At What Point Does Drinking Become a Problem?

Unlike illegal substances such as cocaine or heroin, alcohol becomes legal at the age of 21. Alcohol is also prevalent in our society. It shows up as an invited guest to weddings, formal dinners, birthday parties, concerts and sports games. In a society where alcohol and social gatherings often come in pairs, how do you know when your drinking has become a problem?

Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

Drinking too much alcohol, even on a single occasion, can take a serious toll on your body. It affects the brain by interfering with the communication pathways. This is what leads to changes in mood, behavior and coordination.

Alcohol can cause heart problems such as high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Drinking also takes a toll on the liver, leading to inflammation, fibrosis or cirrhosis. Research also shows a link between alcohol and an increase in certain cancers.

Each drink you take affects the body negatively. Still, people choose to drink because they feel that it helps them relax, unwind and have more fun. However, drinking on occasion can sneak up on you. No one intends to be an alcoholic, after all. So how can you tell when you’ve crossed the line?

Understanding Your Risk

First, it’s important to understand your personal risk factors. Of course, just because you are at risk does not mean you will develop alcoholism. Likewise if you are not at risk. You can still become addicted.

Below are the factors that may increase a person’s risk for alcoholism.

  • Genetics. People with a sibling, parent or child who abuses alcohol have 3-4 times the average risk of developing a drinking problem.

  • Mental Health. By some estimates, 37% of people with a drinking problem also have a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or a personality disorder.

  • Age. In young people, alcohol use can lead to car crashes, suicides and homicide. People who start drinking at an early age are 4 times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who start drinking at 21 or over.

  • Gender. Drinking can affect both genders, but problem drinking is more common in men than women, especially in the 18-25 year age group.

Signs to Look For

Alcoholism does not show up overnight. It is a progressive disease that happens over time. If you feel that you are at risk for becoming addicted, get help. With so many options available these days, including convenient outpatient programs, you can easily and discreetly get the support you need to avoid a lifelong addiction.

Here are some signs that you may have a drinking problem.

  • Lying about or hiding your drinking

  • Drinking to relax or feel better

  • Not being able to stop once you start

  • Blacking out while drinking

  • Drinking in dangerous situations

  • Neglecting your responsibilities

  • Experiencing trouble in relationships

  • Building tolerance

  • Experiencing withdrawal

  • Trying to quit but cannot

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, call The River Source today. We have a number of programs to treat alcoholism and higher-than-average success rates. Plus, our rates are affordable and our programs are on the cutting-edge of integrative care.