Alcohol Addiction

Drinking Too Much? Here’s How To Know

Most of us are well aware of the dangers of excessive drinking and alcohol addiction. Consuming too much alcohol over a period of time can lead to a variety of physical health concerns, including liver disease, stroke, cardiac arrest, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and several cancers.

Physical health is not the only thing that is affected by the need for alcohol addiction treatment. There is also the fact that alcohol can make people engage in high-risk behaviour, for instance, while driving a car. This can lead to anything ranging from a minor fender bender on your way home from a party to the loss of innocent lives.

People who are drunk may also become violent, especially if they already had a predisposition to anger. In addition to impaired driving offences and the charges that can stem from that, alcohol consumption can trigger incidents of domestic violence, assault, breaking and entering, and many other forms of criminal activity.

But How Much Is Too Much?

How Much Is Too Much
Most people who consume alcohol do so with the intention of being moderate. We don’t see the harm in getting home from work and having one or two beers to relax. From time to time, we’ll go to a wedding or a dinner party and drink more than we normally would, but as long as we don’t drive afterwards, and as long as excessive drinking does not become a regular habit, we tell ourselves that we are nowhere near that zone of “drinking too much”.

Some researchers, however, estimate that as many as one-third of adults drink excessively, many of them without realizing it.

How do they arrive at this number?

The first thing to clarify is what constitutes a unit of alcohol. In general, “a drink” consists of 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1 ½ ounce of hard liquor, like whisky or vodka.

How much you can drink without it being considered excessive depends on several factors, such as your biological sex, your weight, the presence of any medical conditions, and medications that you are taking. 

If you wanted to know exactly what your specific alcohol consumption limits are, you would need to talk to your doctor. This way, you can accurately determine whether there is a need for addiction treatment.

But based on adult population averages, it is generally thought that for biological females, eight drinks or more per week is excessive. For biological males, that number is fifteen drinks or more per week.

Many people would agree that this is not a lot. An adult female who has a small glass of wine every evening plus an extra glass on Saturday nights is technically drinking to excess.

It would appear, though, that most people who drink a single glass of wine with their dinner do not necessarily consume more than that when they are out. Most excessive drinking takes the form of bingeing, where the individual consumes four drinks or more per occasion.

The Distinction Between Excess Drinking And Alcohol Addiction

It is important to note that the vast majority of people who drink to excess are not addicted to alcohol. They do not experience withdrawal symptoms when they do not drink, and they do not show signs of developing an increased tolerance for alcohol. 

Nor do they experience cravings when they do not have access to alcohol. They may simply have difficulty saying no to more when they have already had one or two drinks.

Even where alcohol consumption results in the commission of a crime, it should not be assumed that the individual is an alcoholic. It should not even be assumed that they have consumed more than what is considered “moderate”. 

All it takes for an incident to happen is for the person to drink more than their body can handle and then do something risky without realizing that they are endangering themselves or someone else.

Alcohol Addiction is Not All About The Numbers

The legal system places a lot of stock in numbers – in other words, the blood alcohol content. And that is reasonable: with alcohol affecting people in such different ways, there has to be some way of quantifying how much is “too much” from a legal standpoint.

But we need to remember that it’s not only about the numbers. We can also measure excess drinking by how we respond when we consume alcohol, and perhaps more tellingly, how we respond when we don’t have alcohol.

Related article: Can I Drink Alcohol While on Birth Control?

How Do I Know That I’m Drinking Too Much?

How Do I Know That I’m Drinking Too Much

If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption, that alone might give you pause to look at reducing your alcohol intake. 

But there are several questions you can ask yourself to get an idea of whether there’s a need for alcohol addiction treatment. These questions, which apply to the previous twelve months, are as follows:

  • Have I had times when I had more drinks than I intended, or drank for longer than I planned to?
  • Have I tried unsuccessfully to either cut back on my alcohol use or to quit entirely?
  • Have I felt strong cravings to drink alcohol?
  • Has it ever taken a long time for me to recover from the effects of alcohol?
  • Has alcohol consumption interfered with my ability to go to work or school, or to meet family obligations?
  • Have I consumed alcohol in spite of it affecting my relationships with loved ones?
  • Have I stopped participating in activities that are important to me so I could drink instead?
  • Have I engaged in potentially risky behaviour after drinking, such as driving or operating machinery?
  • Have I continued to drink in spite of feeling sad, anxious or sick?
  • Have I needed to drink more to gain the same effects?
  • Have I experienced withdrawal symptoms as a result of not having access to alcohol?

What Should I Do If I Am Drinking Excessively?

There are people who would say that you should simply stop drinking, but this is not easy for everyone. In fact, if you are a very heavy user of alcohol, quitting without medical supervision is not recommended.

Contact 1000 Islands Addiction Rehab & Treatment Centre for addiction treatment programs.

