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Can You Be an Alcoholic if You Just Drink Beer?

Can You Be an Alcoholic if You Just Drink Beer Resurgence Behavioral Health

The Alcoholic Stereotype

When you think about what an alcoholic looks like, what image comes to mind? Likely it is not your child’s teacher, the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company, or your happily married stay-at-home mom friend. When imagining an alcoholic, you are probably being influenced by media portrayals that create the unfortunate and unhelpful stereotype of a person who:

  1. May be experiencing homelessness
  2. Looks unhealthy, with a puffy face and a red nose
  3. Has a tragic, unfulfilling, and depressing life
  4. Drinks every day
  5. Drinks until they blackout every time
  6. Is alone in the world, without friends and unmarried, or their family has left them
  7. Is drunk, hiccupping and swaying in the streets, drinking out of a paper bag
  8. Is violent and angry
  9. Does not own a home, have a good job, or have good friends
  10. Grew up in a “bad” home or neighborhood
  11. Shows signs of declining productivity and grades at work and school
  12. Is not successful in their career
  13. Has no morals and is unreliable
  14. Does not go to church/synagogue/etc. regularly
  15. Is unkempt
  16. Has no control over their lives
  17. Drinks hard liquor

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Because of this stereotype that perpetuates only the worst-case scenario, people may have difficulty recognizing an alcohol use disorder in themselves. These misconceptions are one of the biggest barriers people with alcohol use disorders face, as they do not identify with the stereotypical “alcoholic” and will look for excuses such as this to remain in denial and continue their drinking habit.

The truth is you can have a fulfilling life with a meaningful career, a healthy social life, and a loving family and still have an addiction to alcohol. Others may also have a hard time believing you are addicted to alcohol, as your external success may provide them with a sense of security.

Drinking is a socially acceptable vice, and anybody can become physically dependent on the substance, leading to full-blown addiction, if they are not keeping track of their drinking habits and the way their body is reacting to the drinking. Not everybody hits a “rock bottom” in their addiction. If you recognize the signs of addiction to alcohol in yourself, it is important to take these issues seriously, getting the help you need to stop drinking safely and effectively sooner rather than later, as alcohol abuse can cause serious long-term health problems if not addressed early.

What is the Definition of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD) is defined as having a strong urge or compulsion to continue drinking alcohol, even when you want to stop. If you are an alcoholic, you will have a physical and psychological addiction to alcohol, experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit or cut back, and feel a strong urge to drink.

How Much Beer is Too Much?

Although beer is the most popular type of alcohol in the world, it is promoted on TV commercials and is available at innocuous places like gas stations and supermarkets, it is not a “safe” drink. Beer still contains alcohol, and drinking beer is the same as drinking any other type of alcoholic beverage. You can become addicted to beer, especially when it is consumed in excess.

The two ways to misuse alcohol are binge drinking and heavy drinking. 

Binge drinking

Characterized by the consumption of large amounts of alcohol at one time, bringing the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher.

  • For men, this would be approximately five drinks in two hours, with the SAMHSA guidelines putting the number at five drinks on one occasion, at least once in the past month
  • For women, binge drinking is generally four drinks in two hours, or on one occasion, at least once in the past month according to SAMHSA

Heavy drinking

Heavy alcohol use, is defined by the NIAAA as:

  • Drinking 14 or more drinks per week for men (or two beers per day)
  • Drinking 7 or more drinks per week for women (or one beer per day)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) defines heavy drinking as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.

The US Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in their “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025” have declared that adults over the age of 21 can choose not to drink, or to drink fewer than 2 drinks per day for men, and fewer than one drink per day for women, with the clarification that the less you drink, the better it is for your overall health.

People who are underage, pregnant, and/or are recovering from alcohol use disorder should never drink. You should also never drink if you plan to operate a vehicle or heavy machinery, or if you need to perform a task that requires alertness and coordination. Taking prescription medications with beer can be a deadly combination, as can drinking with certain medical conditions, so it is important to know your body well before deciding to take a drink.

Alcohol abuse does not necessarily mean you are addicted to alcohol, but it is the pathway to addiction. Anybody who creates a habit of drinking to excess, regardless of what type of alcohol they consume (heavy liquor, beer, wine, etc.) is at risk of developing a substance use disorder. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA):

  • A person who drinks heavily once a month has a 20% likelihood of developing an addiction
  • Drinking heavily once a week gives that same person a 30% likelihood of becoming an alcoholic
  • Drinking to excess twice a week creates a likelihood of approximately 50% of developing the disease

Beer is a difficult drink to measure effectively for the average consumer, as manufacturers are not required to label the drink’s alcohol content. The higher the alcohol in your favorite brand, the higher the likelihood of developing a dependence due to accidental heavy drinking.

