Have your recent social events revolved around binge drinking? If so, read these telltale clues that your boozy nights are turning into a serious problem
You rarely miss a chance to join your friends for a boozy brunch, and dinner dates with your guy always include wine. But how much alcohol means you’re going overboard? Binge drinking is on the rise, and women ages 18 to 34 are more likely to binge drink than any other group, says Deirdra Roach, M.D. of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. These subtle signs signal that you may be entering the drinking danger zone. (Wonder how drinking takes a toll on your body? This is Your Brain: On Alcohol.)
You told yourself you would go home after one glass of wine, but three drinks later and you’re still going strong. Feeling as though you can’t stop—or that you don’t want to stop even after your friends have reached their limits—is a sign that you could be struggling with alcohol, says Carl Erickson, Ph.D., director of the Addiction Science Research and Education Center at the University of Texas. To stay accountable, tell a friend you’re only having one drink, or download the Drinking Tracker Card from the National Institute of Health to see how well you’re able to stay within your limit.
Stayed in bed to nurse a hangover instead of hitting the pavement? Any time drinking interrupts your normal routine—whether you miss a workout or forget to set the coffee pot the night before because you were buzzed—is a cause for concern, Roach says. (Read more on How Alcohol Messes with Your Fitness Goals here.) Think about if you neglected any responsibilities the past few times you’ve had a drink; if so, it’s time to cut back.
It’s not only that they express concern—though that’s a definite sign too. Any feedback can be worrisome, especially since other people tend to notice if you’re going overboard before you realize it yourself. Next time a friend speaks up about how well you handle your alcohol, or how crazy you got the past weekend, it’s time for you to seriously evaluate your drinking, Roach says. Talk to a trusted friend or your doc and ask them about how your habits compare to what’s healthy.
Happy Hour, Saturday morning mimosas, a night out at a club with the girls—if your schedule is packed with alcohol-filled activities, re-evaluate. “A good exercise is to see if you are comfortable and can have fun if you choose not to drink in one of those situations,” Roach says. And fill your calendar with booze free fun: go for a hike, see the latest flick, or check out a local gallery. (Or try a fitness class and find out Why Post-Work Workouts Are the New Happy Hour.)
Women’s bodies don’t metabolize alcohol as quickly as men’s even if they weigh the same because men’s bodies have higher water content, Roach says. So being able to drink as much as your guy signals that you’ve built a tolerance—and that can be a slippery slope. A good rule of thumb is to drink half the amount as your beau, so alternate drinks with water, or have one drink for every two of his.
Drinking to feel better after a fight with your guy or a rough day at work are forms of self-medication, and that means you’re abusing alcohol in a way it’s not meant to be used, Erickson says. If you find yourself turning to booze to alleviate sadness, stress, or depression, replace it with something that really does: an upbeat song, a kickboxing class, or a phone call with a good friend.
Whether you drink two glasses a night, or you pack drinking into weekends—anything over the seven-drinks-a-week mark puts you at a seriously higher risk for going on to develop a drinking problem, Roach says: two percent for those who stay under than number and a whopping 47 percent for those who exceed it. Not sure of your number? Download the app DrinkControl that helps you keep track of how much you’re imbibing. (Change up your tastebuds with these hydrating 8 Infused Water Recipes to Upgrade Your H2O.)
Anytime you feel regret is a signal that you’re drinking too much, Erickson says. Maybe you feel guilty that you picked a fight with your guy, you did something embarrassing at your office happy hour, or you think to yourself, "I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt." In fact, binge drinking—defined as having four or more drinks at a time—is a risk factor for sexual assault and violence, and women who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More so, the number of female drivers involved in alcohol-related fatal traffic crashes is on the rise. If you suspect that you have a problem, get resources that can help you by visiting the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.