When Your Social drinking becomes Excessive Drinking

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol use and abuse has and continues to be a massive issue in South Africa and experts believe that the trend of excessive drinking, similar to binge drinking, can significantly increase the devastating likelihood of alcohol-related deaths. 

It is common knowledge that with the onset of Covid, and its multi-levelled resultant psychological effects that excessive drinking has had on millions in South Africa (not at least the actual virus’s effects), the use of alcohol as a crutch, as a way to deal with the pandemic rose to fearfully large proportions.

This in turn creates a number of problems for those who are suffering from the disease of addiction. An obvious example is that those who have a substance use disorder are at increased risk for poor COVID-19 end results. Those who are in addiction recovery may also neglect seeking professional help due to the pandemic and the negative issues around it.

Smart Treatment Plans for Excessive Drinking

At Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres, a range of smart, practical and focused treatment plans exist to deal with this challenge of excessive drinking. Aside from in-patient treatment, there are outpatient treatment, and a range of other treatment structures in place to tailor the perfect recovery for those battling addiction during or as a result of these difficult times and the excessive drinking and fallout of it all. There are obvious warning signs, or ‘red flags’ to look out for in a person’s behaviour that can be used as a form of a litmus test to gauge whether a person’s alcohol use has evolved into substance abuse including, but not limited to: the inability to accomplish the day-to-day tasks, workplace roles and responsibilities diminishing, a reduction in your social nature with your friends or family if you’re isolating more at home and so on. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these signs, it may be time to seek out and get professional help. 

Looking closer at social drinking vs problem drinking (i.e. Excessive drinking) it’s important to get a sense of what alcohol abuse entails. Alcohol abuse includes dangerous drinking patterns such as binge drinking, heavy drinking, moderate to extreme intoxication, and higher tolerance. Engaging in alcohol abuse places an individual at high risk for developing alcohol use disorder; it’s important to seek help sooner. Alcohol abuse may or may not involve chronic episodes of binge drinking. Alcohol dependence involves many episodes of alcohol abuse leading to blackouts, withdrawal, cravings, and a physical, emotional, and social emphasis on alcohol use.

People who are alcohol-dependent usually exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. Alcohol tolerance – As tolerance builds, excessive drinking amounts increase in order to produce the same effects.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms – Experiencing insomnia, tremors, and mood swings are not unusual with AUD
  3. Awareness of the compulsion to excessive drinking – Craving alcohol
  4. Drinking larger amounts – Making unsuccessful efforts to cut down on excessive drinking
excessive drinking in public

Although we discussed some of the red flags around gauging whether a person may be drinking excessively, here are a few of the behaviours that are problematic and associated with alcohol consumption in a broad sense of the term. Note these are not necessarily addiction to alcohol symptoms, but general alcohol excessive drinking behaviours which are seen as problematic.

Excessive Drinking Problematic Behaviour

  • Loss of control over alcohol use
  • Lots of time and energy in obtaining, using, and recovering from substance use
  • Continued use despite problems
  • Cravings
  • Risk-taking
  • Lack of pleasure in hobbies
  • Health problems
  • Loss of employment
  • Withdrawal
  • Tolerance

Finally, to best understand alcohol abuse, it is important to understand the difference between social drinkers and excessive drinking alcoholics. These can be subtle or strong separations and differences, and sometimes can be exhibited by opposite parties, so it is best to look at the bigger picture and overall situation before casting each in stone. 

  1. Alcoholics are clearly obsessed with alcohol and its role in their lives.
  2. Alcoholics lose the ability to keep their drinking under control and repeat destructive drinking patterns.
  3. Alcoholics prefer to socialize with other heavy drinkers who they can count on to not judge their drinking and self-destructive behaviour.
  4. Alcoholics continually break promises to themselves and others on limits they set on how much they will drink

So do you think you are a social drinker or an excessive drinker? 

Are you always drinking with the sole purpose of getting drunk? Do you choose to keep drinking until you are drunk even if everyone else around you is not? Do you feel like you need to buy the alcohol for the party/braai that is either the strongest, or highest quantity to ensure its ‘enough’ to get you drunk? This is a clear sign that boundaries have been broken down, and your mind and body is being taken over by addiction. 

excessive drinking alone

Do you put alcohol above your responsibilities? Maybe you have let down your boss or colleagues?  Failing to deliver on work promises and calling in sick, along with the missing of work is a sure sign that you are no longer drinking socially, but excessively drinking. 

Do you pretend to not be drinking, or hide the bottle from your loved one? Is this because you are scared of what will be said? Or do you feel ashamed? It’s time to realise that this behaviour is a breach of trust and is directly impacting on your relationships, often with disastrous consequences.

Do you use alcohol for every problem? Do you validate drinking to boost your ability to solve or deal with issues? Guess what, it doesn’t solve it but it does create another problem. Abuse.

South Africans are terrible on the road. Not all, but our statistics are horrific. Guess what a massive factor in this equation is? Alcohol abuse. Not just the drivers, but drunk pedestrians too. Although accidents can happen with social drinkers, for those who are excessive drinkers, it’s almost a given at some stage. Maybe you have already had an accident… maybe you got lucky. Next time… not so much.

Understand that excessive alcohol consumption is just a decision away, one that can have terrible consequences. You can avoid or deal with these now and start the rest of your life. Chat to us now.

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