Drinking alcohol is an activity that most adults take part in on a semi-regular basis. While drinking can either be problematic, or not, it’s making the distinction from social drinking that is truly important. It can sometimes be difficult to diagnose problem drinking when you’re the one facing it. However, making that decision that your drinking is becoming an issue can go a long way in preventing alcoholism, and stopping the problem before it becomes more serious.

Therefore, we are going to lay out some of the key differences between social drinking and problem drinking. As always, the signs can vary a bit for everyone. You know yourself, and the people you love, better than we do. So, if you see something, or notice something— say something, even if it doesn’t make our list. 

Problem Drinking and Social Drinking: Key Differences 

Before we dive into problem drinking, let’s first understand what it means to be a safe, social drinker. Of course, as an adult, you have the legal right to have a drink from time to time— unless you’re getting behind the wheel. However, it’s making the distinction that’s so important. Social drinking means taking part in low-risk drinking patterns. For example, according to the NIAAA, low-risk drinking for women is having no more than three drinks per sitting, and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, the statistic is no more than 4 drinks per sitting, and no more than 14 drinks per week. 

While statistics help us put a number on what’s acceptable, it’s also important to understand the concept of social drinking. Social drinking can look like a night out with friends, casually drinking, and then taking a ride sharing service home. We all let loose every now and then with good friends. However, it’s limiting those times, and your intake, that makes all the difference. 

Problem drinking 

Now that you know what safe, social drinking looks like— it’s easier to make the distinction between safe, and problematic, drinking. Problematic drinking is a destructive behavior that is putting you at risk of getting hurt. Take, for example, frequent bing drinking episodes, driving drunk, going into work drunk, or using alcohol as a means of coping with difficult times. Furthermore, if you find that you have to lie to make your habits seem better to others, you have a problem with drinking that needs to be addressed. 

Drinking can be a behavior that we take part in casually, and safely. Or, drinking can be a behavior that is destructive to you, and the people around you. While the difference might seem obvious— to many, the lines can blur easily. So, if you or a loved one are suffering from problem drinking, it’s important to intervene early.