When Drinking Goes Too Far – What is Considered Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse is an issue that still affects millions of people each year. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) collects data on the number of individuals that are dealing with one form of alcohol use disorder or another. Alcohol abuse occurred in as many as 15.1 million people in the States in 2015. But what is considered alcohol abuse?
To better understand what is considered alcohol abuse and what your limits should be, we will look at the how many drinks a week is considered an alcoholic as well as the medical definition of alcohol use disorder.
Defining a Standard Drink
Before we can look at what is considered alcohol abuse, we must first know what a standard drink is. In American, a standard drink is defined as a 12 ounce beer, 1.5 ounces of 40 percent alcohol spirits and around 5 ounces of wine.
Binge Drinking Defined
One of the terms used to describe heavy alcohol use is binge drinking. The NIAAA defines binge drinking as when a person has around five drinks for men and four drinks for women within the span of around two hours. SAMSHA defines binge drinking as the same amount of drinks as the NIAAA, but at a single event or in a day.
Heavy drinking can then be defined as binge drinking for at least five days in the last month. This amount of drinking can cause many of the heavy drinking side effects including an increased risk of cancer, brain damage and heart problems. Another one of the common heavy drinking side effects is liver damage.
How Many Drinks a Week is Considered an Alcoholic?
It is difficult to quantify the amount of drinks a person can have a week before being considered an alcoholic. The devastating effects that alcoholism can cause may be caused by various amounts of alcohol, even within the same gender.
The NIAAA defines it as a risk of developing alcoholism. For men, the maximum amount of drinks that should be consumed a week is 14. In women, the maximum drinks that should be consumed in a week are 7. However, roughly 2 percent of people who drink within these limits can still develop alcoholism.
Medically, what is Considered Alcohol Abuse?
Due to alcoholism sometimes forming in people who stay within suggested drinking limits, it is often better to look at the medical definition of alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). The amount of criteria that an individual meets determines the severity of the addiction.
The following criteria for AUD look at the last 12 month period in the person’s life.
- Attempts to stop or slow down do not succeed.
- The person drinks more than they planned to drink, or for longer than they planned.
- When not drinking, there is a craving to get alcohol.
- The person spends a great deal of time drinking and dealing with hangovers.
- Regardless of family and social problems, drinking is not hindered.
- Drinking and recovering from drinking is behind many of the problems in the person’s job, family or school.
- Drinking replaced other fun activities.
- Put themselves in dangerous situations because of drinking.
- Have withdrawal symptoms when not intoxicated.
- Developed a tolerance to alcohol.
- Physical and mental health problems do not result in the person quitting drinking.
If you or a loved one meets at least two of the above criteria, then there is an alcohol abuse problem, and help should be found.