Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

What is Problem Drinking?

Problem drinking is using alcohol in ways that are harmful to the drinker or to others. People who are problem drinkers may have the disease of alcoholism or may drink in ways that lead to health or safety problems for themselves or others. The Alcohol Cost Calculator developed by Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems focuses on the most severe type of problem drinking — alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse.

What is Alcohol Dependence or Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction, is a chronic disease with four primary symptoms:

  • Craving: A strong need or compulsion to drink
  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one's drinking on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
  • Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol over time in order to get high.

Oftentimes, people state that they cannot possibly be alcoholics because they hold professional jobs and take care of most adult responsibilities. However, these folks may be considered high functioning alcoholics.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

During the course of a year, a person who meets diagnostic criteria of alcohol abuse will experience at least one of the following drinking-related problems:

  • Inability to fulfill major work, school or home responsibilities
  • Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery
  • Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk
  • Continuing to drink despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking

What is Heavy Drinking?

Federal government surveys characterize heavy drinking as having 5 or more drinks on at least five occasions during a month, but it is important to remember that alcohol problems can and do occur at much lower levels of consumption.

What is Binge Drinking?

Drinking 5 or more drinks on at least one occasion during a month is considered binge drinking. When heavy drinkers consume 5 or more drinks on a single occasion, they are bingeing, but not everyone who binges is a heavy drinker. Binge drinking puts individuals as serious risk for an alcohol problem.

What is Risky Drinking?

Risky drinking is drinking in ways that are likely to lead to trauma or adverse health effects, including alcoholism. Risky dinking can mean drinking while underage, while taking medication, while engaging in mobile activities, or while having a strong family history of alcoholism.

If you wonder about your own drinking habits or are affected by someone else's, consider contacting PAS at 919-416-1727 to schedule a confidential appointment to speak with a counselor for support and guidance.