How Much Alcohol is in One Beer?

Ethyl alcohol is the active intoxicant ingredient in all alcoholic drinks. This means that malt liquor, hard liquor, wine, and beer create the same effects on the body and the brain, and create the same risks for abuse and addiction when it comes to binge drinking, heavy drinking, or long-term consumption.

Although beer has less alcohol per fluid ounce than other drinks, the standard serving size of beer is larger than the standard serving of liquor or wine. The standard serving sizes are:

  • Beer – 12 fluid ounces
  • Hard Liquor – 1.5 fluid ounces
  • Malt Liquor – 8 to 9 fluid ounces
  • Wine – 5 fluid ounces
  • Fortified Wine (port/sherry) – 3 to 4 fluid ounces
  • Liqueurs and Cordials – 2 to 3 fluid ounces

The issue with the measurement for beer is that it is based on a beer that is 5% alcohol, and many craft beer brands and other beers have much higher alcohol content. You will easily find beer brands that have 10% to 12% alcohol content, or the can size may be larger than 12 ounces, meaning one can of beer has the alcohol content of more than two standard drinks, leading to consumers who are drinking to excess accidentally.

Signs of Alcohol Dependence

Even though beer has a relatively low alcohol content, and is socially acceptable, it can still trigger alcohol abuse and addiction issues in many people, as the body does not know it is “just beer” you are drinking.

Some common signs of alcohol dependence include:

  • Having an increased tolerance to alcohol, meaning you need to drink more to achieve the same level of intoxication
  • Your social activities begin to revolve completely around going to the bar, getting a few drinks somewhere, bringing a case of beer to the next gathering, and other alcohol-related activities
  • Feeling an intense urge (cravings) to drink when engaged in other activities, wanting a drink so badly you cannot think of anything else
  • Drinking in secret, drinking alone, needing to have a drink first thing in the morning, or keeping stashes of alcohol around the house, work, or on your person
  • Prioritizing drinking over anything else in your life, including your usual interests and hobbies or other people’s needs
  • Continuing to drink even when it impacts your life financially or socially, or when drinking and hangovers begin to cause issues at work, at home, or with your health
  • A pattern of drinking that increases your exposure to dangerous or risky situations (drunk driving, fighting, etc.)
  • Being unable to slow down once you have started drinking, even if you only meant to have one
  • Experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back or stop drinking

These are not the only signs of addiction, but if you are reading this and find them to be true to your experience, it may be a good idea to speak to a counselor, addiction treatment specialist, or your doctor to find out if you may need help quitting drinking.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

It may be surprising to hear, but both alcohol and substances like Zoloft are challenging to quit due to the significant impact they have on brain chemistry. Alcohol is particularly difficult and can present severe and potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms as the brain’s chemistry tries to rebalance itself. When weaning off Zoloft, similar careful attention and management are required to address the possible withdrawal symptoms effectively.

A Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) detox program is highly recommended for anyone quitting alcohol or weaning off Zoloft. This program provides 24-hour medical care and administers medications as needed to ensure the safety and comfort of the individual. The MAT detox program also incorporates therapy and counseling sessions to alleviate distress and address underlying mental health issues, trauma, and other concerns related to detox.

By utilizing such an integrated approach, individuals undergoing the process of quitting alcohol or weaning off Zoloft can receive comprehensive support that addresses both physical withdrawal symptoms and the underlying issues that may have contributed to the development of the addiction or dependence in the first place. This combined approach aims to promote holistic healing and long-term recovery.

30 to 90-day stay in inpatient rehab

Followed by extended outpatient programs, sober community gatherings, groups, and aftercare programs are all recommended following detox, as it takes time, care, and support to be able to address the root of addiction, gain recovery skills and regain control over your life after addiction.

Alcohol Rehab and Detox at Resurgence Behavioral Health

At Resurgence, we will work with you to create an integrated treatment plan that includes:

  • Medical detox with 24-hour clinical care, medications, therapy, counseling, and dual diagnosis treatments
  • Trauma-informed care so you feel safe and comfortable throughout your stay with us
  • Inpatient rehab, usually for 30 to 90 days, with structured daily living, healthy food, and a comfortable room as you receive treatment in a safe, sober environment
  • Therapies and treatments include family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, EMDR, physical fitness and nutritional counseling, and recreational activities
  • A full spectrum of outpatient programs including the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) to help you transition back into your everyday life with full support and continued treatment and care for as long as you need it
  • Extensive aftercare, with access to support groups, therapy, counseling, and medical care for as long as you need it, as well as sober living home options.

At Resurgence, we will help you stop drinking, address the underlying causes of addiction, help rebuild your physical health, and mental wellness, and regain control over your life. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you quit drinking today.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

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Alexa Iocco

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