Author: James Anderson

Drinking Together and Drinking Alone: A Social-Contextual Framework for Examining Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder PMC

social drinking and drinking problem

In general, more rigorous tests are needed to understand the mechanisms underlying social and solitary drinking and the pathways by which drinking in each setting leads to adverse outcomes. Notably, the vast majority of studies conducted thus far on solitary drinking are cross-sectional, precluding causal interpretations. For instance, how do solitary drinkers experience alcohol intoxication in solitary versus social settings? The evidence reviewed above suggests that solitary drinkers may not expect or obtain the same kind of social rewards from alcohol in social settings, but this needs to be tested in experimental studies that manipulate the context of alcohol consumption. Such studies would also shed light on whether solitary drinkers actually experience negative affect relief when drinking alone and, if so, whether certain individuals (e.g., those with high negative affectivity) are especially sensitive alcohol’s tension reduction effects (e.g., Mohr et al., 2001). Clinically, knowing more about an individual’s pattern of social and solitary drinking would aid in understanding the purposes that drinking serves, which is useful for identifying alternative reinforcement options to target in treatment (Creswell et al., 2020).

This definition is helpful as a starting point, but it doesn’t tell us anything about how much alcohol a person is actually drinking. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose. AddictionResource aims to present the most accurate, trustworthy, and up-to-date medical content to our readers.

social drinking and drinking problem

This article reviews the benefits, dangers, problems, and warning signs that one needs to watch out for to ensure that being a social drinker does not graduate into becoming a social alcoholic. Social drinking may be an endemic part of our society — and alcohol is an effective social lubricant in some situations — but drinking irresponsibly or excessively can lead to addiction and alcoholism. It’s a cumulative problem, and something you may find yourself facing at some point in your life.

Conceptually, these data suggest that the context of drinking matters, with social and solitary alcohol consumption being psychologically distinct phenomena with qualitatively different antecedents and perhaps unique consequences (Cooper et al., 1995; Mason et al., 2020; Skrzynski & Creswell, 2020). Further, the proposed framework might also aid in our understanding of risk pathways for other drugs of abuse (Creswell, Chung, Clark et al., 2015; Mason et al., 2020). Although these variables often are interrelated, this article addresses economic, income, and educational factors; employment status; and housing status in separate sections to facilitate interpretation of the overall findings.

The Cost of Treatment vs. The Cost of Drinking

In this article, I offer a social-contextual framework for examining AUD risk by reviewing studies on the unique antecedents and deleterious consequences of social versus solitary alcohol use in adolescents and young adults. Specifically, I provide evidence of distinct emotion regulatory functions across settings, with social drinking linked to enhancing positive emotions and social experiences and solitary drinking linked to coping with negative emotions. I end by considering the conceptual, methodological, and clinical implications of this social-contextual account of AUD risk. Second, relatively few meta-analyses have comprehensively explored the associations between various conceptualizations of SES and alcohol outcomes. Therefore, the current overview and many of the reviews cited within rely on subjective assessments of the literature.

  1. Regardless of the circumstances in which alcohol is consumed (i.e., at a party or solo), in the United States drinking is considered a part of a healthy lifestyle when it’s done in moderation.
  2. They might make sense in a Mediterranean country like France, Italy, or Spain, where it is customary to drink a glass of wine with dinner.
  3. Given the number of studies that have been conducted in this area, this approach is an inefficient way to synthesize such a complex body of research (Borenstein et al. 2009).
  4. Taken together, the findings discussed in this review suggest that although individuals with higher SES may consume similar or greater amounts of alcohol compared with individuals with lower SES, the latter group seems to bear a disproportionate burden of negative alcohol-related consequences.
  5. (For example, maybe it was safer to drink than untreated water—fermentation kills pathogens.) Slingerland questions most of these explanations.
  6. However, we’re not the first nation to use alcohol as a social lubricant.

In fact, the relationship between alcohol and social media and networking sites has been established by a study carried out in 2018. Occasional drinkers – again, especially the younger ones, are generally more likely to put up alcohol-related posts on their social media. Studies have taken a closer look at the possible reasons behind this behavior among young adults. It is almost as though the act of drinking alcohol together is done with some ingratiation motives that influence how young adults are viewed socially among their peers.

Moments of slightly buzzed creativity and subsequent innovation might have given them further advantage still. At a talk he later gave on wu-wei at Google, Slingerland made much the same point about intoxication. During the Q&A, someone in the audience told him about the Ballmer Peak—the notion, named after the former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, that alcohol can affect programming ability.

