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A Drinking Problem, or Not?

Half of all North Americans Drink Regularly

If truth be told, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 2015 found that 56% of people 18 aged 18 and older were current, past-month alcohol consumers. The survey also reports that 86% of all people aged 18 + said that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime.

In the U.S. a ‘standard drink‘ is any drink that contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol; and the AMOUNT you drink of these standard drinks does not – in an of itself – determine a problem. In fact, the development of a drinking problem varies from person to person. Some people may trigger a problem after only a few drinking sessions, while others may develop drinking problems after years of prolonged use. And some people only binge drink on parties…with little to no real consequences.

A Drinking Problem, or Not?

So, how do you know whether you have a drinking problem or not?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA) gives us the general definition for having a problem as follows:

For women:

  • If you drink more than 1 drink per day.
  • If you drink more than 7 drinks per week.
  • If you drink more than 3 drinks on any single day.

For men:

  • If you drink more than 2 drinks per day.
  • If you drink more than 14 drinks per week.
  • If you drink more than 4 drinks on any single day.

But there are also two high-risk drinking patterns that can lead to a problem with booze.

  1. Binge drinking defined by the NIAAA is a pattern of drinking that elevates the blood alcohol concentration levels (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl, which is after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in a timeframe of about 2 hours.
  2. Heavy drinking defined by SAMHSA is binge drinking on 5 or more days in a period of one month.

NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking claims that about 1 in 4 people who exceed these limits can be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, while the others are at great risk for becoming dependent to alcohol over time. The SAMSHA survey on drug use and health reported that in 2016, 15 million people aged 12 or older meet the criteria for being diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. This means that 1 in 18 North Americans have a drinking problem.