Going out for drinks with friends or family is fine now and then, but there does come a time where social or casual drinking turns into something more.

It’s not always recognizable, but there is a boundary between someone who is a social drinker and someone who is an alcoholic.

Defining a Casual Drinker

Casual drinkers are best defined as those who can control the amount of alcohol they drink in one outing. If you’re a casual drinker, you may go out once and a while for drinks, have a few, and then call it a day.

It can be quite vague to define what is a normal amount of drinking for a casual outing. A lot depends on the context of the outing. For example, for events like Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve, having more than a few drinks wouldn’t be too unusual as both of these celebrations are well-known big drinking holidays.

Now, if something like a Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve celebration were to happen every weekend, it could lead to serious health problems. While any frequent amount of drinking is harmful, it doesn’t quite capture what it means to be an alcoholic.

Crossing the Boundary

Drinking socially, but doing it a lot is where the boundary starts to get crossed.

As defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men in about two hours. Doing this more than five or more times a month is also consider heavy alcohol use.

Things really start to turn problematic when you start to consume many drinks alone or outside of a normal social outing. The more you start to lose control over the number of drinks you consume, the more you should be concerned about your well-being. The further you go to either hide your drinking, lie about it, or make excuses to go out to drink, the further you venture into alcoholism territory.

Defining Alcoholism

Alcoholism is when you become dependent on alcohol and is considered a disease that can interfere with your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, alcoholism doesn’t stop at your health. Alcoholism can affect your relationships, finances, work performance, and can lead to poor decisions and risky behavior.

Alcoholics will have problems resisting the urge to drink, and drinking will take precedence over all other activities.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Another telling sign of alcoholism is going through withdrawal symptoms. People who aren’t frequent drinkers generally don’t have withdrawal symptoms since their bodies aren’t dependent on alcohol. Alcoholics, on the other hand, have become dependent on alcohol.

When an alcoholic is not consuming alcohol, their body can go through a noticeable amount of physical discomfort and bouts of depression or high anxiety. Other symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, and nausea.

The more severe the addiction, the worse alcohol withdrawal symptoms can become. Severe withdrawal symptoms include vomiting, tremors, confusion, increased heart rate, and frequent headaches.

There is also the possibility of developing delirium tremens, which is when the absence of alcohol is too abrupt for the body to adapt. Symptoms of delirium tremens include hallucinations, whole-body tremors, confusion, agitation, hypertension, and potentially a coma or death.

How to approach alcohol

Should you find yourself in a situation where you might be or are an alcoholic, seek help. There are many resources available to help combat alcoholism from online resources to treatment centers.

One of the best ways to approach alcohol is to drink in moderation. This means learning your limits and how not to consume frequent amounts of alcohol. Learning to recognize your drinking patterns will go a long way toward being a healthy person.