Related article: How To Avoid Alcohol After Recovery

Alcohol Addiction

Be in the Know: Canada’s Latest Alcohol Addiction and Recovery Facts

Most people enjoy the occasional glass of wine with our meal, and the nonchalance of folks having a couple of drinks at the end of the day seems far from becoming a problem. Perhaps it is why countless people don’t think they have a problem. There are also cultural and social aspects associated with drinking, especially among Canadians. Having a long history of alcohol consumption that has shaped drinking preferences over time, alcohol is widely available and promoted, while just as much as almost everywhere around the world increased exposure from the media and surrounding environment as well as easy access to alcohol are linked to increased drinking and addiction.

Back in 2015, about 80% of the Canadian population reported consuming alcohol. More recently, Statistic Canada revealed that 19% of Canadians aged as little as 12 and older reported habits that classified them as heavy drinkers. The latest numbers also show that despite the fact that 18 is the legal age to purchase alcohol, almost 30% (27.9%) of teenagers between 12 and 17 report consuming alcohol and over 40% say they do it at least once a month. Another large survey of over 43,000 students from across 41 Canadian campuses signalled the struggles institutions face with the prevalence of binge drinking. Over third of respondents admitted to having five or more drinks the last time they partied or socialized, while 18% said they physically injuring themselves as a result of over drinking or had unprotected sex (24%), lost their memory (29%) or did a regrettable thing (38%).

When these numbers are put in a global context, the World Health Organization reports that Canadians drink more than the global average and when being compared to the U.S, Latin American and Caribbean countries it’s actually the first one.

However alarming these numbers may be, having a couple of drinks is now so normalized, very few people are actually aware of the risks. Millions of drinking Canadians risk injuries, chronic conditions such as liver disease and cancer and children end up growing up with alcohol in their environment making them numb to dangers. At least 3,000 babies are estimated to having been born with feta alcohol spectrum disorder each year.

At the individual level, alcohol impacts the biological system, much like a drug causing addiction leading to health problems, decreased well-being over both the short and long term. It also affects behaviours as many of us are aware: from impulsivity and violence to poor memory, impaired decision-making and overall functioning.

Related article: How Alcohol Abuse Affects Family Relationships And Friendships

After tobacco, alcohol is considered to be the substance that causes most harm across Canada. It has also been shown to be one of the top three leading risks for cancer worldwide being responsible for about 4% of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, liver, larynx and breast. And its consumption has implications at many levels. The economic cost alone of alcohol-related harm is estimated at about $14.6 billion per year. ​While Canadians are known to having spent over $22 billion on alcohol just last year.

There is a wide range of factors influencing the ways in which alcohol affects a person’s life and health which include how much and how often a person drinks. Probably just as much as the specific health risk factors they are facing and even what they do under the influence. And it’s way too easy to fall into the trap. Ads are on TV, friends are posting boozy pictures on social media, there are even studies that prove the benefit of drinking which is quite dangerous as many fail to acknowledge the ‘moderately’ and end up in emergency rooms or hooked on it.

But how can one know when too much is actually too much? Preferably before getting into accidents and causing injuries to themselves and others. According to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, having more than 15 standard drinks a week for men and 10 a week for women with more than 3 drinks a day for men or 2 for women increases health risk, makes people more prone to addiction and is a definite sign that there is a problem that needs addressing.

If it gets to addiction, recovery can be a lifelong battle for many. And there isn’t a specific profile the average alcohol addict has, it can be anyone from any gender, race, age or status. A 2017 survey wanted to uncover the realities of alcohol recovery in Canada, what it means for people going through it and what got them there. Among other questions, participants were asked if they consider themselves in recovery and what were the main challenges they encountered so far. 78% of people who considered themselves in recovery were actively employed, while almost half (49%) were married and over 60% had kids. However, on a more optimistic note, the survey also showed that recovery facilitated significant improvements in both productivity and quality of life. For example, more than 60% used to miss work regularly. This number showed incredible progression after recovery, dropping to only 4%.

Learning about the challenges they faced shows how big the gap is when it comes to seeking help. Results showed many people hide their problem and still consider it something to be embarrassed about. Before receiving help, the first barrier that needed overcoming was the stigma, the second one was access to services with many believing finding the right support was difficult when they finally decided they needed it.

These key findings are essential, especially for recovery facilities that strive to continuously improve their offering and care. Probably the best way to learn more about how to seek the most appropriate services and what to expect once admitted is to hear from people who have gone through the exact same thing or even worse. Testimonials can help many overcome their fears and understand that recovering does not have to be a gruesome, horrible process. Quite the opposite, it can be a life-changing experiences with long-term benefits.

September is Recovery Month across Canada. Ahead of this, it’s important for communities and businesses to join forces altogether to work towards improving the lives of people facing alcohol addiction.

Call 1000 Islands Addiction Rehab & Treatment Centre for addiction treatment programs.