Defining a Heavy Drinker: Side Effects, Long-Term Consequences, Alcoholism & Treatment
Who is considered as a heavy drinker?
When you drink more alcohol than you should, you face serious risks. This post will discuss the definition of heavy drinking, as well as the consequences you may face if you continue to drink heavily. For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week.
Defining a Heavy Drinker
Developing a specific definition for a heavy drinker is difficult, as recommendations vary. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “heavy drinking” is defined as engaging in binge drinking on at least five days in the past month.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as any pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol levels to 0.08 g/dl. SAMHSA, on the other hand, defines binge drinking as drinking four or more drinks on one occasion for females and five or more drinks on one occasion for males.
Although these definitions seem different, they are quite similar. For most people, blood alcohol concentrations will reach 0.08 after four or five alcoholic drinks, depending on sex. The NIAAA also defines moderate or “low-risk” drinking. For women, “low-risk” drinking is no more than three drinks in one day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, “low-risk” drinking is no more than four drinks in one day and no more than 14 drinks in one week.
However, guidelines from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services define moderate drinking as no more than one or two drinks per day.
Side Effects Of Being A Heavy Drinker
Drinking heavily can bring about a host of unwanted consequences for both men and women. While intoxicated, you may experience:
- Changes in your mood or emotional state
- Memory impairment
- Slower reflexes
- Poor judgment
- Trouble speaking, walking or standing
- Flushing in your face
- Lower body temperature
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Increased urine production
- Visual disturbances
These side effects can be dangerous, especially when combined. For example, because of your impaired judgment, you may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
You may also be more likely to drive when you know you probably shouldn’t. Unfortunately, slower reflexes and poor coordination dramatically increase your chances of being involved in a car accident.
Long-Term Consequences Of Being A Heavy Drinker
Drinking heavily regularly can also lead to long-term consequences that affect both your physical and mental health. Long-term physical effects of heavy drinking include:
- Higher risk of cancer
- Nerve damage
- Brain damage
- Increased risk of dementia
In addition to these physical effects, long-term alcohol abuse can lead to addiction. When you become addicted to alcohol, nearly every aspect of your life will suffer as a result, from your physical health to your interpersonal relationships. Alcohol abuse can also lead to depression and other mental health concerns.
From Being a Heavy Drinker To Being An Alcoholic
Determining exactly how many drinks a week makes someone an alcoholic is difficult. As discussed above, drinking more than a specific number of drinks per week can be defined as “heavy drinking.” However, heavy drinking and alcoholism are not the same things.
Alcoholism is a substance use disorder that requires professional treatment, but some people who engage in heavy drinking may not have an addiction. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that periods of heavy drinking increase your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
Treatment for alcoholism
When it comes to Alcoholism treatment, it is normal to think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab, but it becomes difficult to think of more options of treatment for this condition. There are a variety of treatment methods currently available. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are three types of treatment:
- Behavioral Treatments: are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.
- Medications: Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.
- Mutual-Support Groups: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals.
Reclaim your life from Alcoholism and Heavy Drinking, We Level Up Center California
Alcoholism is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from alcoholism with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about the difference between being a heavy drinker and being an alcoholic by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.