What Is Considered A Social Drinker?

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Alcoholic drinks are available everywhere, from homes to bars and restaurants. Social drinking is a big part of almost every country’s culture.

Drinking alcohol is a popular way to celebrate special occasions, relax, and even socialise. Doing it a few times a week or occasionally is considered harmless and normal.

People meet with co-workers or friends over drinks during weekends or at the end of the workday to unwind and decompress.

Millions of people around the world engage in social drinking for different reasons.

But, on the other hand, irresponsible or unregulated social drinking can lead to problems that can last a lifetime.

In such a case, you might be advised to undergo long term treatment for alcoholism.

What Does Social Drinking Mean?

Social drinking refers to casual alcohol consumption in a bar, restaurants, and other social settings. Generally, it occurs on special occasions, including New Year’s Eve, birthdays, weddings, etc.

When people drink socially, they feel relaxed. This is because alcohol affects the human brain's function, which changes behaviours and moods.

For example, it binds to the brain's receptors to boost dopamine levels. As a result, pleasure is being activated.

However, multiple social drinking engagements a week can lead to heavy drinking.

It is defined as three alcoholic beverages for women on five or more days each month and men on four or more in a day.

When Did Social Drinking Start?

Socializing and alcohol have gone hand-in-hand for thousands of years. It is featured in historical artworks, Roman literature, and religious texts.

  • Ancient Greece: Socrates used to offer wines to philosophers during their gatherings.
  • 16th Century: Mexicans would drink a fermented drink called “pulque” in vinaterias.
  • Colonial America: Early settlers in America would fill their taverns and then invite others.

Since then, drinking alcohol during social settings has remained popular. People even join Oktoberfest, where they engage in celebrations and beer drinking.

In 1969, alcohol became a popular part of Woodstock. It is infamous at sporting events.

Christine Sismondo, famous author of the “America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops,” says in a Smithsonian magazine that “You end up with accelerated relationships - and occasionally cantankerous ones.”

In other words, alcohol can change how people relate to one another.

Meanwhile, today’s digital age has intertwined alcohol and social media. Alcohol-related marketing and ads encourage social drinking.

People post their photos and videos related to their drinking activities on social networking sites such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

What is a Social Drinker?

Someone is considered a social drinker if they consume alcohol in reasonable portions and do not display a risk of alcoholism or problem drinking.

Bear in mind that a single drink might contain more alcohol than the usual single alcohol serving.

For instance, mixed drinks may have different liquor types and are accounted as more than a single drink according to the alcohol content.

Wine and beer vary widely based on the alcohol by volume (ABV) amount they contain. Generally, a single drink is defined as:

  • 1.5 fl. oz. of liquor containing 40% ABV
  • 5 fl. oz. of wine containing 12% ABV
  • 8-9 fl. oz. of malt liquor containing 7% ABV
  • 12 fl. oz. of beer containing 5% ABV

In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) claimed that more than 86% of individuals over 18 in the US had consumed alcohol at least once in their life.

Furthermore, more than 70% of the respondents said they had consumed it within the last year.

A social drinker:

  • Limits himself or herself to one or two alcoholic beverages and drinks occasionally
  • Does not spend his or her waking hours thinking about alcoholic drinking
  • Does not say or do things while drinking that the latter target
  • Does not violate the law because of alcohol
  • Does not feel the need to drink to have a good time

Why Social Drinking Is Rewarding?

The rewarding effects of alcohol interact in complex ways with people’s emotions and thoughts and the social situations they find themselves in.

Below are some of the reasons why social drinking is rewarding:

1. Makes People Stay in the Moment 

Alcohol's moderate doses have a more negligible effect on people, and their moods are more connected to the immediate moment than earlier emotions. Alcohol seems to reduce the emotional inertia.

2. Reduced Anxiety

While moderate intoxication does not help reduce feat, it relieves anxiety about unpredictable threats.

Drinking alcohol can reduce people’s startle response to situations like loud noises and their anxiety’s subjective feelings only when the shock threat is not certain.

3. Narrows Focus 

Mildly intoxicated individuals come with less spare mental capacity.

Meaning, as long as they are currently distracted by non-threatening or pleasant task like chatting with friends, their minds seem to have fewer resources to worry about other things.

4. Boosts Social Bonding and Positive Emotions

A mildly intoxicated group of people have increased feelings of closeness with new acquaintances. They also display more genuine smiles than groups drinking placebo or sober groups.

5. Social Bonding and Mood-enhancing Effects 

Extroverts are more likely to experience social benefits and mood-enhancing effects of moderate drinking. This is what makes them especially develop drinking to excess problems.

What Can Go Wrong with Social Drinkers?

Social drinking is a low-risk activity that takes place in a secure environment. However, if people drink more alcohol in social situations, they can harm themselves and their peers.

Alcohol Myopia Theory 

Alcohol myopia theory suggests that alcohol consumption can narrow perception. In return, people focus on pleasures instead of consequences. It also impairs their ability to identify dangerous scenarios.

Misperceived Intentions 

The way people think is also manipulated by alcohol. Meaning, alcohol consumption in social settings can lead to miscommunication.

It disrupts people's ability to interpret others' motives, resulting in violence or social mistakes.

