In 2016, more than 66 million people in the United States had indulged in binge drinking at least once in the past month. At Explore Health in Scottsdale, AZ, we believe
in offering answers for recovery and supporting those seeking sobriety.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Around 18 million adults in the United States suffer from various forms of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Excessive consumption of alcohol may cause addiction and other physical, emotional, behavioral and social problems. Regular heavy drinking is a major risk factor for health conditions such as liver cirrhosis, cancer, hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular problems and brain damage. Many heavy drinkers are also at an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety and some personality disorders.
If you have concerns about your drinking or that of someone close to you, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about heavy drinking.
Alcohol Recovery FAQs
What Is a Standard Drink?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the standard drink has 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Typically, this amount is found in:
- 12 ounces of beer (5% alc. content)
- 5 ounces of wine (12% alc. content)
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alc. content)
- 5 ounces 80-proof (40% alc. content) liquor or distilled spirits
Moderate drinking (2 standard drinks for men per day and 1 standard drink for women per day
) can have some health benefits.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
Occasional cases of alcohol misuse cannot be considered alcohol use disorder. However, it might indicate a problematic pattern that increases the risk of developing alcoholism. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol abuse involves regular heavy drinking that results in a disruption of normal daily activities. Alcohol abusers are likely to have problems at work, home or school. They are also likely to get involved in life-threatening activities such as violence, driving under the influence and unsafe sexual practices.
Beside heavy drinking, alcohol abuse also involves binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a consumption of alcohol that raises the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. To reach such levels, a man has to consume 5 drinks within 2 hours, while a woman has to consume 4 drinks within the same period. A person who binge drinks 5 or more times in a month is considered a heavy drinker.
What Are Safe Levels of Drinking?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define safe drinking as the consumption of 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. According to NIAAA, men who take 4 or fewer drinks per day and 14 or fewer per week and women who take 3 or fewer drinks per day or 7 per week face low risks of developing an alcohol use disorder. About
2% of people who fall under this category are likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. Another 2% of the same group might eventually suffer from alcohol addiction.
What Is Intoxication?
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant with mind-altering effects. It achieves this by interacting with some chemical messengers in the brain. Intoxication levels are measured differently in different parts of the world. In the U.S., a person whose BAC is 0.08 g/dL or higher is too intoxicated to drive. Some people are intoxicated even at a lower BAC level. NIAAA has provided guidelines showing the effects of alcohol at various BAC levels:
0-0.05 g/dL: Mildly Impaired
- Mild effect on speech, balance, coordination, memory and attention
- Feelings of happiness and relaxation
06-0.15 g/dL: Intoxicated
- More advanced effect on speech, balance, coordination, memory and attention
- Impaired driving
- Increased drowsiness
- Compromised judgement
- Increased aggression
- Increased risk of injury to self and others
16-0.30 g/dL: Severely Impaired
- Significant impairment on speech, balance, coordination, memory and attention
- Possibility of amnesia or blackout
- Possibility of falling unconscious
- Possibility of nausea and vomiting
- Possibility of dangerous impaired decision-making
31-0.45 g/dL: Potentially Deadly
- Increased possibility of losing consciousness
- Interruption of vital bodily functions such as breathing and an increase in blood pressure and heart rate
- Increased risk of alcohol poisoning
If you constantly find yourself suffering from the effects of regular heavy drinking, you should consider alcohol recovery options.
Does Alcohol Affect Everyone the Same Way?
Alcohol affects people differently depending on several factors. Two people drinking together within the same period of time can consume the same amount of alcohol, and yet their intoxication levels might differ. Some of the factors that influence the rate and magnitude of
intoxication include gender, age, race, metabolism, and the amount of food and water taken before drinking alcohol. The speed at which alcohol is metabolized affects intoxication levels.
Biology, genetics and environmental factors are some of the factors that influence how quickly the body breaks down alcohol. Genetic factors also increase the rate and magnitude of intoxication, especially among people of Asian descent.
Can a Person Overdose on Alcohol?
Also known as alcohol poisoning, an alcohol overdose occurs when alcohol rises to toxic levels in the bloodstream. Some of the most common signs of alcohol poisoning include a change in body temperature, an increased heart rate and difficulty breathing. Regular binge drinkers are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning. In 2015, alcoholism and alcohol dependence contributed to 30% of alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States. Between 2010 and 2012, the CDC estimates that 6 people died daily from an alcohol overdose in the United States.
What Are the Signs of an Alcohol Overdose?
- Severe mental confusion
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weak pulse and irregular blood pressure and heart rate
- Losing consciousness
- Breathing difficulties
- Low body temperatures
What Is Alcoholism?
Also referred as alcohol addiction, alcoholism is the inability to stop drinking despite drinking habits negatively affecting health and emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. To determine whether one has a drinking problem, at least 2 of the following Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) guidelines must have occurred within a year:
- Several failed attempts to stop drinking
- Drinking more and longer than one intended to
- Craving alcohol
- Foregoing recreational and social activities to indulge in drinking
- Drinking despite the visible negative impact on several aspects of one’s life
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Is There a Cure for Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is considered a chronic disease. As such, it has no easy cure. However, it can be managed through medication, therapy and support. Specialized and professional care are vital in managing withdrawal symptoms and reducing the chance of a relapse. Additionally, aftercare programs and support groups help with long-term alcohol recovery.
What Is Rehab?
Rehabilitation refers to a set of structured programs and treatment options designed to assist people with a drinking problem. After accepting that alcohol has become a problem in your life, the next step is detox and then treatment. A comprehensive treatment plan might include medication, wellness activities, group therapy, support group meetings and individual and family counseling.
In addition, behavioral therapies might be used in alcohol recovery to help recovering addicts deal with maladaptive thoughts and behaviors.
Acknowledging and accepting that you might have a drinking problem is the first step of alcohol recovery. Going through these frequently asked questions and their answers is the second step of your sobriety journey. For professional help and support and to take the next step, visit us at Explore Health in Scottsdale, AZ.