When Casual Drinking Turns into Alcohol Abuse: Signs to Watch for

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As one of America’s favorite pastimes, alcohol consumption has become a near expected indulgence for celebratory occasions as well as an accepted lifestyle indulgence provided its done in moderation. In spite of its overall acceptance, regular alcohol use can place a person at risk of alcohol abuse and even addiction.

Casual drinking poses little to no risk for most people, whereas those most susceptible to alcohol’s effects may have real difficulty keeping things casual. For these reasons, being able to spot signs of a growing alcohol abuse problem can go a long way towards keeping the harmful effects of alcohol at bay.

The Alcohol Abuse Cycle

Alcohol has a cumulative effect on the brain’s ability to carry out its regulatory functions. This means, what starts out as casual drinking can evolve into a self-perpetuating pattern of abuse and eventual addiction over time.

While not everyone who drinks on occasion faces this risk, the larger the amount consumed and the more often a person drinks, the greater the potential. Once signs of alcohol abuse develop, this is the ideal time to seek out needed treatment help before the problem spins out of control.

If you need help finding a treatment that meets your specific needs, call our toll-free helpline at 800-654-0987 to speak with one of our addiction specialists.

Signs to Watch for

“Needing a Drink”

There’s a difference between “having a drink” and “needing a drink” after a long day at work or when in a social setting. In effect, just the habit of having a drink at certain times can kick off an alcohol abuse cycle without a person even knowing it.

From there, alcohol’s cumulative effects on the brain take on a life of their own.

Binge Drinking

The brain easily tolerates alcohol’s effects so a person must drink increasingly larger amounts to experience its desired effects. For someone who drinks “casually” on a nightly basis, having one more or two more drinks may not seem like a big deal, but alcohol’s effects start to take a toll over time.

Before long, binge drinking practices become necessary to experience alcohol’s “high” or relaxing effects.

Withdrawal Episodes

Withdrawal episodes are a clear sign that casual drinking has turned into alcohol abuse. Symptoms, such as nausea, insomnia, depression and mood swings develop out of the rampant brain chemical imbalances brought on by frequent alcohol use.

While the occasional hangover poses little to no risk, someone who experiences hangovers several times a week has likely crossed over from casual drinking to alcohol abuse.


Society’s widespread acceptance of alcohol consumption can become a real problem for those most susceptible to alcohol’s damaging effects. It can be hard to take notice of one’s own drinking behaviors when it seems like everyone else is doing it.

Once alcohol abuse takes hold, it becomes increasingly harder to reduce intake amounts, let alone stop drinking. For these reasons, it’s especially important to take action at the first signs of alcohol abuse.

If you suspect alcohol abuse has become a problem and need help finding a treatment that meets your needs, call our toll-free helpline at 800-654-0987 to speak with one of our addiction specialists.