The age-old question of what is social drinking? When asked the responses can vary with different views:
- “a person who drinks alcoholic beverages usually in the company of others at social events”
- “happy hour”
- “that someone does not drink often or to excess”
- “only in moderate quantities”
These responses bring up many questions. Does someone always have to be drinking alone to have a problem? Is a social event a wedding, dinner, or is it a night out drinking with friends? Is “happy hour” drinking still social drinking if it occurs 3-4 nights a week for 3 hours each time? Is the individual failing to make it home for dinner with their families due to happy hour? Is a one night a month out with friends getting excessively drunk considered social or binge drinking? How do we define “moderate” quantities? One may see them as 2-3 drinks while someone else may define it as 6-7 drinks.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “low-risk” drinking for females consists of no more than 7 drinks per week and no more than 3 drinks per sitting. For males, it consists of no more than 14 drinks per week and no more than 4 drinks per day.
This definition brings up another question. What is considered a “drink?” Is it 1.5 ounces of alcohol in a standard mixed drink or is it double shots or larger?
It is estimated that more than 15 million adults suffer from an alcohol use disorder, and over 88,000 people die annually from alcohol.
As professionals, it is imperative that we dig deep and ask further questions regarding someone’s alcohol use and be able to intervene and prevent another statistic. We must look at not only the total quantity but how it affects their life. From a client who is dealing with grief who is secretly drinking to hide from the pain to the veteran who is too ashamed to tell his doctor he drinks himself to sleep to escape the nightmares, to the blue-collar worker who is barely hanging on to his job due to his performance issues, to the stay at home mom who drinks during the day to have some form of relief from the challenges of motherhood. Alcoholism affects every sector of the population and it often starts with what an individual thinks is social and quickly spirals out of control.
Director of Clinical Outreach