Let’s Talk About 25% of Your Friends—and Movies

Did you know that 25% of your friends could have a drinking problem? According to the research by the CDC, problem drinking affects that percentage of the population. 25% means that if you have 200 Facebook friends, 50 of them could be suffering.

When you peel back the definition of “problem drinking,” what many people don’t know is its range. When diagnosing alcohol use disorder (AUD), the range is from mild to moderate to severe. (Here’s an article that explains more.)

Binge drinking contributes to the overall number. What was once seen as standard behavior for most college students and young adults is now credited as the foundation for increased challenges with alcohol.

The definition of binge drinking is 5 or more drinks for a male (4 for a female) in a 2.5-hour session, more than three times a month. “Heavy drinking” is defined as 15 or more drinks per week for a male and 8 or more for a female. Based on this, it is hard to imagine a single person who has had, for example, an “all-inclusive” vacation experience—and not qualified as a “heavy drinker.”

One Ria Health member recalls, “I remember thinking about my uncle who struggled with drinking. He was an alcoholic like Nicolas Cage’s character in Leaving Las Vegas. My mom’s other brothers were like Robert Duvall in The Great Santini—they would get drunk but not out of control. But armed with this new data it seems that my mother’s family represented a spectrum of problem drinking. The “you’re either an alcoholic or you’re not” approach is not accurate.

“The other thing that I learned is this: not only is problem drinking represented in a range of severity, but that people move through the ranges in both directions. This was a big surprise, but when you think about the fluidity of the problem, it makes sense. For example, I have a friend who went through a divorce after being married for 17 years and having two children. Like David Duchovney’s character in Californication, he was out of control with his drinking and behavior.  After a year of punishing himself, he decided he wanted to focus more on his health and kids, and with help from a counselor and meditation he was able to regain a moderate relationship with alcohol.

“What is clear to me is that I’m in that 25%, and when life happens, and I encounter a loss of a job, friend, partner, parent, etc. I may move from Vince Vaughn in Couples Retreat (who gets the most value from one of those “all inclusive” vacations) into Paul Giamatti in Sideways, drinking at home alone to numb the pain of my loss.

“When I look at the range of problem drinking I see the challenge in an entirely new light. For many people, the stigma of “an alcohol problem” brings high levels of anxiety and can become a huge barrier to seek out options to change. Today there are many new medications that reduce the cravings for alcohol, and convenient ways to receive effective treatment through telemedicine.”

What movie best describes the way your friends drink?

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Ria Health is a provider with a mission to provide accessible, effective and affordable treatment to help people change their relationship with alcohol.

 

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