefore, it’s important to not let your drinking get to the point that it’s damaging your life. Health guidelines advise to make sure that you are not drinking more than 14 units in a week if you are a man, and 7 units per week if you are a woman. Also, these units should be spread across the week, rather than one binge-drinking episode, which can seriously impact your health. That amounts to 4 or fewer units per day for a man and three or fewer units for a woman.
What is a Unit of Alcohol?
A unit of alcohol will probably be much less than you think. It’s about half a glass of wine, a shot of whiskey, or a quarter of a pint of beer. Here are the measurements of one unit of alcohol by volume and percentage of alcohol:
- Cider (4.5%) – 218ml
- Wine (13%) – 75ml
- Whiskey (40%) – 25ml
- Beer (4%) – 250ml
- Cooler or “Alcopop” (4%) – 275ml
Related: How Alcohol Can Cause Weight Gain
How Much Alcohol Does an Alcoholic Drink?
There’s no alcoholism mold, meaning there is no amount or alcohol or type of alcoholic. Alcohol dependency comes in many shapes and sizes, from the very successful, high functioning, to troubled and criminal.
Some people are oblivious to their alcoholic tendencies, chalking it down to being a “social drinker”. But consuming anything over the suggested 14 units per week is too much.
Many people think that an alcoholic needs to get up in the morning and start drinking. But this simply isn’t the case. Some people who have problems with drink even stop drinking for a few weeks or months to prove to themselves that they are not an alcoholic. The fact remains that if they go back to a habit of drinking a bottle or two of wine a night, then it’s a problem, whether a person realizes it yet or not. Alcoholism is about negative consequences from the use of alcohol regardless of the amount or frequency.
It’s better to think of the term alcohol use disorder, or being alcohol dependent rather than the term “alcoholic”.
Alcohol Use Disorder Categories
Alcohol use can be split into three categories, as follows –
- Low-risk drinking
- High-risk drinking
- Binge drinking
Some people choose (or need) to completely abstain from drinking alcohol. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have liver or heart conditions and those taking specific medications should completely abstain from drinking alcohol. Additionally, people who have a history of alcohol misuse may also choose to avoid alcohol altogether.
Low-risk Drinking is only applicable to fit and healthy adults. Low-risk drinking is when you regularly drink within the set guidelines. According to current US dietary guidelines, If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age. If you regularly exceed these guidelines then you might fit into the high-risk category. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) people who regularly drink heavily increase their risk of developing alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence by 50%.
High-risk drinking is when a person regularly goes way over the recommended limit. Heavy drinking can increase health problems such as liver disease, brain damage, high blood pressure, and even cancer. There are a lot of other risks for injury when people are drinking heavily, including a strong and tragic link between alcohol use and suicide.
A third of the economic burden of drinking can be attributed to binge drinking. Binge drinking is when a person drinks to get drunk or consumes a lot of alcohol in a short period of time. About 6 units of alcohol for a woman or 8 units for a man is considered binge drinking.
How Do You Know If You Have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
In the past year, have you:
- Drank more or for a longer time than you had planned to
- Wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t
- Spent a lot of your time drinking or recovering from drinking
- Felt a strong need to drink
- Found that drinking – or being sick from drinking – often interfered with your family life, job, or school
- Kept drinking even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends
- Given up or cut back on activities that you enjoyed just so you could drink
- Gotten into dangerous situations while drinking or after drinking? Some examples are driving drunk and having unsafe sex
- Kept drinking even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious? Or when it was adding to another health problem
- Had to drink more and more to feel the effects of the alcohol
- Had withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol was wearing off. They include trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, and sweating. In severe cases, you could have a fever, seizures, or hallucinations.
If any of these symptoms are present, drinking may already be a cause for concern for you. The more symptoms you have, the more serious the problem is.
Additionally, many find a popular self assessment for alcoholism useful. This questionnaire asks twenty simple questions about your consumption of alcohol to help determine if it is a problem for you.
The Bottom Line
If you find yourself asking questions such as “why am I drinking more alcohol?”, “how much alcohol does an alcoholic drink?”, or “do I have a problem with alcohol?”, then you might be developing an alcohol use disorder. The earlier the problem is identified, the earlier you can get help and avoid the inevitable progression of serious negative consequences. It is never too soon to ask for help. Contact us today if you would like to discuss how we can help you or a loved one.