What are the Tell-tale Signs of Drinking Problems?

By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: June 18, 2020 | 4 Sources

Excessive alcohol consumption could impair you mentally and physically in many ways. Too much alcohol use resulted in an estimated 95,000 deaths every year in the US from 2011 – 2015, reducing the lives of those who perished by an average of 29 years.

Many people have drinking problems during their lifetime. Recent research has shown that 30% of people will have a problem with alcohol at some stage during their lives.

This does not necessarily mean that they are all alcoholic or will become so.

Problem drinking and alcoholism are not the same.


Signs of A Drinking Problem
Four Types of Drinking

We can distinguish between four 'styles' of drinking:

  • Moderate or Social Drinking:

    This means the individual is following moderate drinking guidelines.

    Most people who drink alcohol fall into this category.

    Drinking at safe levels, according to research, is actually beneficial to your health.

    However, just because alcohol has been shown to have benefits it does not mean that it is a green light to go out on a bender.

    Moderate drinking is not actually a cause for concern in many adults. However, when alcohol use gets out of hand, you could find yourself on a risky path toward alcohol addiction.

    The amounts we are talking about are relatively small as is shown in the table below.

    Moderate Drinking Guidelines

    In the U.K. You can safely drink each week...

    -21 units of alcohol if you are a man.

    -14 units if you are a woman.

    1 unit of alcohol is 1/2 a pint of beer, a small glass of wine or a small pub measure of spirits (not a measure poured by your Uncle Harry into a pint glass!)

    In the U.S. the Surgeon General has decreed that it is O.K. ........

    -For men to have no more than two drinks per day.

    -For women to have no more than one drink per day.

    One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

  • Heavy or Hazardous Drinking:

    This means the individual drinks more than the safe levels as set down by the medical profession. If you are a heavy drinker then you are damaging your mental and physical health. Consuming alcohol at unsafe levels means you have a greater chance of alcohol abuse symptoms like...

    -alcoholic liver disease


    -stomach, throat, intestinal cancers

    -heart problems


    -sexual problems

    -alcoholic gastritis


    - ..and a host of other health problems.

    About 1 in 3 men and 1 in 7 women drink more than the recommended guidelines.

    They are risking their health and, if they continue drinking like this over a period of time, risk developing alcoholism.

  • Problem Drinking:

    This means the individual continues drinking despite the obvious negative effects of alcohol on their life. Perhaps they-

    • have a drink related health problem
    • have financial problems due to their drinking
    • have work or relationship problems due to their alcohol abuse
    ... and yet continue to drink. However, unlike the alcoholic, if they were to stop then they would not suffer alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

  • Alcoholic/Addictive Drinking:

    This means the individual is now showing many of the warning signs of alcoholism.

    They drink every day and continuously. Their body has become dependent on the stuff and will go into withdrawals if they stop. Their drinking is impacting on every aspect of their life and they have lost control over it.

So as you can see from the above having drinking problems can refer to any drinking that falls outside moderate drinking guidelines.

Drinking Problems
Why are you here?

If you are reading this page then you are probably here for one of two reasons:

  • You are concerned about your drinking
  • You are concerned about the drinking of someone you know (and obviously care about)
If you are worried then it is time to do something.

Alcoholism is a progressive disease which, put simply, means that it will get worse unless action is taken.  If you are worried about someone who drinks too much alcohol, ask a professional in alcohol treatment for help.

Are you concerned about the drinking of a family member? Would you like to learn how to help your loved one stop drinking? If so, visit our Living With an Alcoholic page.

If you are worried about a loved ones drinking then the following pages may be of interest to you...

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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