When Do Social Drinkers Become Alcoholic?

A review of literature suggests that there is no established boundary between social drinking and alcoholism primarily because the terms are contextual and may depend upon the culture of the society it applies to. Many define it as overlapping while some describe the relationship between the two as separated by a very fine line. However, there are still considerable sources which intend to distinguish the difference between the two.

Wikipedia (2007) states that people generally “drink for one or more of six reasons: to quench thirst, to get drunk (binge drinking), to enjoy a social setting (social drinking), to enjoy the taste of the beverage, to feed an addiction (alcoholism), or as part of a religious custom.

” For the purposes of this paper, we will only be taking two of the previously mentioned purposes of drinking, in our attempt to identify when exactly social drinkers become alcoholic.

Although lacking an exact definition, social drinking is usually referred to as “casual collateral drinking, usually without the intent to get drunk (Wikipedia 2007).

” It is also said that social drinking has been largely attached to social functions like dating, marriage and other celebrations. Social drinking refers to “drinking patterns that are accepted by the society in which they occur (http://pubs. niaaa. nih. gov/publications/aa16. htm 1992).

” The physical act of being in a setting with other people while sharing a drink is primarily the main characteristic of social drinking. It commonly “takes place between two or more participants, is satisfying to the drinker and participants, and does not impede the drinker’s health, interpersonal relations, or economic functioning (http://www.

ppsinc. org/alcohol/alco02. htm 2006). ” Although it is not categorized by a definite number of drinks as opposed to hazardous drinking or alcoholism, social drinking is not necessarily free of problems.

The term social drinking is often confused with moderate drinking, since both usually pertain to drinking habits that are not necessarily causing problems, either for the drinker or for the society. If mere social drinking is not a cause for worry, alcoholism is completely the opposite. It is defined as a disease depicted by the “consumption of or preoccupation with alcoholic beverages to the extent that this behavior interferes with the alcoholic’s normal personal, family, social, or work life (Wikipedia 2007).

” Next to smoking, alcoholism is the leading drug problem and cause of preventable death in the United States, affecting close to 17. 6 million adults. It can range in severity, from mild to life threatening and certainly affects the individual, the person’s family, and society in adverse ways. Some features that characterize alcoholism are craving (a strong need to drink); loss of control (not being able to stop drinking once you’ve begun); physical dependence (experiencing withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from alcohol); and tolerance (need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to “get high”).

Use, misuse, heavy use, abuse, addiction, and dependence are all common labels used to describe a person’s relationship with alcohol. To distinguish social drinking from alcoholism, we need to associate social drinking with “use” or “moderate drinking” in a social setting in lieu of a numerical estimate for alcohol consumption. Based on the Nidus Information Services, Inc. (2001) standards, one drink is equivalent to 12-oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1. 5 oz (a jigger) of 90-proof liquor.

If this were the case, moderate (social) drinking would be defined as equal to or less than two drinks a day for men and equal to or less than one drink a day for women. Meanwhile, an alcoholic would consume more than 14 drinks per week or 4 to 5 drinks at one sitting for men and more than 7 drinks a week or more than 3 drinks per sitting for women. The latter can now be used to label alcoholism, which can still be subdivided into abuse and dependence. Alcohol abuse is the lesser of the two evils.

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