When Does Drinking Become a Problem?

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By News Team on July 11, 2022

Many of us enjoy a drink with friends and family now and then.

But in challenging times, especially after living through 2-1/2 years of a pandemic, you may be asking yourself, Has my drinking crossed over into something more serious?

In the video above, Carilion Clinic Family Medicine provider John Epling, M.D. discusses the risks and symptoms of problem drinking, and offers hope to those who want to change their drinking habits. Watch the video and read on for highlights.

Heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women or 15 for men; a drink is defined as a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor.

Drinking too much can lead to serious health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer

It can also increase your risk of:

  • Being in a car accident
  • Getting a sexually transmitted disease
  • Having an unplanned pregnancy

The amount you drink is only one indicator of whether you are drinking too much. Dr. Epling offers some warning signs to look out for:

  • If you drink more than you wanted to or planned to
  • If you can't quit drinking even when you want to
  • If you binge drink: four (for women) or five (for men) alcoholic drinks in less than a two-hour sitting
  • If you are spending less time with family or friends
  • If you are skipping activities that you normally enjoy
  • If drinking takes up a lot of your time and energy

Confidential Alcohol Use Checker

Want to find out for sure whether the evidence would rate your drinking habits as healthy? Take this quick, confidential screening quiz from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The free, evidence-based tool allows you to:

  • Check your habits anonymously
  • Identify barriers and motivators for drinking less
  • Print or save a personalized change plan

If the results surprise you—or if they confirm something you've been wondering about—you are not alone. Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of death in the U.S.

More importantly, you don't have to be alone to change your habits, either. Your primary care physician is on your side, and is an ideal first step to making changes.

"The important thing is to reach out now if you think you might be drinking too much," says Dr. Epling. "It can make all the difference in your overall health and happiness, and your loved ones too."

In addition, Carilion Clinic offers:

The Peer Support Center can also connect you to community resources.

Looking for more info? Browse Carilion Living for other alcohol-related topics: 

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