As the most popular addictive substance of all time, most everyone knows someone or knows of someone (or is someone) who enjoys more than the occasional drink. Likewise, social drinking has become a nearly expected part of social gatherings, celebrations and college life.
Even for the most casual or “social” of drinkers, crossing the lines that separate choosing to drink, wanting to drink and needing to drink places a person at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, alcohol interferes with the brain mechanisms that regulate learning and memory. When a person engages in certain drinking habits, this interference can turn into an alcohol use disorder over time.
The physical changes brought on by frequent alcohol consumption plays a big part in altering how a person’s perceptions and behaviors towards alcohol change. While not everyone is at risk of developing alcohol use disorder, over time, even those least susceptible can become prey to alcohol’s effects.
Here are five habits that can lead to an alcohol use disorder:
1. Heavy Drinking
The risk for develop an alcohol use disorder increases with the number of drinks a person has per day, as well with the number of times he or she engages in heavy drinking. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, single-day and weekly drink limits have been established as cutoff points for mild, moderate and heavy drinking.
For men, four or more drinks per day or 15 drinks per week constitutes a heavy drinking pattern. For women, three or more drinks per day or eight drinks per week is considered heavy drinking.
2. Binge Drinking
Binge drinking entails consuming large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. While some people may “binge” for sport or fun, others have reached a point where it takes large quantities of alcohol to reach the desired level of intoxication. According to the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, high tolerance levels place drinkers at a considerably high risk for developing alcohol usedisorders.
3. Hangover Drinking
The dreaded hangover typically happens after a period of heavy alcohol consumption or binge drinking. Hangover symptoms, such as headache, nausea and fatigue are actually withdrawal effects caused by alcohol’s damaging effects on the brain’s chemical balance. People who get into the habit of drinking as a way to relieve withdrawal effects are well on their way to developing an alcohol use disorder.
People who tell themselves they can stop drinking at any time, yet continue to get intoxicated without meaning to have crossed over from ‘choosing to drink’ to ‘needing to drink.’ Continuing to drink in spite of negative consequences represents a destructive, alcohol-driven pattern that will inevitably turn into an alcohol use disorder.
5. Socializing with Heavy Drinkers
People living with alcohol use disorders have essentially created a lifestyle that supports excess drinking. Likewise, social or casual drinkers who find themselves socializing with heavy drinkers on a regular basis may gradually develop behaviors and mindsets that lead to heavy drinking.