The Difference Between Drinking Too Much and Addiction

Written by Robert Castan | Edited By Editorial Team

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The Difference Between Drinking Too Much and Addiction

Alcohol is a socially acceptable activity within western society, as many people choose to have a drink or two on occasion during a social gathering or as a way to unwind after a long day. Sometimes, this can lead to drinking too much, as a few cocktails can eventually lead to one too many, leaving someone overly intoxicated and in for a rough wake up call the next morning. However, it’s important to distinguish between drinking too much and addiction, as there are significant differences between the two.

What Defines Excessive Drinking

According to Dr. Robert Brewer, Alcohol Program Lead at the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, excessive drinking encompasses several groups of people. This is because excessive drinking is dependent upon varying factors which can change due to the specific user. Excessive drinking, sometimes called binge drinking, covers men who have more than five drinks on one occasion and also applies to women who have more than four drinks at one time. The number of drinks which defines excessive drinking is different for men and women because women tend to have less water in their bodies and they also absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men.

Excessive drinking can also be defined by men who consume more than 15 drinks during a week period and women who drink more than eight during the same time-frame. In addition to adults who drink an exorbitant amount of alcohol, excessive drinking also applies to anyone who consumes alcohol under the age of 21. Also, pregnant women who have a single drink constitutes excessive drinking, as drinking alcohol during pregnancy is advised against by the medical community.



Getting and staying sober is very challenging, but with the right support network and tools, it’s completely attainable.

When Excessive Drinking Becomes an Addiction

Drinking an excessive amount of beers, wine or cocktails can happen on occasion to anyone who consumes alcohol with a degree of regularity. A night out with friends or a special occasion can develop into drinking too much, leaving a person intoxicated beyond a healthy degree of moderate alcohol consumption. However, if this develops into a consistent pattern which leads to dependency, this is a sign an occasional occurrence has turned into an addiction.

There are some telltale signs to be aware of which can indicate that a person is addicted to alcohol. Regularly blacking out during with a period of short-term memory loss is a strong signal that one’s drinking has started to become concerning. Another symptom of alcohol addiction is when a person begins to exhibit irritability as well as experiencing extreme mood swings as a result of drinking. Drinking by one’s self in secret, making excuses for one’s drinking, isolating from friends and family in favor of alcohol, and choosing drinking over important obligations and responsibilities are all indications that an alcohol addiction has developed.

Excessive drinking can happen to a person who decides to overdo it during an isolated occasion, and is not necessarily a cause for alarm or a sign that an individual is addicted to alcohol. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of how an occasional behavior can eventually develop into a serious addiction if left unchecked.

A serious alcohol dependence can lead to negative health outcomes in many areas of a person’s health, and it’s crucial to become as proactive as possible when treating this illness. Early recognition and detection of alcohol dependence can make the recovery and behavior reversal process more attainable.

Seeking Help When Your Excessive Drinking Becomes Something More

If you have noticed that your occasional excessive drinking has progressed to become a noticeable dependence, it’s time to consider seeking outside help to address this issue. Alcohol addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome without any external support or guidance, and receiving treatment can provide the recipe for recovery that an individual dealing with addiction desperately needs. Professional alcohol addiction counseling can provide immense benefits and increase one’s chances of overcoming their dependence.

There are always people who do not see a need for professional treatment. Because alcohol is legally available in the United States, they assume that quitting it should be easy. Unfortunately, this is not the case once someone is an alcoholic. Once the addiction sets in, the best and safest way to stop drinking is to do so by getting professional help.

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Going to Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Arizona

It can be scary to go to alcohol rehab, which is exactly why a lot of people put it off or never go at all. But this is a very serious addiction that should not be taken lightly. Not only does stopping the use of alcohol result in potentially painful and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms, but there are also psychological implications to consider as well.

The best alcohol rehab centers in Arizona use a two-fold approach when it comes to dealing with this addiction. They offer treatment for both the physical and mental aspects of it, and both are critical for long-term success.

