For most people, having that occasional drink is not a big deal.
You go out to dinner with your spouse or friends, and have one glass of wine. Or, you retreat to your easy chair in the evening with a beer or two and watch the big game.
Those scenarios above could describe most of us. But if you go above those drink limits — and do it quite often — it could signal a serious problem. You may have graduated from “light” drinker or “social” drinker to a “heavy” drinker. And you may not even realize it.
For healthy adults, in general, drinking more than the following single-day or weekly limits is considered “at-risk” or “heavy” drinking, according to a study by the National Institute of Health:
* Men: More than 4 drinks on any day, or 14 per week.
* Women: More than 3 drinks on any day, or 7 per week.
About 1 in 4 people who exceed these limits already has an alcohol-use disorder, according to the NIH, and the rest are at greater risk for developing these and other problems. Remember: not everyone is cut from the same mold. People can have problems drinking less than these amounts, particularly if they drink too quickly.
The NIH also found that it makes a difference in both how much you drink on any day, and how often you have a “heavy drinking” day; in other words, more than four drinks in a day for men, or more than three drinks for women.
A few mild symptoms — which you might not see as trouble signs — can signal the start of a drinking problem. It helps to know the signs so you can make a change as early as possible. If heavy drinking continues, then over time, the number and severity of symptoms can grow and add up to an “alcohol use disorder,” according to experts.
The NIH provides the following checklist to see if you have a clear drinking problem, or if you are approaching a problem.
In the past year, have you …
* Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
* More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
* More than once gotten into situations while drinking or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
* Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
* Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or, continued to drink after having had a memory blackout?
* Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick?
* Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
* Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
* Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
* More than once gotten arrested, been held at a police station, or had other legal problems because of your drinking?
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