Social Drinking vs. Alcoholism
Sometimes, it feels as though the line between alcoholism and drinking socially can be a gray area; what happens when drinking socially turns into a binge drinking session? Does that make you an alcoholic? These are legitimate questions for those who don’t know the difference; what is the difference between social drinking and alcoholism?
What is Social Drinking?
Social drinking is the practice of consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation, as part of a social gathering or event. It is an accepted form of adult recreational activity in many cultures, and often involves having friends, family members and colleagues meet up for drinks to share stories and enjoy each other’s company. The key to social drinking is to drink responsibly while still having fun.
This means understanding how your body reacts to alcohol and regulating how much you drink. This is imperative so that it doesn’t negatively affect your judgment, behavior or physical well-being. Additionally, it also involves being aware of the drinking habits of those around you. Ensuring that no one is over-indulging or pressuring others to do the same is imperative to a healthy experience.
Is Social Drinking Dangerous?
Social drinking can be dangerous if it is not done responsibly. While drinking socially in moderation may bring a sense of relaxation and enjoyment, overconsumption of alcohol has been linked to numerous health risks, both short-term and long-term. This includes physical risks such as injury, liver damage and an increased risk for certain types of cancer, as well as mental risks, such as depression and anxiety.
When social drinking, it is important to be mindful of the amount of alcohol being consumed in order to avoid becoming dangerously intoxicated. It is recommended that individuals limit themselves to no more than two drinks a day for men, or one drink a day for women. Additionally, it is essential to make sure that you are drinking responsibly and not driving while under the influence of alcohol.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive, and potentially life-threatening disorder characterized by an uncontrollable and compulsive craving for alcohol. People who suffer from alcoholism experience a wide variety of physical, psychological, social, and emotional problems. These issues can have devastating effects on both the alcoholic and their family members.
Alcoholism is a complex condition, and there is no single cause. Genetics, psychological factors, environmental influences, and social cues can all contribute to the development of alcoholism. People who develop an alcohol problem may drink in an attempt to cope with stress or difficult emotions. They may also have difficulty controlling their drinking once they start.
What are the Signs of Alcoholism?
Signs of alcoholism can vary from person to person, but there are some key signs that may indicate a problem. These include the following:
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time
- Feeling the need to drink more and more in order to get the same effect
- Staying sober for long periods only to start drinking again
- Experiencing blackouts or memory lapses after drinking
- Having a loss of control when it comes to how much you drink
- Neglecting important activities or responsibilities due to drinking
- Having withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
What is the Difference Between Social Drinking and Alcoholism?
The main difference between social drinking and alcoholism is the amount of alcohol consumed and the extent to which it impacts an individual’s daily functioning. Social drinkers are those who consume alcohol in moderation, typically not exceeding more than one or two drinks per day. They can generally control their drinking behaviors, limit the amount they consume, and do not experience negative consequences due to their drinking.
On the other hand, alcoholics are those who become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol. They often drink heavily on a regular basis and may experience negative mental and physical health effects as a result of their disorder. Alcoholics may also have difficulties controlling their urges to drink and engaging in behaviors that lead to further social or legal problems. It is important to note that alcoholics may not always be dependent on alcohol, as some may abstain from drinking altogether after recognizing their problem.
Can Social Drinking Shift Into Alcoholism?
Social drinking can quickly shift into alcoholism if not monitored and managed appropriately. People may begin to drink more frequently or larger amounts during social situations; this can lead to physical and psychological dependence on alcohol over time.
Binge drinking is a common form of excessive drinking in social settings, where people will consume large quantities of alcohol within a short period of time. This can lead to long-term health issues, including liver damage and increased risk of certain cancers. It is important for individuals to be aware of their own patterns of drinking in social settings and to be mindful of how much alcohol they are consuming.
What Happens When Social Drinking Turns Into Alcoholism?
When social drinking turns into alcoholism, it can have serious and long-lasting effects on an individual’s physical and mental health, relationships, finances, career, and more. Alcoholism can cause intense cravings for alcohol, making it difficult to stop drinking even after the person wants to quit.
Over time, excessive drinking can damage the liver, cause heart and brain damage, and lead to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicide. Alcoholism can also have drastic consequences on a person’s relationships with family and friends. It can strain connections with people that the person cares about, leading them to withdraw from those they are closest to. On top of this, financial difficulties can arise when a person struggles with alcoholism.
Money is spent on alcohol rather than necessary bills and expenses, leading to potential debt or other financial issues. Finally, alcoholism can have a significant impact on one’s career. It may lead to poor performance at work due to missed shifts, lack of focus, and reduced productivity. It may even result in job loss if the person’s impairment is too severe or chronic.
What is the Best Way to Treat Alcoholism?
The best way to treat alcoholism is through a comprehensive approach, which includes physical and psychological treatment, support from family and friends, and an individualized program of recovery. Treatment for alcoholism should involve medical care to help with the physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as vomiting or shaking.
It can also include psychotherapy to identify and address underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to the drinking problem. In addition, support from family and friends is essential in helping an alcoholic stay on track with recovery goals. Individualized programs of recovery are also beneficial for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Depending on the individual’s needs, treatment plans can involve detoxification and medication-assisted therapy, attendance at 12-step meetings, and individual counseling sessions.
The ultimate goal of any treatment plan should be to help the person with an alcohol use disorder develop skills for a healthier lifestyle and risk reduction strategies for relapse prevention. With the right support and resources, those who struggle with alcohol addiction can learn to manage their drinking and go on to lead fulfilling lives in recovery.
More specifically, there are traditional treatment resources for those who require individualized care. These options may include the following:
- Inpatient residential treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Medically assisted detox
What is Inpatient Residential Treatment for Alcoholism?
Inpatient residential treatment for alcoholism is an intensive form of rehabilitation that involves living in a structured, supervised environment. It is designed to provide individuals with the necessary tools and support needed to overcome alcohol addiction. This type of treatment typically involves the following:
- Individual and/or group counseling
- 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Addiction education classes
- Vocational and educational services
- Family therapy
Inpatient residential treatment programs are typically offered in a private or hospital setting. It can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the individual’s needs. The goal of inpatient residential treatment for alcoholism is to treat severe addiction. This means helping people gain insight into their addiction by learning the necessary skills to do the following:
- Manage cravings
- Develop better coping strategies
- Learn healthier ways of dealing with stress
- Identify triggers that cause them to drink
What is Outpatient Treatment for Alcoholism?
Outpatient treatment for alcoholism is an effective form of treatment that allows people to receive the help they need while still remaining in their own home. This type of treatment helps those with alcohol addiction issues manage their cravings, learn coping skills and build a support system. Outpatient programs typically provide counseling sessions, life skills training, education about addiction and support groups.
During treatment, patients can make use of individual therapy, group counseling and peer support. This helps them gain a better understanding of their addiction and how to overcome it. By learning about the effects of alcohol on the body and mind, individuals can work towards making healthier choices that will lead to long-term sobriety.
Get the Help You Need Today at First City Recovery Center
At First City Recovery Center, we provide access to quality individualized care for those struggling with alcoholism. If you or a loved one would like to find out more, you can contact us here.
Dr. Vahid Osman, MD is a psychiatry specialist in Indianapolis, IN.
Dr. Osman completed a residency at Austin State Hospital. He has over 32 years of experience in Psychiatry & Behavioral Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.