More days than not, you’re pouring or opening a drink to relax and unwind. Sometimes that one drink turns into two or more, and you’re wondering whether you should be concerned about an alcohol use disorder.
There are nearly 30 million people in the United States who have an alcohol use disorder, and this number is likely low thanks to underreporting. We’re not bringing this statistic up to suggest that you’re among them if you drink daily, but to underscore just how widespread alcohol addiction and dependence is.
As addiction specialists, we’re often asked whether daily drinking is a problem, and there’s no simple answer to this question. Instead, the team here at Northshore Health is going to put forth a few points to consider about alcohol use.
Daily drinking by the numbers
If we’re to rely solely on numbers to determine whether daily drinking is problematic, let’s take a look at some. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests limiting daily drinking to one drink for women and two for men. They define heavy drinking as 4 or more drinks for men and three or more for women.
Of course, these are just numbers, and there’s a lot more to an alcohol use disorder than that, which we get into next.
Is there dependence?
There are two sides of any substance use disorder, including alcoholism, and they include addiction and dependence. When we refer to dependence, we’re referring to a point at which your body depends upon you drinking alcohol — and if you don’t, you can experience withdrawal symptoms that include:
- Stomach upset
In extreme cases, people can have seizures when they withdraw from alcohol.
If you’re a daily drinker but you skip a day and are met with some withdrawal symptoms, there’s a good case to be made that your drinking has become problematic and dependence has become an issue.
Is there addiction?
The other piece to the alcohol use disorder is slightly more complex. Addiction occurs when there are chemical changes in the brain that lead to uncontrollable cravings and behavioral changes.
If you find that you have to fight hard to stop drinking for a day, even if you don’t have any physical withdrawal symptoms, this could signal a problem.
Other issues that can indicate or lead to addiction include:
- Feeling ashamed about your drinking
- Hiding your drinking
- Using alcohol as a crutch
- Using alcohol to self-medicate from anxiety or stress
- Blacking out
The road to alcoholism is a slippery one and can sneak up on you, so it’s worth evaluating your daily drinking. Drinking every day isn’t necessarily problematic, especially if you feel that you can quit anytime. If, however, you recognize any of the red flags we describe above, we suggest that you come talk with us.
For compassionate and discretionary addiction and alcoholism care, please contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to set up an appointment.