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Am I an Alcoholic? The Alcohol Abuse Spectrum

The alcohol abuse spectrum is a model that describes the various ways in which people struggle with excessive drinking. It is important to understand this model because it helps us identify people at risk for developing alcohol-related problems, such as alcoholism, and provides information about how these problems develop over time. This article details the alcohol abuse spectrum and what its continuum comprises. Here’s what you need to know.

The Spectrum of Alcohol Abuse

There are three main types of alcohol abuse: binge drinking, heavy episodic drinking, and chronic excessive drinking. Binge drinkers consume large amounts of alcohol in one sitting. Heavy episodic drinkers consume large quantities of alcohol on a regular basis but not every day. Chronic excessive drinkers consume large quantities of alcohol regularly. Besides these three main classifications, there are also subcategories that fall on the alcohol abuse spectrum.

When you follow the evolution of numerous drinkers’ lives you can see parallels in widespread drinking behavior. This is essentially how this model was developed. The following classes make up the spectrum of alcohol abuse:

Experimental and Social Drinking

Experimental drinking occurs when an individual tries out different alcoholic beverages for fun. These individuals may have tried wine before and decided that they liked the taste. They might also try beer or liquor for the first time. Social drinking is when two or more friends get together and consume a moderate amount of alcohol. Occasional drinking can also be considered a form of social drinking and refers to drinking alcohol once or twice a month. People who occasionally drink tend to enjoy socializing while drinking. They like to go out to bars and clubs and meet new people. However, if you’re having trouble controlling how much you’re consuming, whether alone or in a social setting, then you could be doing yourself harm.

Chronic Excessive Drinking

Chronic excessive drinking is defined as drinking alcohol on a daily basis. Individuals who chronically drink alcohol experience negative consequences from their behavior. They feel guilty about their drinking and struggle with the idea of cutting back on their consumption. Some people who chronically drink develop physical problems.

Heavy Episodic Drinking

Heavy episodic drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on any given day. This means that you drink a lot of alcohol over a period of days.

Daily Alcohol Use and Binge Drinking

Daily alcohol use is defined as consuming alcohol on a daily basis without stopping. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks per occasion. This means that you’re drinking a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time.

Alcohol Dependence and Alcoholism

Alcohol dependence is defined as being physically dependent upon alcohol. When someone becomes addicted to alcohol, they need the substance to function normally. They will often need to drink alcohol to relieve stress and cope with life’s challenges. Alcoholism is defined as using alcohol repeatedly despite adverse health effects. An individual who experiences alcoholism will typically continue to drink regardless of the negative impact it has on their life.

How to Diagnose Alcohol Use Disorder

The most common way to diagnose someone with alcohol use disorder is through a clinical interview. This involves asking questions about the person’s history of alcohol consumption, symptoms they experience after consuming alcohol, and any consequences associated with their drinking. A doctor may also ask about a family history of alcoholism, which could indicate genetic factors that contribute to the development of this condition.

Some common questions include:

  • Have you ever felt suicidal?
  • Do you have difficulty remembering things because of your drinking?
  • Are there times when you are not able to stop drinking?
  • Has anyone close to you experienced problems due to your drinking?
  • Has your drinking caused you to lose jobs, friends, or relationships?
  • Is your drinking affecting your ability to work, attend school, care for children, or take care of other responsibilities?

Finding Help for Alcoholism

There are many resources available to help people understand alcoholism and its treatment. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offers free information and advice. NIAAA also provides links to local support groups, such as 12-step meetings.

Additionally, you can find help by contacting your primary care physician. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in treating alcoholism. If you have insurance, you’ll likely be able to receive some form of treatment coverage. Tennessee Valley Recovery offers an extensive alcohol rehab program in Knoxville, TN that helps treat alcohol abuse across the spectrum.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Knoxville, TN

If you fear your drinking has gotten out of control, let us help. We at Tennessee Valley can offer you treatment and support, no matter where you land on the alcohol abuse spectrum. We offer outpatient programming as well as various forms of therapy and counseling. To learn more about our services in Knoxville, TN, or to receive an initial evaluation, give us a call or use our contact form.