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Is It Social Drinking or Something More?

We live in a culture where drinking is normalized. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 70 percent of Americans said they drank in the past year and nearly 56 percent said they drank in the past month. More concerning still, the survey found that more than 26 percent of adults engaged in binge drinking within the past month and that 5.7 percent of adults — more than 14 million people — had an alcohol use disorder. Given how common drinking is in our culture, it can be hard to know when social drinking crosses the line into problem drinking. Here are some signs that your drinking has become something to worry about.

Heavy Drinking

One sign that your drinking may be a problem is that you have started drinking heavily. Typically, this is defined as approximately four drinks a day, or 14 drinks a week for men. Just short of the ‘five drinks in a sitting’ standard of a binge, the quantities of alcohol consumption for heavy drinkers are quite large. You should be especially concerned if your tolerance is increasing as a result of consistently high alcohol consumption, as this implies physical dependence.


Having a drink or two before you meet up with friends might indicate a problem. Priming is a deceptive behavior typical of heavy drinkers, used as a way of hiding how much you drink from others. Other ways of masking an addiction include lying about how often you drink and hiding your alcohol either around the house or in non-alcoholic drinks, like coffee.

Drinking When You Shouldn’t

You might be advised not to drink for a number of reasons. Perhaps you’re on a medication that interacts badly with alcohol. Maybe you have to drive home, or you have some other responsibility that you should be sober for. Recognizing that you shouldn’t drink and drinking anyways may indicate that you prioritize drinking above all else. Choosing alcohol over things like health and/or safety are huge red flags.

Someone You Trust Shares Concerns

Confronting a friend or loved one about their drinking is not an easy task. When someone close to you shares that they are concerned about how much you’ve been drinking, it is important to take their concerns seriously. Keep in mind that being defensive about your drinking is another common sign that alcohol is a problem for you.

You Need Alcohol to Relax

Another sign of physical dependence on alcohol is feeling like you need alcohol to help you relax or feel normal. Alcohol enhances the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, inhibiting the effect of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, ultimately creating that feeling of relaxation. However, when you drink large amounts of alcohol consistently, your brain becomes dependent on the alcohol to produce this reaction, decreasing its ability to do so on its own. Feelings of tension and anxiety when alcohol is no longer present in your system are often experienced as a result. If you can’t relax without alcohol, it may be a sign of physical dependence. 

Looking for Support?

Alcohol use disorder is the most common substance use disorder in the world and it often hides in plain sight. Although it’s hard to admit your drinking has become a problem, the sooner you acknowledge and accept it, the easier it becomes to deal with it. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, we help men with drug and/or alcohol use issues to live happier, more fulfilling lives free from addiction. To learn more about our unique approach to treatment, call us today at 855-202-2138.

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