Different drinking levels are often referenced when diagnosing alcoholism and alcohol abuse. The path to alcohol addiction doesn’t happen overnight. For example, moderate drinking isn’t a cause for concern in most people. However, when drinking gets out of control, it’s easy to start walking a path toward addiction.
Different Levels of Alcohol Consumption
It is estimated that over 17 million American adults have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Understanding the levels of alcohol consumption will help you recognize the signs and symptoms of each one so that you can seek help before the problem elevates to dependence and addiction.
Drinking in Moderation
Most people consider themselves moderate drinkers, but anyone can choose not to drink. Drinking in moderation means limiting intake to 2 drinks in a day for men and 1 drink in a day for women. The less alcohol people consume, the better for their health.
Binge drinking doesn’t necessarily translate to alcoholism. For the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking means having a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) translates this to having 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks or more for women within a couple of hours.
Heavy Alcohol Use
Finally, heavy alcohol use equates to 4 or more drinks for men any day or more than 14 drinks per week. For women, it’s half of this consumption, accounting for 3 drinks per day or more than 7 drinks per week. Heavy alcohol use is considered problematic drinking and needs to be addressed before it becomes an addiction.
What are the 5 Types of Drinkers?
While society has different stereotypes about alcoholics, there is a study that recognizes at least five subtypes of alcoholics:
1. Young Adult
At least 31% of alcoholics fall under this category. In this group, people start drinking around 19 and often develop alcohol dependency by the time they’re 24. They’re less likely to have a full-time job and rarely seek treatment for their drinking. Drinkers in this group might drink less frequently than other groups. However, they are the most likely to binge drink when they drink.
2. Young Antisocial
This group starts drinking around 15 and develops alcohol dependence around age 18. They are very likely to suffer from antisocial personality disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are also the group with the highest rates of other addictions, including opioids, cocaine, meth, and marijuana. Interestingly, this group is the most likely to seek treatment and attend self-help groups.
3. Functional Subtype
Close to 20% of drinkers are considered “functional alcoholics.” This group includes people in their 40s, mostly suffering from depression and other mental health disorders. Almost all the members (60%) in the group are men, and this is the least likely group to get into legal problems for their drinking. While they are not likely to seek traditional treatment, they’ll often participate in a 12-step program.
4. Intermediate Familial
This group starts drinking when they’re around 17 and are more likely to develop an addiction. Most likely, they have a direct family member that also struggles with alcoholism. People in the intermediate familial group have a high probability of suffering from personality disorders, anxiety, and depression. They are also more likely to have co-occurring addiction to marijuana and cocaine.
5. Chronic Severe
Only 9% of alcoholics make up this group. While this group often starts drinking early in life, they don’t develop an alcohol dependence until their 30s. 75% of people in this group have a family history of alcoholism, and close to 50% deal with an antisocial personality disorder. Chronic severe drinkers struggle with withdrawal symptoms and persistent efforts to cut down but not seek treatment. Because of this, they also have the highest rates of emergency room visits due to drinking.
Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you or someone you love starts to notice the signs and symptoms of an alcohol use disorder, it can be an opportunity to seek treatment and make a change early. Engaging in binge drinking or heavy drinking, spending more time drinking and recovering from drinking, and craving alcohol most days are the most noticeable symptoms to watch out for.
Remember, alcohol addiction is treatable. If you notice these early signs, reach out to a rehab facility to learn more about their detox and treatment programs.