Because of this, there’s no clarity about when social drinking becomes a problem. But this doesn’t explain why Americans have been so receptive to the sales pitches. Some people have argued that our increased consumption is a response to various stressors that emerged over this period. (Gately, for example, proposes a 9/11 effect—he notes that in 2002, heavy drinking was up 10 percent over the previous year.) This seems closer to the truth. It also may help explain why women account for such a disproportionate share of the recent increase in drinking. Right now we are lurching into another of our periodic crises over drinking, and both tendencies are on display at once.

Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction

However, this relationship may be moderated by other individual-level variables, such as drinking status, gender, race, and ethnicity (CDC 2012; Karriker-Jaffe et al. 2012). Therefore, future studies should clarify these associations by simultaneously examining the roles of these factors, particularly within meta-analyses that could capitalize on increased power to identify significant moderating effects. This article focuses on one particular aspect of this complex set of systems, namely the relationship between SES—including income/economic factors, educational level, employment status, and housing status—and alcohol-related outcomes. It synthesizes data primarily obtained from English-language systematic reviews and meta-analyses that were based on studies conducted in the past decade involving adult populations (for a summary of these reviews and meta-analyses, see table 1). In some cases, these analyses were limited to studies from only one country, whereas other analyses were cross-national.

social drinking and drinking problem

In any case, caution must be used when interpreting these findings, because the cultural and political contexts in which these phenomena occur can differ widely. In addition, this article reviews some larger, population-based studies (see table 2), particularly those that were not addressed within the included reviews and which directly assess the association between SES and alcohol consumption and related outcomes. Although most of the studies only included adults, a few also involved adolescents when meta-analyses and reviews did not exclude such studies. Several sociodemographic characteristics, such as gender, age, and race/ethnicity, moderated these associations. For example, women affected by economic loss showed increased alcohol consumption, whereas men showed increased intoxication, drinking consequences, and alcohol dependence (Mulia et al. 2014). Additional analyses of the same dataset determined that the association between exposure to severe economic loss and alcohol consumption and related consequences differed among Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites.

Yes, it is possible for some people diagnosed with AUD to cut down their drinking to a healthier level. Medication such as naltrexone can help people limit or stop drinking. Developing social alcoholics are often in denial about their relationship with alcohol.

It is widely available in stores, restaurants, and bars, and is often used to socialize, relax, celebrate special occasions, and even to maintain health. Drinking an alcoholic beverage does not automatically lead to serious trouble, but the ease of access to alcohol and its social acceptability make it important to distinguish between different types of drinking, as well as the symptoms and psychological effects of alcohol misuse. Last August, the beer manufacturer Busch launched a new product well timed to the problem of pandemic-era solitary drinking. “You’ll never drink alone again,” said news articles reporting its debut. As for human beverages, though beer sales were down in 2020, continuing their long decline, Americans drank more of everything else, especially spirits and (perhaps the loneliest-sounding drinks of all) premixed, single-serve cocktails, sales of which skyrocketed. Distilled alcohol is recent—it became widespread in China in the 13th century and in Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries—and a different beast from what came before it.

Social Drinker or Problem Drinker?

Calls to our general hotline may be answered by private treatment providers. We may be paid a fee for marketing or advertising by organizations that can assist with treating people with substance use disorders. Our addiction treatment specialists are here to assist you in verifying your insurance coverage. If someone answered yes to any or all of these questions, it likely indicates that they’re more than just a social drinker.

For a species whose ability to consume and process alcohol can be traced back at least 10 million years up the evolutionary tree, this is basically yesterday, and represents an evolutionarily novel danger. Distillation is what makes it possible for almost anyone, anywhere in the industrialized world, to walk into a corner store and emerge a few minutes later with a truly insane quantity of alcohol tucked into a small brown paper bag. A couple bottles of vodka contain a dose of ethanol equivalent to an entire cartload of pre-modern beer. The availability of such concentrated intoxicants is something our ancestors never had to deal with.

People with unhealthy alcohol use (also called alcohol use disorder or AUD) can’t always predict how much they will drink, when they will stop, or what they will do while drinking. And it can be common for people with alcohol use disorder to deny the negative effects of drinking or that they even have a problem. Although not all binge drinkers are alcoholics, their pattern of extreme drinking is just as dangerous. Following rules for drinking socially can help you avoid drinking too much and may help you avoid alcohol problems in the future.