Moderate drinker vs. problem drinker

When adults gather to enjoy conversation and companionship, alcoholic beverages may be part of the scene.  How alcohol affects the picture depends on how it is consumed. 

Moderate drinking

Everyone has their own tolerance to alcohol – women generally cannot handle as much alcohol as can men and women should never try to match the number of drinks with men.  Genetics also plays a role affecting tolerance.  People of Asian and Native American descent often have lower-than-average tolerance to alcohol.

Moderate drinking is defined as the following:

·         No more than two drinks in any one day for the average-sized, healthy male

·         No more than one drink in any one day for the average-sized, healthy female

A person should not assume they are a moderate drinker if they drink no alcohol during the week but has seven drinks on a Saturday night.  Instead, that drinking pattern characterizes heavy episodic drinking known as binge drinking which is a problem.

Problem drinking

In contrast to moderate drinking, the effect of alcohol on problem drinkers or people with alcoholism is overwhelmingly negative.  For these people, drinking alcohol brings irrational and often dangerous behavior, such as driving a car while intoxicated and getting into arguments, violence, or unplanned and risky sexual activity.

Continuing to drink, they often face psychological depression, physical illness, severe malnutrition, and a loss of self-esteem. 

Behaviors typical of moderate drinkers and problem drinkers

Moderate drinkers typically:

·         Drink slowly and casually

·         Eat food while drinking

·         Don’t binge drink, they know when to stop

·         Respect nondrinkers

·         Avoid drinking when solving problems or making decisions

·         Do not admire or encourage drunkenness

·         Remain peaceful, calm, and unchanged by drinking

·         Cause no problems to others or themselves by drinking

Problem drinkers typically:

·         Gulp or “chug” drinks

·         Drink on an empty stomach

·         Binge drink; drink to get drunk

·         Pressure others to drink

·         Turn to alcohol when facing problems or decisions

·         Consider drunks to be funny or admirable

·         Become loud, angry, violent, or silent when drinking

·         Physically or emotionally harm themselves, family members, or others when drinking

Anyone who recognizes themselves as a problem drinker or knows someone who is should seek the help of a health professional to get the advice and resources they need to overcome their addiction and be free from the clutches of alcoholism.  The consequences of alcohol dependence places an enormous burden on not only the person with the condition, but also for the people who love them. 

For further information on how to get help, visit the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, an organization that can provide information and offers a range of services for individuals and their families.