Alcohol is heavily embedded into the American culture. Every major event is arguably centered around drinking. From summer cookouts, holidays, and career promotions, a toast carries us through all of it. Then there are the thousands of microbreweries, bars, and taprooms that seem to be cropping in every major city, particularly across the state of Colorado. It’s easy to get caught up on how normal drinking can appear. Many of us assume that alcohol abuse or addiction is an unlikely scenario. However, studies show that overindulging is, in fact, not all that hard to accomplish. Exactly how many beers a night makes you an alcoholic? The line that defines casual drinking and overindulgence is easy to blur. Let’s discuss.
Due to the availability and access to beer throughout Colorado, it can be hard to avoid drinking altogether. Colorado is home to more than 400 established microbreweries and numerous beer festivals, in addition to nightclubs, wineries, and distilleries. As a result, beer is a staple for many Coloradan households. And while moderate drinking may be considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s difficult to ascertain when moderate drinking turns to problematic behavior.
If you’re concerned about your drinking, consider taking our quiz. We can also help you find resources or programs that provide clarity on safe drinking and abstinence. Contact us directly at (855) 281-5588.
Beer Culture in Colorado
Much of Colorado’s economy comes from outdoor recreation and various amenities. However, it’s also a state known for its incredible craft beer and distilled liquor. A recent study found that Colorado is the third-largest producer of craft beer in the country. Its supply provides roughly 12.1 gallons per adult each year.
Access to alcohol is often assumed to be a risk factor when an individual struggle with problematic drinking. Risk factors refer to activities, people, and places that may increase an individual’s likelihood of overindulging. Factors to consider that may breed a culture centered around drinking including:
- Beer promotions
- Drinking festivals & entertainment
- Number of drinking establishments
- General community acceptance of alcohol
- Friends and family
While beer itself is not inherently dangerous in small amounts, crossing the line is easier than many think.
How Much is Too Much Beer?
To put into perspective, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines two potentially problematic drinking patterns around the excessive use of alcohol:
- Heavy drinking means drinking four or more drinks per day for men or three or more drinks per day for women
- Binge drinking means consuming five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks within two hours.
A standard drink in the U.S. is defined as a 12 ounce of % beers, 5 ounces of 12% wine, or 1.5 ounces of 40% 80-proof distilled spirits. What’s more is that heavy drinking or binge drinking can increase the risks of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), also referred to as alcoholism.
How many beers a night makes you an alcoholic? The answer is more complicated than a specified number of drinks, but let’s assess more in-depth. The short answer is that it will depend on factors such as gender, weight, nutrition, predisposition to alcoholism, environment, and more.
What are Signs of Alcohol Abuse?
It’s important to first consider the signs of alcohol abuse. While they may not appear the same for everyone, some guidelines help clarify whether casual drinking has become problematic.
Many individuals wonder if a weekend of binge drinking will yield alcoholism. The standard answer is widely accepted as an emphatic no, but fact remains that alcohol is one of the most dangerously abused substances. What we know of alcohol abuse is that it can lead to addiction. In fact, binge drinking and heavy alcohol use can increase a person’s risk of AUD. That is to say that through chronic excessive alcohol use, you or someone you love can become physiologically dependent on alcohol, which means your body has adapted to the presence of alcohol, and it may be required to feel normal and to function. More on that below, but for now, here are some risk factors and signs of alcohol abuse:
- Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
- Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
- Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress, or feel normal
- Choosing to drink over other responsibilities and obligations
- Becoming isolated and distant from family and friends
- Drinking alone or in secrecy
- Feeling hungover when not drinking
- Changing appearance and friends you hang out with
No matter how minor a drinking problem may seem, alcohol abuse symptoms should never be ignored.
What is Alcohol Tolerance?
Understanding how many beers a night makes you an alcoholic also deals, in part, with tolerance levels. As a progressive disease, alcoholism may develop over time. As your body becomes acclimated to binge drinking or problematic drinking, your ability to sustain alcohol in the body increases. This is known as alcohol tolerance.
The initial signs of an increase in alcohol tolerance are straightforward. If you’re able to consume more alcohol with fewer effects, your tolerance levels have likely increased. The result is that in order to produce the same desired effects, more alcohol must be consumed. According to a study by NIAAA, humans develop tolerance when brain functions adapt to compensate for the disruption caused by alcohol. Chronic heavy drinkers display functional tolerance when they show few obvious signs of intoxication even at high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). This can increase physical dependence and alcohol-related disease.
What Defines Alcoholism?
If the number of beers consumed doesn’t necessarily make you an alcoholic, what does? First, it’s important to note that alcoholism is a relapsing disease that impacts the body and brain. To define alcoholism, the American Psychiatric Association has outlined criteria doctors to diagnose substance use disorders like alcoholism. To receive an AUD diagnosis, a person must meet at least two of the following criteria in a 12 months period. These factors include:
- Drinking more than you originally intended
- Being unable to cut down alcohol use even if desired
- Spending time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol
- Strong desires or cravings to drink alcohol
- Failing to fulfill obligations at work, home, or school due to alcohol use
- Continue to drink despite its negative consequences
- Giving up activities you once enjoyed because of alcohol
- Drinking in situations where it is physically dangerous to do so
- Continue to drink despite persistent or recurring physical or mental health condition that is worsened with alcohol use
- Tolerance levels increasing
- Withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from alcohol use
Drinking alcohol in any amount carries a certain level of risk to one’s own health as well as the health of others. It’s important to cut back on alcohol use periodically if you feel that you’re overusing.
AspenRidge Alcohol Abuse & Recovery
There are countless life stressors that Coloradans face each day. Alcohol is a fun pastime that eliminates stress and fuels fun, but at what cost? While alcohol is largely associated with celebrations and gettogether, it’s critical to understand the risk factors involved with continued alcohol use. If you feel you’re no longer using alcohol to enjoy a night with friends or family, but instead using it to cope, it’s important that you seek outside help.
AspenRidge is able to connect individuals to programs that provide attentive care for alcohol use issues. Our licensed professionals can help assess your alcohol use and determine problematic drinking. If you’re asking how many beers a night makes you an alcoholic, it’s possible that you’ve already considered the risks of alcohol abuse. We can provide guidance, therapy, and support for overcoming alcohol misuse, abuse, and addiction.