Are We Becoming a Generation of Alcoholics?

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How much is too much?

When I went for my physical the other day I wasn’t surprised when the medical assistant asked me the typical question how much I drank and I responded, socially. I was surprised however when he somewhat jovially but legitimately wanted to know if I drank 3-5 drinks per day which seemed to be the typical answer he received from women nowadays. And frankly, I’m not surprised. Seems everywhere you turn there’s alcohol for the taking. With wine Wednesdays, half price drinks for ladies, ‘limitless bloody Mary’s’ and drink specials left and right it seems a god given right that everyone can get wasted whenever and where ever. Now I get it. Life is hard and alcohol makes us feel like we can unwind and forget our troubles for a while. It’s popularity is understandable, and drinking cocktails, beer and wine can be fun, but we tend to get caught up in the excitement of the next new alcoholic trend and forget to ask the serious question: Are we becoming a generation of functioning alcoholics? 

There are all kinds of justifications for developing a drinking problem. “I’m just a social drinker” — but do you socialize every day? “Wine is good for your health” — but do you realize how much you are really drinking?

Like any other problem, the justifications have to stop to acknowledge it.

So, when does drinking become a “problem”?

Is it only when it starts to affect your health or your life? Or is it before this? Or, more importantly, should it be before this so that it doesn’t escalate into a life-shattering dilemma?

Arguably, your daily alcoholic intake should not exceed the recommended amount given by the CDC, which is “up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men,” other than on special occasions. Sure, alcohol can be fun and frankly, freaking delicious, but everything good in life needs to be moderated.

Drinking more than recommended is generally just a risky practice. It can be good for you to have a single drink, relax, and socialize with friends and/or family because relaxing is vital to mental health and overall well-being, but alcohol is generally just empty calories that you can literally get addicted to if you’re not careful.

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Have you been concerned about the amount you or a loved has been drinking lately? Maybe it’s time to look into how much is too much. When concern arises, take time to discover the difference between an alcoholic and a functioning alcoholic.

What is a “functioning alcoholic”?

The biggest difference between a “regular” alcoholic and a “functioning” alcoholic (sometimes referred to as a “high-functioning alcoholic”) rests in how alcoholism affects said person’s life.


Basically, the key difference is that a “functioning alcoholic” doesn’t fall into the “alcoholic” stereotype because on the outside, they still have their life together. Their job, family, social life, etc., are all normal and fine — sometimes even great — but they are dependent on alcohol all the same.

Is a functioning alcoholic the same thing as alcoholism?

Yes and no. Just because you’re “functioning” doesn’t mean you aren’t an alcoholic. However, in ways being a functioning alcoholic is worse than what we think of when we imagine full-blown alcoholism. If you’re a high-functioning alcoholic, you tend to be in denial that you may have a problem, and it can be hard for the people that care about you to realize you have a problem in the first place.

Functioning alcoholics tend to use any success and the fact that their life isn’t in shambles to justify “not having a problem” even though they clearly drink too much. Since a functioning alcoholic doesn’t fit into the “I lost everything to alcohol” stereotypes about alcoholism, they don’t think their large consumption of alcohol is an issue.

However, a functioning alcoholic generally has enablers that may be covering up the negative sides of their drinking problem, even further justifying the alcoholism.

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Has alcoholism become a trend?

With the increasing popularity of alcohol-heavy weekend brunches and happy hours, girls night out, Wine Wednesdays, half price for ladies night, every excuse to drink is out there… masked alcoholism is the new trend.

In an article published earlier this year on Huffpost, the author explains how “alcohol has joined bacon and eggs as a brunch staple, with restaurants clamoring to offer bottomless cocktail deals to reel in customers.”

It’s not just drinking in excess on Friday nights anymore. Alcohol has made become an acceptable Sunday morning side.

People are also making up new words to justify their drinking.

