Alcohol is such a large part of our social culture it is sometimes difficult to recognize when use becomes abuse or dependency.
How Much is Too Much?
You will probably be surprised to find out that moderate drinking is less than what you think.
For women: no more than one drink per day
For men: up to two drinks a day
How much is considered alcohol abuse?
For women: more than seven drinks per week, or three drinks per occasion
For men: more than 14 drinks per week or four drinks per occasion
One drink equals:
- a 4-ounce glass of wine
- a 12-ounce beer
- a 10-ounce wine cooler
- a 1-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor
You may be abusing alcohol if one or more of the following apply to you:
- cannot stop with one drink
- alcohol takes up a great deal of your time, energy and focus
- black out or forget what you did while drinking
- regularly drink more than you planned to
- feel ashamed or guilty about your drinking
- lie about or hide your drinking habits
- have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking.
When Does Abuse Become Dependency?
There is a very fine line between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Alcoholism includes all the symptoms of alcohol abuse except alcoholism includes dependency.
The two major warning signs of alcoholism are tolerance and withdrawal.Tolerance means that over time you need to drink more and more alcohol to have the same effect. Withdrawal is your body’s way of telling you it physically needs alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms begin six to 48 hours after your last drink. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to withdrawal from and symptoms can be mild, violent or even fatal.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- depression and anxiety
- shakiness or trembling
- loss of appetite
It is very common for someone who abuses alcohol to find it hard to believe that they have a drinking problem, even though it is clear to others. Denial is a major barrier to getting help. Getting successful treatment is very difficult if you don’t realize there is a problem.
If you are concerned about your or someone else’s alcohol use, call the Lawyer Assistance Program for free, confidential assistance from a counselor at (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041, or toll-free at (800) 492-1964.
Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, CAC, is Program Counselor for the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program.