For most women, this level is usually reached by drinking four or more drinks within two hours, and for men it is usually reached by drinking five or more drinks within two hours. Other individuals who cross the line into heavy drinking do not binge drink, but instead drink multiple drinks over the course of a day. Three to four drinks spread out over each 24-hour period is considered heavy drinking, even if the person never gets drunk. Some people who drink too much display signs of alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction involves strong cravings for alcohol, the inability to limit drinking, and continued alcohol use despite harmful physical or psychological effects. Addicts also may experience withdrawal symptoms when they abstain from drinking and may notice that they start to need more and more alcohol to get the same effects. Alcohol abusers may also put themselves and others in harm’s way through drinking and driving or may be more prone to accidents such as falls or burns.

Second, the body will go through withdrawal if intake of the familiar drug ceases or if there is a significant reduction in the usual amount. When a chronic alcohol abuser stops drinking the signs of withdrawal will set in. They may continue to drink in order to avoid feeling such symptoms. No amount of alcohol consumption alcohol dependence symptoms is safe or without risk. The U.S. government, however, defines and recommends levels of alcohol consumption that have been found to generally carry only low to moderate risk for the general population. It is never recommended that individuals who do not drink alcohol begin to drink alcohol based on these guidelines.

what is considered an alcoholic

Everclear, a grain-based spirit, is another drink with a heavy concentration of alcohol. The minimum ABV of Everclear is 60%, but Everclear can also have 75.5% and 95% ABV.

Moderate Drinking Compared To Binging

This can be both physical and psychological – or one or the other, early on. People who develop an addiction to alcohol may often drink alone, as a way to either avoid detection from others or due to feelings of shame or embarrassment. This can present a stark difference from people who drink in times of celebration, at parties, or other events where drinking is considered an accepted social pastime. Alcohol abuse and addiction can look different for everyone.

what is considered an alcoholic

If you or someone you know identifies with the signs of a functioning alcoholic, treatment within an alcohol rehab program may be helpful to address the extent of the person’s drinking. While a functioning alcoholic may experience less consequences of their drinking compared to some others, they can also be in denial about the ways in which their drinking does impact their life. What fuels this kind of thinking for many functioning alcoholics is holding onto a sense of control. If they feel they can control just how far-reaching the effects of their drinking is on their lives, then they can still tell themselves – and others that they don’t have a problem. If a person is regularly drinking heavy amounts of alcohol, or is unable to go a day without drinking, this may indicate that they have developed a dependence on alcohol.

But a family history or current family alcohol or drug abuse problems may influence the start of personal drinking problems. Sometimes a drinking problem is triggered by major life changes that cause depression, isolation, boredom, and loneliness. What’s more, having a preexisting mental health disorder increases your risk for developing alcohol dependence, according to a study published in the journal Addiction. It found that the risk of an AUD is highest among those with intermittent explosive disorder, dysthymia , ODD , bipolar disorder, social phobia, and any anxiety disorder. Moderate use of alcohol is associated both with the frequency of consumption as well as the intention around drinking. A person who has an emotional or psychological attachment to drinking may be at a higher risk for developing an alcohol use disorder compared to a person who regularly has a glass of wine with a meal.

Substance Abuse And Addiction Health Center

In short, if a person has experienced at least two of the 11 factors in the past year then the person is considered to have an alcohol use disorder. The existence of two or three symptoms equals a diagnosis of mild alcohol use disorder, while four to five symptoms is considered moderate, and six or more is considered severe. There are two slightly conflicting recommendations for what are considered “low-risk” limits for alcohol consumption. One is from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism , and the other is from the U.S.

what is considered an alcoholic

Most addiction professionals agree that an at-home detox or “going cold turkey” is never advisable. The best practice would be to talk with an addiction counselor or mental health professional about safe options to detox from alcohol. Previous NIAAA research has found that, on average, only 2 in 100 people who drink within these limits will go on to develop an alcohol use disorder. It is not advisable for people dependent on alcohol to attempt to cut down on or stop drinking Drug rehabilitation without the help of a healthcare provider because of potential life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. People with alcohol use disorders come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and backgrounds. Often, when looking at your drinking behaviors, it can be difficult to understand whether or not you classify as an alcoholic. It can be challenging to know what constitutes as ‘safe’ or moderate drinking or whether you have passed into more problematic or dangerous alcohol use levels.

Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol And Drive?

It can also harm liver, pancreas and immune system function. Heavy drinking can prevent the protective white blood cells in your body to attack bacterial invaders like they’re supposed to.

  • In the long term, it can worsen your overall mental and physical health .
  • For a functional alcoholic, day-drinking can be a way to prevent these withdrawal symptoms.
  • People with unhealthy alcohol use can’t always predict how much they will drink, when they will stop, or what they will do while drinking.
  • Take your life back by getting started in a treatment program today.
  • People often start drinking for social reasons, but as an addiction to alcohol progresses, one might start regularly drinking in solitude.
  • The minimum ABV of Everclear is 60%, but Everclear can also have 75.5% and 95% ABV.

It is strictly advised that under no circumstances should individuals under the legal drinking age of 21 years old consume alcohol in any amount. When drinking adversely affects someone’s health, relationships and daily functioning, they may be considered an alcoholic. With time, excessive drinking can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious health issues. Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that can be dangerous and harmful to the user.

Most of the alcohol you drink is metabolized in your liver. This produces potentially harmful byproducts that can damage your liver cells. As you continue drinking over time, your liver health declines. Heavy drinking or heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking on five or more days of the past month . Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, is an addiction to alcohol. Here’s what you need to know about symptoms, treatment, prevention, and more. Treatment involves helping people understand their alcohol dependency and any problems in their life.

Next In Alcohol Abuse Risks & Complications Series:

Alcohol by volume and alcohol proof are two measures of alcohol content, or the concentration of alcohol in a drink. Alcohol by volume is the number of milliliters of ethanol per 100 milliliters (or 3.4 fl.oz.) in a solution, while alcohol proof is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. For example, a drink which has 50% ABV will be 100 proof.

However, a problem with alcohol does not necessarily make someone an alcoholic. Drinking a small amount can help people feel relaxed, but too much, too often, can be harmful for Transitional living health. This is available from a range of support groups and professional services. If a health worker suspect alcohol may be a problem, they may ask a series of questions.

what is considered an alcoholic

Women should be aware that even moderate drinking may increase the risk of breast cancer. The drinking habits of a functioning alcoholic can vary from person to person, but will most likely lead to an increase in amount and frequency over time. Moderate drinking Alcohol is defined as drinking up to one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks for men – a limit that alcoholics are likely to surpass once their tolerance increases. Long term drinking can also hurt your heart muscles making them unable to contract properly.


Alcohol use during pregnancy increases the danger of miscarriage, congenital disabilities, and cognitive and developmental issues. Anyone who experiences concerns, troubles, or issues due to alcohol use likely has a drinking problem.