What qualifies as a “drink”?
People who consume alcohol excessively can qualify as alcoholics with alcohol use disorder. The CDC defines heavy drinking as eight or more drinks in a week for women.
People who consume alcohol excessively can qualify as alcoholics with alcohol use disorder. To understand what qualifies you as an alcoholic, it's important to be familiar with the drinking limits.
The CDC defines heavy drinking as eight or more drinks in a week for women. Meanwhile, men who drink 15 or more drinks per week are considered heavy drinkers.
Binge drinking is another problem associated with excessive alcohol use. For women, binge drinking means drinking four or more drinks in a span of two to three hours. Meanwhile, men who drink five or more drinks on one occasion (two to three hours) qualify as binge drinkers.
The main problem with heavy drinking is binge drinking since 90% of heavy drinkers binge drink. Nearly one in every six alcohol drinkers in the U.S. binge drink. To make matters worse, they do it an average of four times per month and drink up to eight drinks on one occasion.
In the U.S., 12 ounces of ABV beer (5%) are considered a drink. Likewise, 8 ounces of ABV malt liquor (7%), 5 ounces of ABV wine (12%), and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (40% 80-proof) make up a drink.
What is alcohol use disorder?
Alcohol use disorder, often called alcoholism, is a medical condition in which the individual indulges in heavy alcohol use frequently. People with this disorder are unable to stop drinking even if it causes emotional or physical problems to them or those around them.
While it may seem habitual, alcohol use disorder is a medical problem. It is a brain function disorder that requires a combination of psychological and medical treatments.
The severity of this disorder can be mild to severe. In some people, it develops quickly, while in others, the progression takes over a long period.
Risk factors of alcohol use disorder
Although alcohol use disorder can occur at any age, it normally starts in the 20s and 30s. In addition, certain risk factors make some people more prone to the disorder.
- Steady Drinking: People who drink excessively every day or binge drink frequently are at a higher risk of alcohol use disorder. It can also lead to other alcohol-related problems.
- Family History: Those with a family history of alcohol use disorder are also more susceptible to the condition. It is especially true for people whose close relatives, especially parents, have alcohol use disorder.
- Trauma History: People with a history of trauma often depend excessively on alcohol. These individuals are also at a high risk of alcohol use disorder.
- Mental Health Problems: Depression or other similar problems can put you at a higher risk of alcohol use disorder. People with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are more prone to having an unhealthy relationship with alcohol consumption.
How can heavy drinking affect your health?
Binge drinking and regular long-term excessive drinking can hurt your health. It can lead to some severe health issues, such as heart problems, digestive issues, and sexual dysfunction.
- Sexual Dysfunction: Drinking too much can lead to erectile dysfunction in men since it interferes with blood flow to the penile region. In women, excessive alcohol consumption can cause irregular or missed periods.
- Liver Disease: Your liver is responsible for detoxifying the body. Excessive drinking can cause damage to the liver, such as scarring and inflammation.
- Heart Problems: People who drink too much tend to have high blood pressure. Thus, it can increase their risk of getting heart problems, such as a stroke. You don't even have to drink regularly to have a sudden heart problem. A one-time binge drinking session can also lead to a heart problem known as atrial fibrillation. In this condition, the heart beats very irregularly, leading to the formation of blood clots.
- Bone Damage: Many people are unaware of the effect of excessive alcohol consumption on bone formation. Drinking too much alcohol may cause problems in the formation of new bone tissues. As a result, your bones may start thinning in a process called osteoporosis. The bone marrow is also responsible for creating new blood cells. Since alcohol affects the bone marrow too, it can lead to low platelet count in the body.
- Lower Immunity: If you drink excessively, it can lower your body's ability to fight diseases and external factors, like viruses. Thus, it increases your risk of getting certain diseases, such as pneumonia.
Alcohol use disorder stages
No one develops alcohol use disorder overnight. While the progression of the disease varies among individuals, most people go through similar stages.
- At-Risk: It is the first stage of alcohol use disorder. At this stage, the individual is getting used to alcohol consumption for any reason, such as to relieve stress. With regular use, their body starts building tolerance for alcohol.
- Early: In the early stage of the alcohol use disorder, the individual starts having blackouts. They may have alcohol on their mind excessively or start drinking in secret.
- Mid: At this point, the individual's heavy drinking problem has gotten out of hand. It can impact their work and family matters. Plus, it can affect their mental and physical health. Lab tests can show organ damage at this stage of the disorder.
- End: In the final stage of an alcohol use disorder, drinking becomes the focus of the individual's life. It takes priority over everything else, such as health, happiness, intimacy, and even food. Organ damage gets worse in this stage, and the person can die.
What are opioids used to treat?
How to prevent alcohol use disorder
If you may have one or more risk factors for alcohol use disorder, you can take active steps to ensure you don't develop the disease. For example, women who want to prevent alcohol use disorder should not drink over four drinks a day or eight drinks a week. Meanwhile, men should not drink over five drinks a day or 15 drinks a week.
If you have developed a mild case of an alcohol use disorder, dealing with it can be easier the sooner you get help. Mostly, these cases are temporary and don't cause life-long problems. However, severe alcohol use disorders can be problematic for your whole life.
Therefore, the sooner you get help, the better. As soon as you realize that you or a loved one may be edging too close to alcohol dependency, you should seek medical help.