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Social Drinking vs. Alcoholism: When Does Drinking Become a Problem?

a man looks out the window wondering the difference between social drinking vs alcoholism

Drinking, producing, and enjoying alcohol is one of humanity’s oldest traditions. Unfortunately, because alcohol is legal, easy to get, and a part of daily social practices, it’s easy to forget alcohol can be just as addictive as other substances. It’s also hard to tell the difference between social drinking and alcohol use. Alcohol addiction treatment can help someone address drinking habits, behaviors, thought patterns, and mental health to determine the best type of treatment, whether someone is struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

If you or someone you love is drinking more heavily, our team can help. A Better State provides the New Hampshire area with comprehensive addiction and mental health treatments. Learn more about the difference between social drinking vs. alcoholism at A Better State, or call us at 781.412.1488 to discover our alcohol addiction treatments.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

For many people, drinking alcohol is a way to self-soothe difficult emotions, stress, and to repress painful memories. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it immediately slows down the body’s functions. This results in loss of coordination, slow reaction times, and the “mellow” feeling that comes with a drink. While drinking may bring temporary relief, other mood disorders can get worse when the effects of alcohol wear off.

Like any addiction, alcohol dependence happens when the brain and body rely on alcohol for chemical processing. The more someone drinks, the more the brain will depend on alcohol for these chemicals. Eventually, the brain will stop making certain chemicals on its own when a person becomes addicted to alcohol. Their brain and body experience withdrawal symptoms when they go for too many hours without alcohol. Alcoholics often try to convince themselves that they can quit drinking alcohol by exercising willpower. However, addiction occurs on a chemical level in the brain and cannot be controlled with willpower alone.

Social Drinking vs. Alcohol Abuse

Social drinking is common and a large part of many people’s lives. Often paired with stress or celebration, social drinking takes many forms. Sometimes it’s hard to know when social drinking develops into habitual or alcohol use. Here are some signs that a social drinker is developing an alcohol dependence:

  • Mood swings
  • Craving alcohol
  • Thinking about alcohol
  • Secretive drinking
  • Drug-seeking behavior
  • Sweating, shaking, confusion without alcohol
  • Chronic dehydration

A significant shift from social drinking to alcohol abuse is drinking alone. Secretive drinking, obsessing over alcohol, combing alcohol with other substances, or negative thought patterns that resolve with alcohol are signs that social drinking has turned into alcoholism. Heavy drinking, or consuming more than recommended weekly based on gender, height, and weight, can be another sign of alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

Learn More About What Is Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Treatment in New Hampshire

Although alcohol may appear less harmful than illicit drugs, alcohol consumption, heavy drinking, and social drinking can all result in addiction. Alcohol addiction can cause a range of long-term health problems. It’s always best to talk to a professional for dual diagnosis treatment of alcohol use to uncover underlying mental health issues.

If you or someone you love is ready to stop drinking, we can help. At A Better State, we treat alcohol addiction alongside mental health issues and other addictions. With a holistic, trauma-informed approach to recovery, our clients enjoy flexible outpatient services that meet their busy lives. We have the program for you whether you’re looking for daytime or evening intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) or partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). Serving the New Hampshire area, our Hudson, NH, clinic has the program to help you and your loved ones today.

Get Help from A Better State Today

Knowing the differences between social drinking vs. alcoholism is essential for identifying if you or a loved one has a problem. The line between social drinking and alcoholism can be blurry, but some key differences can help determine if you or a loved one has a problem. For instance, social drinkers typically drink moderately, while those with alcoholism may need to drink more to achieve the same effect.

At A Better State, we can help you or a loved one get on the road to recovery. Our team of experts will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs and helps you overcome your addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you or a loved one. Call us now at 781.412.1488 to learn more about determining the differences between social drinking vs. alcoholism.