Skip to content
Group 401

Alcohol Use vs. Abuse – How to Know When You’re Drinking More Than You Should

Addicted to alcohol man drinking alone at the barIn our society, where drinking alcohol is celebrated as a rite of passage, an essential part of many social gatherings and even a form of recreation, it can be easy to fall into the habit of drinking too much. How can you tell the difference between using alcohol, and abusing it?

  1. Understand that experts consider alcohol abuse and alcoholism to be two separate conditions. Alcoholism is defined as dependence on and tolerance to alcohol, while alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking.
  2. Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that makes a person self-destructive and dangerous to themselves, damages personal relationships, harms their ability to work and can progress into alcoholism.

How can you tell if alcohol use has become alcohol abuse?

  • When drinking causes you to neglect responsibilities at home, work, or school.
  • When you find yourself skipping out on work, school, personal or social commitments because you’re hung over.
  • When it puts you in dangerous situations, like drinking and driving, drinking in a bad neighborhood, mixing alcohol with prescription medication or operating machinery while under the influence.
  • When it gets you into legal trouble, like getting arrested for fighting or drunk and disorderly conduct, domestic disputes or driving under the influence.
  • When your drinking is causing or making problems worse in your relationships with your friends, family or spouse.
  • When you drink to de-stress—and that de-stressing requires more and more alcohol to have the same effect.

What are some of the signs of alcoholism?

  • An increased tolerance to alcohol, meaning you need more drinks to “get buzzed”.
  • Becoming irritable or angry when alcohol is not available.
  • Missing work or school, or performing badly in either place.
  • Experiencing weight loss or gain, poor eating habits or reduced attention to grooming.
  • Hiding alcohol in unusual places.
  • Concealing from others how much you are drinking.

So how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?

There’s a difference between drinking socially or enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, and needing to drink — or drinking to excess. If you’re having problems in your interpersonal relationships, if you’re having trouble at your job (because you don’t show up regularly or on time), or if you find you’re spending a large portion of your paycheck on alcohol, it’s time to take a look at your drinking habits.

If you’re not sure how to assess your drinking, or if you know you drink too much and need help, please call the team at Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800. We can help you help yourself.