WITH alcoholic beverages flowing freely at most social gatherings, it might not be very easy to tell if you or one of your friends have a drinking problem. You could very well just be drinking for fun when you are out with friends, but when you are drinking too much too often, it becomes a problem. But where exactly is the line drawn between social drinking and alcoholism?
Denise Chin, one of the substance abuse officers at the National Council on Drug Abuse, explained that an assessment of how a person is functioning in society is critical when considering whether they have a drinking problem.
“If you realise within their functioning that they are having issues such as not reaching work early, not doing well in terms of performance, and not meeting their regular obligations with the family, then it will indicate that they are having a problem,” she said.
Before it gets to that point, though, there are different ways for you to know if you are drinking for fun (social drinker), or you are becoming an alcoholic (dependent drinker). The “sensible limit” is used as a guideline.
“Drinking sensibly, according to the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization, for women, is up to four standard drinks within a week, and about four or five for men,” she noted.
She explained that the limit is higher for men because they have traditionally had a slightly larger body mass than women.
“It also depends on the alcohol content of the drink, which is found on the label of any product you are drinking,” she advised. “What you have to watch out for, though, is when you're having mixed drinks, where it's not so easy to detect the alcohol content, especially if someone else is mixing your drink.”
She highlighted the different types of drinkers.
“Someone who is considered a social or a moderate drinker, they really drink occasionally, sometimes maybe over the sensible limit, but their use tends to be limited to social events,” she said.
“While a heavy drinker, or what we call a more harmful or dependent drinker, is usually drinking over the sensible limit, and that causes other challenges such as socially, or with their jobs or their family.”
She mentioned, too, that another category of drinkers has emerged from the social drinkers' group — the binge drinkers.
“These persons will go to a party and drink a lot, but don't drink again until the next party. That, too, can be a harmful practice, because that overdrinking in one segment is not good for you. You put yourself at risk in terms of your safety; you become more vulnerable to things such as date rape and being drugged.”
Chin warned that binge drinking can also lead to alcoholism, when after a while you become dependent on the substance.
“For a person who is a dependent drinker, there is the health factor. They might end up with cirrhosis, which is the scarring and poor functioning of the liver, and they could die from that, along with other health issues” she advised.
The substance abuse officer encouraged people who drink for fun to know their tolerance limit, drink sensibly, and stick to their type of drink. For example, a beer drinker should not switch to white rum suddenly.