When Alcohol Use Becomes Misuse

Woman Drinking

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, so what better time to talk about alcohol use?

Many people drink alcohol with no issues or concerns. However, when you drink too much, or too often, it can become a problem. Do you know how much you really drink or how much is unhealthy for you to drink?

Let's review some of the basics.

A Drink, Defined

A “standard drink” is based on alcohol content, not on how much fits in your glass.

A standard drink is:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5 percent alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12 percent alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40 percent alcohol

Large containers make it easy to have more than one drink in one serving.

How Much Is Too Much?
The risk associated with different drinking patterns depends both on how much and how often you drink.

Low-risk drinking is defined differently for men and women. For men, it is defined as no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks in a week. For women, low-risk drinking is defined as three drinks on any single day and no more than seven per week.

Binge drinking—another risky drinking pattern—is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks for men or four or more for women within a few hours. People who binge drink on five or more days in a month are considered to be heavy (and therefore risky) drinkers, even if they don’t touch a drop of alcohol on the other days of the month.

The Health Risks of Risky Drinking
Some consequences of heavy alcohol use can take years to develop including neurological damage, sexual dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic sleep problems. Others occur in a heartbeat like car crashes, domestic violence, sexual assault, or DUI arrests.

It is never the wrong time to cut down or quit drinking, or to express your concern about the drinking habits of someone you care about.

Take Action
If alcohol is a problem for you or a loved one, please seek help. If a loved one expresses concern about your drinking, give their comments some thought. If you don’t think you have a problem, but do engage in heavy or binge drinking, try cutting down to moderate levels.

If you would like help cutting down or stopping drinking altogether, talk to your primary care provider and ask to set up an appointment with a behavioral health specialist to talk about your alcohol use.

Support groups can also be helpful. South Shore Medical Center hosts a group to help people cut down or quit alcohol use.

Don’t let alcohol misuse stop you from getting the most out of life! "Managing Your Alcohol Use: Skills and Strategies to Cut Down or Quit" is a 10-meeting session that begins on April 26, and may be covered by your health insurance. Contact Dr. Moore at 781‐551‐0999 x 420 to register or for more details.

This blog is authored by Drs. Thomas Moore and Emily Mohr. They are both from Child & Family Psychological Services, Inc. / Integrated Behavioral Associates (CFPS/IBA), South Shore Medical Center’s partner in offering diagnostic and psychotherapeutic Behavioral Health services to children, adolescents and adults. For information about scheduling an appointment, please call 781-878-5200.