The Differences Between Moderate Drinking and Alcoholism

There are different levels of drinking, from moderate to heavy. While it is apparent to most people that an alcoholic drinks more than someone at a moderate level, few people understand that the differences are definable by the number of drinks, frequency of drinking, and whether there is a dependence on alcohol or not.

How Many Drinks and How Often?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to two drinks per day for men and a single drink per day for women. This amount is less than binge drinking, which is a drinking pattern that “brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL,” as per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Women typically reach this BAC level after consuming four drinks in a two-hour period, while it is five drinks for men. This pattern repeats about once a month for a binge drinker, who is not necessarily a heavy drinker.

For a heavy drinker, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains this individual drinks at least five drinks in one sitting on five or more days in the past month. At this point, he or she has an alcohol use disorder, as per the SAMHSA, which is a medical condition most commonly known as alcoholism.

Dependence on Alcohol

In addition to an alcoholic consuming more drinks on a single occasion and more often than a moderate drinker, an alcoholic also has a dependence on this substance that someone at a moderate level does not. Alcohol is an addictive drug, both physically and mentally, and becomes the most important thing to an alcoholic in his or her life. This person typically gives up social interactions and relationships in favor of opportunities to drink, which a moderate drinker is far less likely to do.

An alcoholic, unlike a moderate drinker, thinks the ability to function is not possible without drinking. There are different levels of alcoholism, as well, with some people being more severe than others. But the common thread is that when the individual finds it difficult to have fun or relax without a drink, there is a mental dependence on alcohol.

Treatment for Alcoholism

As the misuse of alcohol can significantly endanger a person’s mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, it is important to seek quality treatment as soon as possible for an issue of this kind. A reputable rehab center can provide the opportunity for a sober, rewarding life.