Dangerous or Embarrassing Situations 

When individuals drink more than they can handle, they might end up in a dangerous or embarrassing situation.

Careless social drinkers may drink under the influence of alcohol, blackout, or commit violence. Another potential consequence is alcohol poisoning that can lead to death.

Alcohol Addiction 

Social drinking can form a drinking habit. In addition, regular alcohol consumption at social functions can increase someone's tolerance to alcohol and desire to drink more. So, they might develop alcohol addiction later on.

When Does Social Drinking Become Problematic?

Social drinking is generally low-risk and common. However, it becomes a problem when social drinkers start to drink an excessive amount of alcohol.

It also becomes an issue when it is related to a vulnerable mental state. For instance, if someone drinks to cope with depression, anxiety, loneliness, or stress.

Beware that when people drink within the social drinking limits, they have an alcohol use disorder. It is a severe alcohol dependence associated with an inability to control drinking habits and compulsive drinking. It develops after people start “problematic drinking.”

Alcoholism refers to the state that people reach when they can no longer control their alcohol use. They usually experience strong desires or cravings to use alcohol.

They even compulsively abuse the substance despite the possible adverse effects. They experience physical withdrawal symptoms or emotional distress if they are not drinking.

Below are some signs that social drinker is already alcoholics:

  • They do not realize when it is time to stop drinking alcohol
  • They drink outside of meals daily
  • They cannot stop drinking even when they know it is time
  • They arrive at social functions drunk
  • They engage in different binge drink sessions weekly
  • They engage in drunk driving
  • They often in a group of other heavy drinkers
  • They participate in risky behaviours while intoxicated
  • They deny or get defensive about a problem associated with drinking
  • They cannot imagine their lives without alcohol
  • They use alcohol to escape negative feelings or relieve stress
  • They drink alcohol as a reward to themselves
  • Their family or friends have expressed concerns about their drinking
  • They feel guilt or shame about how they have behaved while drinking
  • They experience regular blackouts

Can Someone Stop Being A Social Drinker?

The drinking occasion list is never-ending, from weekend barbecues to ladies’ night out. People can find lots of reasons to drink.

So, it's no wonder why living an alcohol-free lifestyle is the most challenging part for some people.

But, while it seems challenging to stop being a social drinker, there are several ways to do that without worrying that you will be a social outcast.

Personal Experience 

Nothing is more powerful than getting a personal experience when people decided to quit social drinking.

Besides watching videos and reading books, they can try having a conversation with a group of people who have stopped social drinking.

Stay Committed 

People can stop being social drinkers by making a firm commitment to themselves. They can experiment with “tonight commitment.” For instance, they can tell themselves, “Tonight, I am not going out and drink with my friend.”

No matter how good or bad the night would be, they should be committed not to drink. They must make alcohol out of the equation and see how it goes well.

Find Freedom

When social drinkers decided to stop drinking, they get a gratifying feeling and a sense of freedom.

They have made that decision for themselves, and no one or anything can stop that. Once they decide for themselves, they start making realistic expectations.

Realistic Expectations 

Social drinkers who suddenly do not drink alcohol experience something terrifying - they do not know what to expect.

For instance, they ask themselves how they will sit in the social gathering with their friends and order only iced tea.

For such a situation, they have to set realistic expectations. If they decide to stop being social drinkers, they need to know what they expected to face that night.

Then, before they go out, it’s ideal for taking a few minutes to imagine how the night will go, good and bad.

It is an excellent idea to bring up the following questions:

  • What if my friends make fun of me?
  • What if my friends pressure me?
  • What if my friends support me?
  • What if I am sitting there laughing?
  • What if I have a great time?
  • What if it does not feel any different?

Seek the Truth 

By stopping people’s social drinking habits, they gain an experience that allows them to separate fiction from fact.

They can ask themselves about what their anxieties and fears are when not drinking. They also need to know what will happen if they drink or do not drink.

Human minds are more powerful than any videos they could watch or any book they could read.

Therefore, people who want to quit social drinking should realize that their views about their thoughts and alcohol will dictate how they feel about it.

Recovery from Alcoholism

Social drinking can be either a low-risk or dangerous activity. Environments and activities associated with alcohol can lead to drinking more than people can handle and engage in risky actions.

People who want to recover from alcoholism must be extra careful. If they attend social functions that involve alcoholic drinks, they should not be afraid to say “NO”. They must not give in to peer pressure.

One of the best things they can do is to bring someone who understands their commitment to sobriety.

A single drink can already cause alcohol relapse. During the early months of sobriety, people are most vulnerable to this relapse. That is why attending social gatherings that include alcohol is not encouraged.

Excessive alcohol use is considered the fourth-leading preventable death cause in the US.

If social drinking leads someone to alcohol abuse, it is best to contact a nearby treatment facility.

Conclusion

A social drinker is a person who drinks alcohol occasionally and responsibly. This means he or she does not blackout or get drunk regularly.

While social drinking is typically low-risk, it can also be dangerous once people start drinking in excess. The good news is that they can quit being social drinkers and live an alcohol-free lifestyle.

There you have it! What are your insights about this topic? Do you find it helpful for your recovery journey? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.