Urban Dictionary defines “alcoholist” as: “Much different than an alcoholic. Alcoholists do not have a dependency on alcohol. They merely enjoy drinking large amounts of alcohol to reach that ‘happy place,’ which usually means blacking out and trying to figure out what the hell happened last night.”

So, basically an “alcoholist” is just an alcoholic in denial.

In an age that puts drinking on a pedestal, it is important to ensure your alcoholic consumption is healthy and that you are not dependent on alcohol. Learn how to identify the signs of alcoholism and draw distinct lines when it comes to how much is too much.

By 2020 the number of people receiving treatment for substance misuse problems is expected to double in Europe, and triple in the US, among those aged over 50.

This is bad news for millennials since alcohol is linked to more than 60 illnesses and diseases including heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and dementia.


The number one reason is financial stress. According to studies, millennials are more worried than any other age group about money and status.

All of this worry, stress, and depression can easily trigger the misuse of alcohol if not kept in check.

While the average stress level of every other generation is 4.9, millennials top out at 5.5. If you’re still doubting whether stress and drinking correlate, check out this statistic: 25 percent of millennials with financial stress use alcohol to cope. With alcohol becoming less expensive (we’re looking at you, Two-Buck Chuck), it’s no wonder that anxious drinking habits have become more common.

If any of these experiences ring a bell, it might be time to take a step back and re-examine your habits. There are also plenty of resources to get more information, seek help, or just talk to someone. So take care of yourself. These young years are precious.

Not always for obvious reasons

Thirty-one percent of American alcoholics are young people, and over half of young alcoholics have been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder (ASPD). So basically, a lot of millennials aren’t just binge drinking because they’re in college or just want a fun night out with friends. The majority are actually using alcohol to cope with the disorder symptoms, some of which are depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, mood swings, and shakiness. We’re not talking about just a few individuals here; we’re talking about the majority of young alcoholics.


Baby boomers who love wine o’clock may be shocked to hear what is considered over-drinking. Moderate drinking is one drink a day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. So maybe you’re thinking you don’t drink everyday, mostly just on weekends.

Do the math. Women are considered “heavy drinkers” if they have eight or more drinks a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men can have 14.

A standard “drink,” by the way, is not that big wine glass filled to the tippy top, a huge frosty mug, or giant Hurricane glass. The CDC says a drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. If you pour more than these standard serving sizes, it counts for more than one drink.

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While studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people, those benefits quickly turn into health risks. These dangers include an increased risk of cancer, heart, and liver disease.

In fact, on the heels of the new study warning baby boomers to stop over-drinking, comes another statement from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) that “even light drinking increases your risk of cancer.” ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, said that alcohol has been a known human carcinogen, or known to cause cancer, for a long time within the medical community.

Moderate drinkers nearly double their risk for mouth and throat cancer and more than double the risk of esophagus cancer compared to nondrinkers. They also face elevated risks for cancer of the voice box, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

The risk for heavy drinkers is much higher and downright sobering (excuse the pun). Heavy drinkers face roughly five times the risk of mouth and throat cancers and squamous cell esophageal cancers than nondrinkers, nearly three times the risk of cancers of the voice box, double the risk of liver cancer, as well as increased risks for breast cancer and colorectal cancer.


So millennials have been put on notice. How can they scale back on alcohol use?

Cut down the number of days you drink alcohol. In fact, you may want to abstain for a week or a month to see how you feel physically and emotionally without alcohol in your life.

Anne Hathaway recently announced she was taking a break from alcohol to set a good role model for her son.

Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink at one sitting. If you normally drink two glasses of wine, make it one instead.

If you are drinking too much, avoid people, places, things and certain activities that trigger an urge to drink. For example, this generation typically loves to splurge on dining out, but this luxury often prompts people to drink more. If this is the case, consider trying some other healthier habits such an acrobatics class, participating in a new hobby, getting a new pet, signing up for a sushi making class, hanging out with a new group of friends, or even starting a blog! Ha! That will sure keep you busy!

A Better YOU in Just 5 Days!