What to Expect During Alcohol Detox

The first step in recovering from alcoholism is to go through alcohol detox. This step is vital because of how severe this type of withdrawal can become. If it is left untreated, alcohol withdrawal can actually be fatal. We will talk in more detail about that in just a moment.

Some of the more typical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Feeling depressed.
  • Getting anxious or feeling nervous.
  • Being fatigued.
  • Frequent mood swings.
  • Feeling jumpy or shaky.
  • Brain fog.
  • Nightmares.
  • Feeling irritable or angry.
  • Headaches.
  • Insomnia.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Sweaty, clammy skin.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • A rapid heart rate.
  • Tremors in the hands or elsewhere in the body.

Going through alcohol withdrawal can be extremely hard, and more often than not, it drives people back to drinking if only to get some relief. The good news is that detoxing can make a big difference and dramatically reduce the severity of these symptoms.

Most detox programs will use a combination of medical and holistic treatments during alcohol detox. The patient may meet with a nutritionist to get help with improving their diet, start a new exercise regimen and/or participate with other forms of treatment. They may also be recommended for certain medications that can help to control the severity of their symptoms.

What to Expect During Alcohol Rehab

Alcohol rehab is the step that comes after going through detox. It involves many different types of therapy, which can help the alcoholic understand their disease in a better way. The goal of rehabilitation programs is to determine and treat the underlying cause of addiction. People start drinking for many reasons, such as because of stress or significant life changes.

About 50% of people who have alcohol addictions begin drinking as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders are mental health issues that can be present alongside addictions. They typically happen first, but there are times when the substance abuse happens before them.

During alcohol rehab, patients/clients should receive their own personalized treatment plans. The methods of treatment they receive could include any of the following:

Everyone is different as far as what types of treatment will work best for them.


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What are the Risks of Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey?

As we mentioned earlier, we never recommend for anyone to stop drinking cold turkey. Tapering off is also not a good idea because of the potential risks involved. The main concern experts have with people stopping their use of alcohol without professional help is the risk of delirium tremens, or DTs.

DTs can happen when a person stops drinking alcohol after a period of heavy drinking. This is especially true if the person does not eat enough food. Alcoholics are much more likely to experience DTs if they have gone through alcohol withdrawal before and if they have been drinking excessively for a period of several months to more than ten years.

The symptoms of delirium tremens typically start within 48 to 96 hours after the last drink. But it is possible for them to begin around 10 days after the last drink. Once they start, they tend to get worse very quickly.

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Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

The symptoms of DTs include the following:

  • Falling into a deep sleep that can last for a day or even longer in some cases.
  • Body tremors.
  • Changes in a person’s mental functions.
  • Feeling restless.
  • Having a lot of excitement or fear.
  • Feeling extra sensitive to light, touch and sound.
  • Feeling sleepy and fatigued.
  • Stupor.
  • Sudden severe confusion.
  • Feeling agitated and irritable.
  • Having hallucinations.
  • The onset of seizures.

Delirium tremens is a potentially fatal condition when it is left untreated. But going through the detoxification process can prevent DTs from even starting.

Continuing to Get Support After Rehab

Regardless of how long a person’s alcohol rehab program lasts, getting the proper level of treatment and support should be ongoing. Alcoholism may go into remission, but it never truly goes away for good. Continuing to get professional and peer support is critical and it can give people the best possible chance of being successful in recovery.

Arizona Alcoholism Treatment Programs Can Help With Recovery

At SpringBoard Recovery, we want people to know that they are not alone if they are addicted to alcohol. There is a fine line between drinking too much on a regular basis and getting addicted. So many people cross that line without realizing they have.

Fortunately, help is available in the form of treatment at our Arizona alcohol rehab facility. We are here to provide support to help make recovery possible.

Do you want to learn more about alcohol rehab in Arizona at SpringBoard Recovery? Please contact us today.


Author: Robert Castan
JULY 26, 2020

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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