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Are You a Social Drinker?


It is common for those individuals who have developed some type of drinking problem to be in denial about this. In fact, the individual may insist that they are a “social drinker” indicate that they are in control and sensible when it comes to alcohol. The reality is, though, that in many cases the person will be simply deluding themselves. It could also be that the person believes that the term “social drinker” just refers to anyone who is not showing any obvious symptoms of alcoholism, but the criteria for this term is usually a bit stricter than this.

What is a Social Drinker?

There is a great deal of confusion to the meaning of the term “social drinker,” and this is why even people who have obvious problems because of alcohol consumption can claim the term. The fact that the term can be so vague that it allows anyone to claim that it applies to them – even the person who goes to the bar every night and drinks to intoxication. A better way to describe social drinking would be to say that the individual is a drinker in a manner that would be considered safe. This means that alcohol is not causing any problems in their life, and they are able to stick to the recommended limits for safe consumption.

UK Safe Alcohol Consumption Levels

In order to be considered a social drinker the individual needs to stick to the recommended safe consumption levels. It is dangerous for people to believe that they can just ignore these limits, or that they are overly cautious. If the person consumes above these levels they will be taking a risk. In the UK, safe alcohol consumption would be considered to be:

  • One to two units of alcohol per day would be considered a safe level of consumption for most adults in the UK. Those individuals who are over the age of 40 may even get health benefits from this level of drinking.
  • Regularly consuming up to four units of alcohol per day could be still considered safe drinking, as it does not acquire any significant health risk.
  • Those individuals who regularly drink more than four units per day will be putting their health at risk, and this would not be considered social drinking.

Unlike many other countries around the world, the UK does not offer guidelines on weekly limits, as they believe this can be confusing. What happens with weekly limits is that the individual may believe that it is safe to consume their full weekly quota of alcohol in one sitting – this would in fact be binge drinking.

In the above, the word “unit” would refer to:

  • Half a pint of regular beer, lager, or cider
  • Single pub measured shot of spirits

It is sometimes stated that a small glass of wine would be one unit of alcohol, but it is actually closer to 1.5 units. Drinks such as alcopops and strong beers can be 1.5 to 3 units.

There will be people who may not be safe even with small amounts of alcohol including:

  • Anyone who has even been physically or psychologically dependent on alcohol
  • Those individuals who are recovering from a drug addiction are advised to refrain from alcohol consumption, as they will be at high risk of developing a problem
  • Anyone under the age of 18 should avoid alcohol
  • Pregnant women are advised to refrain from alcohol
  • Women who are breastfeeding should also avoid alcohol

Signs That You Are No Longer Drinking Socially

It is very easy to move from social drinking to abusive drinking, and it is very easy for the person to miss this transition. Once the individual develops a dependency to this substance, the situation will be further complicated by the fact that they are likely to be dealing with denial. Any of the following symptoms might suggest that the individual is no longer drinking socially:

  • They regularly drink more than the recommended levels.
  • The individual feels that alcohol is helping them to cope better in life. They may use it to help them sleep at night, or to unwind after a busy day. The fact that the person is drinking to achieve these effects puts them at high risk of falling into addiction.
  • The person’s personality changes when they consume alcohol. They may become louder and more sociable, and it may even cause them to become aggressive.
  • The person may say things to other people that they would never say when sober – this could include insults, hurtful comments, or personal information that is too revealing.
  • The individual says or does things that they later regret while they are under the influence of alcohol. They may wake up the next day full of remorse over something that they did – something that they would be unlikely to do if they had not been drinking.
  • The person may believe that they need to consume alcohol in order to have a good time. They may even be reluctant about going to social functions unless there is alcohol going to be available.
  • The individual may feel that it is important to defend the idea that they only ever drink socially. They may have secret doubts that they wish to ignore.
  • The person regularly deals with hangover symptoms.
  • They have behaved unethically while under the influence of alcohol.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

If people abuse alcohol for a long period of time, they are likely to develop an addiction. This means that they are now physically and psychologically dependent on the substance. The most common signs of addiction would include:

  • One of the most obvious signs of addiction is that the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop using or significantly reduce the intake of the substance. These symptoms occur because the body has needed to alter the way it functions in order to cope with the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream, and it needs to go through a period of readjustment when the substance is removed.
  • The individual is also likely to have an increased tolerance for the substance – this means that they need to take more of it to get the same effect that they would have previously gotten with a smaller dosage.
  • The person will usually be spending increasing amounts of time drinking alcohol, thinking about drinking alcohol, and getting over the effects of this consumption.
  • The individual may become defensive if any questions are asked about their alcohol intake. They may insist that they only ever drink socially even though there is ample evidence that this is not the case. This is often a sign that the person is dealing with denial.
  • The person is no longer meeting their social, work, or family responsibilities because of their drinking.
  • They may be experiencing legal or financial problems because of this behaviour.

The individual experiences blackouts. This means that there are periods of time when drinking when they are unable to remember anything that has happened. The person could behave really badly but not remember a thing about it.

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