Addiction Alcohol Use Your Relationship With Alcohol Guide Your Relationship With Alcohol Guide Overview Where to Start Take a Quiz What Is Alcohol Use Disorder? Understanding Risks Types of Alcohol Problems How Much Is Too Much? Risks of Binge Drinking What Is a Problem Drinker? Myths About Alcohol Modification Tips What Is Sober Curious? How to Be Social While Quitting Drinking How to Say No to Alcohol Sobriety Support Benefits of Recovery Tips to Stay Sober The Different Types of Drinking Habits to Avoid By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 08, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print When we talk about someone having an alcohol "problem," it does not necessarily mean they have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). A range of drinking habits can be harmful, including heavy drinking and binge drinking. 1:34 Watch Now: 5 Health Problems That Can Be Caused by Excessive Drinking Harmful Drinking Habits While not everyone who binge drinks or drinks heavily on occasion will develop an alcohol use disorder, this type of risky drinking behavior does increase your risk of harmful consequences, including an AUD. Here's a look at some common risky drinking habits and how they can turn harmful. Binge Drinking According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more standard drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in about two hours. Why is binge drinking considered harmful? One of the primary risks is that even one binge during the early weeks of pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome. Scientific research has also shown that alcohol consumption at that level can do real damage to health. It is associated with: Attention and memory problemsIncreased risk of injuries (sexual assault, car accidents, falls, burns, alcohol poisoning)High blood pressureStrokeHeart diseaseLiver diseaseCancer (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon) Therefore, if you engage in binge drinking—even occasionally—you have an alcohol problem. You may not have an alcohol use disorder, but your drinking is considered hazardous. Why You Should Stop Binge Drinking The greatest amount of research into binge drinking has revolved around drinking habits on college campuses, where it is a common practice among 18- to 21-year-olds. Research shows that students who binge drink are more likely to: Damage propertyHave problems with law enforcementMiss more classesExperience more hangoversBecome injured Research also indicates that students on campuses with higher binge drinking rates experience more physical assaults and unwanted sexual advances. Why You Should Stop Binge Drinking Heavy Drinking According to the CDC, heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for a woman or 15 or more drinks per week for a man. If you're going out with friends each day of the weekend and having a few too many each time, you may be heavy drinking. If this habit begins to cause you social, legal, or personal problems in your life, and you continue to drink in spite of the negative consequences, it's likely time to examine your relationship with alcohol. Heavy drinking is considered alcohol abuse if you continue to drink despite the following reoccurring problems: Poor performance at school or workNeglect of your responsibilitiesTrouble with the lawDrinking while driving Because an alcohol use disorder is considered a progressive disease, if you do not get help for your risky drinking at this stage, you could be headed for much more severe issues. How Much Alcohol Is Safe to Drink? Diagnosing an Alcohol Use Disorder According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, there are 11 symptoms of alcohol use disorders: Continuing to drink despite physical or psychological problemsBeginning to crave alcohol when not drinkingDeveloping a tolerance for the effects of alcoholHaving withdrawal symptoms when not drinkingConsuming larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period of time than intendedDifficulty or inability to reduce alcohol useSpending large amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from alcohol useAlcohol use that interferes with life roles including at home, work, and schoolGiving up social, work, or recreational activities due to alcohol useUsing alcohol in situations where it is dangerousContinuing to use alcohol even when it causes social and interpersonal problems The designation of mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorders is the terminology used in official medical diagnoses. Mild: If someone displays two or three of the symptomsModerate: If they exhibit four or five of the symptomsSevere: If someone exhibits six or more symptoms Could You Have an Alcohol Abuse Problem? Once someone reaches the stage of a severe alcohol use disorder, it is much more difficult for them to try to get and stay sober, because they have developed a physical addiction to and psychological dependence upon alcohol. It is much easier to quit drinking before reaching that stage. Unfortunately, many drinkers do not reach out for help until their drinking causes them overwhelming negative consequences, a phenomenon known as hitting bottom. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge drinking. Goldman MS. Commentary on White, Kraus, and Swartzwelder (2006): "Many college freshmen drink at levels far beyond the binge threshold". Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006;30(6):919-21. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2006.00123.x National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol use disorder: A comparison between DSM–IV and DSM–5. Additional Reading National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol use disorder. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Alcohol use disorder. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.