Society largely accepts drinking as part of social interaction.
People get together with friends for happy hours, share a few cocktails with co-workers, or enjoy some eggnog with family during the holidays.
However, some people in your life may indulge too often. They may even get defensive and claim they don’t have a drinking problem.
While social drinking and alcoholism have overlapping characteristics, they also have striking differences. In general, the former centers on controlled social behavior while the latter is a form of dependency.
Below, we’ll explore the main differences between the two behaviors.
What Is Social Drinking?
A social drinker indulges in alcohol on social occasions or as a way to socialize. Drinking does not disrupt their lives and they can have a drink or two without overindulging.
In social drinking, alcohol is more of a way to celebrate life and companionship versus drinking away one’s troubles. Other reasons people engage in social drinking include:
- As a form of relaxation and relief from stress
- As part of celebrations
- As a form of socializing and meeting new people
- To fit in with a crowd
While many consider social drinking harmless, it can quickly develop into a harmful habit. Not only do some people end up drinking too much when socializing, but they may start drinking outside of social occasions. The occasional beer or cocktail after work or on your day off may quickly become a few drinks several nights a week.
What Are the Differences between a Social Drinker and an Alcoholic?
Many social drinkers don’t become alcoholics and can control when they drink or not. They typically only drink in social settings and never engage in binge drinking. Conversely, alcoholism is a progressive disease in which someone has extreme difficulty not drinking.
Alcoholism usually starts as social drinking or experimenting with alcohol. The more someone drinks, the greater their tolerance becomes. As a result, they’ll have to drink more to experience the same effect.
Over time, this higher tolerance often leads to a person drinking larger quantities. As a result, that person may face serious health risks.
Signs You Have a Drinking Problem
Many signs can help you identify whether or not you have a drinking problem. Unfortunately, some people wrongfully assume if they’re able to maintain their responsibilities, they don’t have a drinking problem.
However, alcoholism covers a spectrum and many people are “high-functioning alcoholics.” High-functioning alcoholics seem to have it all together on the outside. On the inside, however, they’re dealing with physical and emotional issues from binge drinking.
Signs of a drinking problem include:
- Binge drinking several times a week
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol
- Having difficulty stopping drinking
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Experiencing frequent blackouts
- Friends or family avoid you when you’re drinking
- Feeling a need to become intoxicated before attending social events
- Using alcohol as a reward
- Frequently looking forward to drinking
- Constantly needing to drink more due to your tolerance
- Trying to hide or minimize your drinking problem from loved ones
Problems Drinking Can Cause
Some studies suggest that small amounts of alcohol can benefit your heart. Moreover, for many people, drinking is a way to relax and loosen up in social settings. Nonetheless, alcohol poses many risks to your health and well-being.
Some immediate health risks include:
- High blood pressure
- Liver problems
- Cardiovascular issues
- Certain forms of cancer
Other issues include:
- Being more prone to injury under alcohol
- Harm to babies if pregnant or breast-feeding mothers drink
- Engaging in other unhealthy behaviors like smoking or drug usage while drinking
How to Treat Alcoholism
Some people treat alcoholism by cutting back on drinking a few nights a week or going cold turkey. They may set personal goals, engage in new hobbies to distract them from alcohol, or drink substitutes like non-alcoholic beer.
However, many people find it difficult to treat their drinking problem unassisted. Seeking help from professional counselors is a highly effective solution for treating alcoholism. At Dr. Quintal and Associates Counseling Center, we have a team of trained counselors who can help you or your loved one deal with a drinking problem.
Call Dr. Quintal and Associates Counseling Center today at (941) 907-0525 to schedule a free consultation.