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Do Alcoholics Drink Every Day?

Sometimes, some alcoholics drink every day. Not the answer you were expecting? You’re not alone. Many people have a particular image in their heads of who, and what, a “real” alcoholic is. No two alcoholics are the same, but all alcoholics do share specific symptoms and behaviors.

Now known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) according to the NIAAA, alcoholism “is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using” or consuming alcohol.

That definition is broad enough to include all alcoholics, people who suffer from alcoholism. Many of us probably have the semi-homeless looking man drinking from a bottle of cheap wine or vodka stuffed in a brown paper bag. This stereotypical alcoholic would always be extremely drunk—morning, noon, and night. In the real world, alcoholism affects all types of people, from high school students to retired doctors, from the popular athletes to high-powered attorneys, and everything in between.

But how often do alcoholics drink? Let’s look at two different types of drinkers (these are by no means the only types of drinkers):

Person A has a glass of wine or a beer with dinner every day, but that is almost the extent of his or her drinking. This person drinks daily but only gets drunk once or twice a month.

Person B does not drink every day. He or she drinks heavily on the weekends and sometimes for happy hour once a week. On the weekends, though, Person B has more than four drinks on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. During the week, this person doesn’t get drunk.

So which person is alcoholic and who isn’t? According to a drinking pattern test, Person A would be low-risk for developing a drinking disorder. Person B would be at an increased risk, drinking heavily more often than 70% of American adults. You can take your test here to see your risk level.

Neither is definitively an alcoholic, but both could be alcoholic. The real question for deciding if you have a drinking problem has more to do with how and why someone drinks rather than how many days a week someone drinks. Unfortunately, if either of these drinkers suffers from AUD, it is unlikely that either will get treatment for their alcoholism. According to research, only about 10% of problem drinkers get treatment.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder is about as effective as treatment options for other chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, or hypertension. While 25% of people with diabetes are unaware that they are living with the disease, nearly 90% of people suffering from alcohol addiction are in denial, or they are uninformed. Educating the public about who is at risk of alcohol abuse disorder is crucial in destigmatizing alcoholism and getting people the help they need.

Rather than focus on how many days a week someone drinks, signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction affect people’s emotions, wellbeing, and reasons for drinking. If you are concerned with someone’s drinking or have questions about your own, warning signs of AUD include:

  • Losing interest in activities, hobbies, or sports that were previously enjoyed
  • Storing alcohol in hidden places; finding alcohol in unusual places in the home
  • Drinking alone and in secret
  • Drinking more than you plan
  • Not being able to limit how much you drink
  • Blacking out – not being able to remember things because of your drinking
  • Irritable and moody when not able to drink, especially around normal drinking times
  • Needing four or five drinks in a short time to feel buzzed
  • Experiencing relationship, financial, legal, and work problems stemming from drinking
  • Experiencing shakes, sweats, or nausea when not consuming alcohol

Experiencing just one or more of these are symptoms of alcohol addiction. It is vital to recognize that these are symptoms of alcoholism, not causes of alcohol abuse disorder. These symptoms are uncomfortable and can make life feel difficult and unfulfilling.

An alcoholic is not always someone who drinks every day. A person who suffers from alcoholism suffers from a medical, psychiatric, and emotional health condition that negatively affects almost all aspects of life.

If we keep believing that you have to drink every day to be an alcoholic, many suffering friends and family members will continue to go untreated. Don’t let myths and stereotypes of alcoholism stop you or a loved one from getting treatment. If you are worried about someone’s drinking but are unsure if he or she is alcoholic or suffering from alcohol addiction, we are here to help.

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Man going through alcohol withdrawal