Heavy drinking isn’t good for your physical or mental health. But what constitutes “heavy drinking?” At what point should you begin to worry that you may be drinking too much?
Learn more about heavy drinking, its side effects, and what will happen if you drink too much.
Defining Heavy Drinking
Developing a specific definition for heavy drinking is difficult, as recommendations vary. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “heavy drinking” is defined as engaging in binge drinking on at least five days in the past month.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as any pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol levels to 0.08 g/dl.
SAMHSA, on the other hand, defines binge drinking as drinking four or more drinks on one occasion for females and five or more drinks on one occasion for males.
Although these definitions seem different, they are actually quite similar. For most people, blood alcohol concentrations will reach 0.08 after four or five alcoholic drinks, depending on sex.
The NIAAA also defines moderate or “low-risk” drinking. For women, “low-risk” drinking is no more than three drinks in one day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, “low-risk” drinking is no more than four drinks in one day and no more than 14 drinks in one week.
However, guidelines from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services define moderate drinking as no more than one or two drinks per day.
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Side Effects Of Heavy Drinking
Drinking heavily can bring about a host of unwanted consequences for both men and women. While intoxicated, you may experience:
- changes in your mood or emotional state
- memory impairment
- slower reflexes
- poor judgment
- trouble speaking, walking or standing
- flushing in your face
- lower body temperature
- disrupted sleeping patterns
- fatigue and drowsiness
- increased urine production
- visual disturbances
These side effects can be dangerous, especially when combined with one another. For example, because of your impaired judgment, you may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
You may also be more likely to drive when you know you probably shouldn’t. Unfortunately, slower reflexes and poor coordination dramatically increase your chances of being involved in a car accident.
Long-Term Consequences Of Heavy Drinking
Drinking heavily on a regular basis can also lead to long-term consequences that affect both your physical and mental health. Long-term physical effects of heavy drinking include:
- alcoholic fatty liver disease
- cirrhosis of the liver
- increased risk of heart disease
- higher risk of cancer
- nerve damage
- brain damage
- increased risk of dementia
In addition to these physical effects, long-term alcohol abuse can lead to addiction. When you become addicted to alcohol, nearly every aspect of your life will suffer as a result, from your physical health to your interpersonal relationships.
Alcohol abuse can also lead to depression and other mental health concerns.
How Many Drinks A Week Make You An Alcoholic?
Determining exactly how many drinks a week makes someone an alcoholic is difficult. As discussed above, drinking more than a specific number of drinks per week can be defined as “heavy drinking.” However, heavy drinking and alcoholism are not the same things.
Alcoholism is a substance use disorder that requires professional treatment, but some people who engage in heavy drinking may not actually have an addiction. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that periods of heavy drinking increases your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
If you believe you may be an alcoholic, or if you’re drinking more than the recommended amount and are concerned that you may be on the path to addiction, you need prompt treatment.
The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can deal with this issue and regain control of your life. Contact us today to learn more about how we treat alcohol use disorder.