There are many people around the world who drink alcohol daily and who never have a problem. In fact, in many cultures, alcohol plays a significant role. Here in America, you’re sure to find alcohol at birthday parties, reunions, family celebrations, weddings, and just about any other get-together that adults might attend. Many men and women drink at these gatherings and at home. However, the consumption of alcohol might never affect their lives.

At the same time, for others, alcohol can become problematic. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis can begin to have an effect on a person’s relationships, work performance, family responsibilities, finances, health, and/or their career. But what exactly defines a problem drinker? One person might drink, for example, and occasionally have headaches and get sick easily. For another person, drinking might upset a few people here and there but the alcohol consumption doesn’t significantly affect his life. So when does alcohol become problematic? What defines a problem drinker?

Essentially, the term problem drinker refers to a person who has problems as a result of their drinking. It is different than someone who has alcoholism in that a problem drinker might not have a dependence to alcohol. There may be dangerous drinking patterns, such as frequent excessive drinking, that might lead to problems. However, having a dependence to alcohol and experiencing the symptoms of alcoholism are something different.

One type of drinking pattern that can be problematic in a person’s life is binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as drinking four or more drinks during one event for females, and for males, binge drinking is consuming five or more drinks. According to the Center for Disease Control, 38 million people binge drink approximately 4 times per month and consume 8 drinks in one drinking period.

Obviously, this sort of heavy drinking on a regular basis can come with severe consequences, brining problems to a person’s life. For instance, regular binge drinking can affect a person’s physical as well as psychological well being. Long-term alcohol consumption can cause impotence, irregular menstrual cycles, pancreatitis, stroke, confusion, and amnesia. Heavy drinking can affect coordination, thiamine deficiency, and other severe forms of poor nutrition. In fact, ongoing heavy drinking can affect nearly every organ in the body, especially the liver.

It might be obvious that binge drinking can become problematic. Some experts categorize drinking patterns in four ways, as described below. Binge drinking may be considered heavy or problematic drinking.

Social Drinkers – Those who drink safe levels of alcohol and tend to only drink when in social situations.

Heavy Drinkers – Those who drink above the recommended level of alcohol that is considered safe.

Problem Drinkers – Those who drink beyond safe levels of alcohol consumption and who experience difficulties as a result

Dependence – Those who have developed a physical and psychological dependence to alcohol.

There is a difference between heavy drinkers and problematic drinkers. Those who drink heavily might not be experiencing any problems in their life. They might have the health and lifestyle to withstand any potential problems that might come with heavy drinking. Sadly, problem drinkers tend to not only negatively affect their own lives, but they can affect the lives of others as well.

If you or someone you know is a problem drinker, contact a mental health provider for support. Calling for help can prevent an addiction and possibly even save a person’s life.

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