When does recreational drinking turn into alcoholism? Unfortunately, for some people this question is ignored for too long and problems can begin to accumulate, like DUI arrests, job loss or family relationship problems.Specific signs can help determine whether someone is having difficulty with drinking. The following points are used to evaluate if recreational drinking has turned into alcoholism and can help you or a loved one decide whether help is needed.

1. Excessive Drinking

Recreational drinking is typically up to four drinks on any one occasion for men, but not more than 14 over the course of a seven-day period.1 For women, it’s no more than three drinks on any one occasion, and no more than seven drinks over the course of a seven-day period.1 Exceeding this frequency is a sign that recreational drinking has turned into alcoholism.

2. Attempts to Stop Drinking Fail

When an individual tries to stop or curtail drinking but the change in behavior only lasts for a few days or weeks, it could be a sign of alcoholism.2

3. Drinking in the Morning

If someone drinks alcohol in the morning, whether it’s to combat a hangover or to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, it’s a sign that recreational drinking has turned into problem drinking.

4. Missing Work or School

If a person is calling in sick to work or missing school due to alcohol or its after effects, it’s a signal that drinking may be much more than simply recreational.

5. Tolerance

When someone drinks more and more to gain the same effects previously achieved from alcohol, it’s a major sign that social drinking has possibly turned into alcoholism.

6. Withdrawal

Man with his fist on his forehead in pain

When a person tries to stop or cut back on drinking and withdrawal symptoms develop, it’s a definite sign of an alcohol abuse problem. Some signs of withdrawal include insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea or sweating. Serious withdrawal symptoms include fever, extreme nausea, diarrhea, hallucinations and delirium tremens. If you experience any of these serious withdrawal symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

7. Health Effects

If drinking alcohol is causing negative health effects, it’s probably a sign that recreational drinking has crossed the line into an alcohol use disorder. When problems such as high blood pressure, excessive weight gain, heart rhythm disturbances and blackouts occur, it may be time to seek professional help.3

8. Cutting Back or Giving Up Activities

Neglecting activities that used to be important, interesting or pleasurable in order to drink is one possible sign that recreational drinking is actually something more serious.

What to Do If You Suspect Recreational Drinking Has Turned into Alcoholism

If you or a loved one have any of these symptoms, drinking may already be a cause for concern. Speak to a professional mental health counselor or treatment center, and undergo a formal assessment to see if further help is needed. There are a wide range of treatment options to improve the chances for recovery for anyone who suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. With the right help, recovery is possible.

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  1. https://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking
  2. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
  3. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body