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Alcohol Addiction: How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

It’s essential for individuals to understand how much alcohol is too much to avoid developing an addiction. 

In the United States, a standard alcoholic drink contains about 0.6 ounces, or 14.0 grams, of pure alcohol—this is about 1.2 tablespoons.

The alcohol content also varies per drink: 

  • A 12-ounce glass of beer typically contains 5% alcohol.
  • An 8-ounce bottle of malt liquor typically contains 7% alcohol.
  • A 5-ounce glass of wine typically contains 12% alcohol content. 
  • A shot of liquor—about 1.5 ounces—typically contains 40% alcohol.

As you can see, the type of alcohol plays a critical role in how much one can drink before having what is considered too much. Over time, continued alcohol abuse can increase tolerance, which means that an individual will need to have more alcohol each time they drink. 

Defining Excessive Drinking 

Excessive drinking is another term for binge drinking or heavy drinking. Gender plays a role in how much a person can drink before becoming intoxicated.

  • Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive drinking. This is when: 
    • Men have five or more drinks during a single session. 
    • Women have four or more drinks during a single session.
  • Heavy drinking is when: 
    • Men have more than 15 or more drinks per week.
    • Women have eight or more drinks per week. 

Binge drinking and heavy drinking aren’t necessarily categorized as addiction, at least not until they become a regular occurrence. 

Short-Term Effects of Drinking 

Drinking alcohol in moderation isn’t likely to do a person harm. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men should consume no more than two drinks a day, and women no more than one. However, excessive alcohol use can bring immediate, short-term effects, including the following: 

  • Injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes, falls, and hazardous situations. 
  • Increased feelings of violence, which can lead to homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and domestic abuse.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Miscarriage and congenital disabilities in pregnant women. 

Long-Term Effects of Drinking

When individuals begin to drink excessively regularly, serious health issues can arise, such as the following: 

  • Alcohol abuse and dependence.
  • Mental health issues include depression and anxiety.
  • Social issues pertaining to family, friends, and employment.
  • Memory problems.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart disease.
  • Strokes.
  • Liver disease.
  • Digestive issues.

These health issues can affect other aspects of a person’s life and are often irreversible. A good support group may try to speak with an addict, warning them that the issues they’ll face from the long-term effects of addiction are far worse than going to a rehabilitation center.

Addiction and the Brain 

Alcohol can have a severe effect on the brain, affecting not only a person’s cognitive functions but chemical production as well. An imbalance in the body’s chemical makeup can lead to serious health and psychological effects, which are direct results of developing an addiction. 

Alcohol affects various parts of the brain: 

  • The Cerebral Cortex is the thinking center for consciousness. This is where all information is processed.
  • The Cerebellum: This part of the brain controls movement, coordination, equilibrium, and balance.
  • The Hypothalamus and Pituitary Gland: These two parts of the brain work together to link the nervous system to the endocrine system. 
  • The Medulla controls breathing, consciousness, and body temperature.
  • The Hippocampus controls memory.
  • The Central Nervous System makes up the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. 

How to Recognize Addiction 

When asking yourself how much alcohol is too much, it’s important to recognize when a drinking problem has developed into an addiction. Here are some telltale signs:

Are You Participating in Risky Behavior? 

Taking serious risks while under the influence is a telling sign that an individual may be developing or suffering from alcohol addiction. Here are some characteristics to look out for:

  • Drinking while operating heavy machinery.
  • Mixing alcohol with medications.
  • Binge drinking over an extended period. 
  • Drinking while pregnant.
  • Drinking and driving.
  • Drinking while supervising children.

Has Your Drinking Become a Habit 

Another way to tell if you’re developing an addiction is if your drinking has become a habit. Ways to tell are by asking yourself if: 

  • You’ve ever felt like you should cut down on drinking.
  • You have feelings of guilt for drinking.
  • You become irritable when others make comments about your drinking.
  • You worry that you won’t have enough alcohol to get through an evening or weekend.
  • You hide the fact that you’re buying and consuming alcohol.
  • You disregard personal responsibilities.
  • You can’t stop drinking after you start.

An individual who has answered yes to a majority of these questions needs to seek out the help of a rehabilitation center, but that’s not always easy. Individuals who suffer from addiction may be in denial about their problems. A good support group is crucial in getting an addict the help they need to get their life back on track in these situations. 

Physical Symptoms

You can also identify an addiction if the individual develops physical withdrawal symptoms. When an addict goes for an extended time without drinking, their body begins to crave the substance.

Withdrawal symptoms can include the following: 

  • Nausea.
  • Sweating.
  • Shaking.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Convulsions.
  • Vomiting.

These symptoms can get intense and can lead to relapse. It’s crucial to get individuals the help they need to navigate the symptoms while they recover. 

Get the Help You Need at Ardu Recovery Center 

If you or someone you know has gotten to the point where you’re unsure about how much alcohol is too much, and you believe this is a result of an addiction, give us a call at Ardu Recovery Center. 

At our rehab center in Provo, Utah, we take a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment using proven medical treatments and holistic techniques. We aim to treat root addiction symptoms and causes while maintaining a strong focus on your needs. 

Get in touch with us today to start your path to sober living.