middle aged man drinking alone at a bar - Drinking Alone & The Risk Of Future Alcohol Problems

After a long day at work, you might feel tempted to enjoy a glass of wine by yourself. Although solitary drinking might seem normal, it can lead to serious alcohol problems, especially if you start doing it as a teenager or young adult. 

Drinking Alone

In general, people who drink alone are more likely to develop unhealthy drinking habits, including binge drinking and heavy drinking. 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as having 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours for women and having 5 or more drinks in about 2 hours for men. 

The NIAAA defines heavy drinking as having more than 3 drinks in one day for women and having more than 4 drinks in one day for men. 

Solitary drinking also makes you more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction). 

The Risk Of Future Alcohol Problems

According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, teens and young adults who drink alone face a much higher risk of alcohol use disorder than their peers who only drink in social settings. 

More specifically, the study found that the odds of developing symptoms of alcohol addiction by age 35 are 60% greater for young adults who drink alone and 35% greater for teens who drink alone. 

Among teenagers, females who drink alone are more likely to develop alcohol addiction than males. 

Many young people drink alone to self-medicate negative emotions or mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. These concerns further raise a person’s risk of alcohol use disorder. 

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to quit drinking alcohol. The most common warning signs are tolerance and physical dependence. 

Tolerance means that over time, you need increasingly larger or more frequent alcoholic drinks to feel drunk. 

Physical dependence means your body becomes unable to function normally without alcohol. When you don’t drink, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • headache
  • shaking
  • sweating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • anxiety
  • trouble sleeping

Some people also experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, confusion, and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there). If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help right away. 

Signs Of Alcohol Addiction

Along with tolerance and physical dependence, other signs of alcohol addiction may include:

  • experiencing intense alcohol cravings
  • losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • avoiding your loved ones so you can spend more time drinking
  • engaging in dangerous behaviors while intoxicated, such as drunk driving or having unprotected sex
  • continuing to drink even when it causes problems in your personal or professional life

Risks Of Alcohol Addiction

When left untreated, alcohol addiction increases your risk of various short-term and long-term health problems.

Short-Term Risks

Because alcohol impairs your judgment and coordination, it makes you more likely to experience accidents such as burns, falls, and car crashes. 

Alcohol can also raise your risk of violent behaviors, including intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and homicide.

In addition, many people with alcohol addiction experience alcohol poisoning (also called alcohol overdose). This life-threatening condition occurs when you drink so much alcohol that your brain activity starts to shut down. Common symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • slow or irregular breathing
  • slow heart rate
  • confusion
  • clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • trouble remaining conscious
  • seizures

You’re more likely to overdose on alcohol if you binge drink.

Long-Term Risks

Since alcohol is a toxin, people who drink too much face a higher risk of various health conditions, including:

  • digestive problems
  • liver disease
  • stoke
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • depression
  • memory problems
  • certain cancers, including breast cancer, liver cancer, and oral cancer
  • weakened immune system

Along with health problems, other long-term risks of alcohol addiction include relationship problems, job loss, and homelessness. 

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

If you or someone you love feels unable to stop drinking, seek help at an addiction treatment center

Some centers offer inpatient treatment, meaning you live at the center. Others offer outpatient treatment, meaning you live at home and regularly visit the center. Your doctor can help you determine which option is right for you.

Both inpatient and outpatient programs offer treatments such as:

  • medical detox, in which doctors help you safely stop using alcohol with minimal withdrawal symptoms
  • mental health counseling, in which therapists help you cope with alcohol cravings and manage any underlying mental health issues that may have contributed to your alcohol abuse
  • support groups, in which you can discuss your experiences with other people recovering from drinking problems

To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment options, please reach out to Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our board-certified health care providers offer personalized, evidence-based treatments to help you or your loved one recover from substance abuse.

Keep Reading:


Addictive Behaviors — Solitary drinking is associated with specific alcohol problems in emerging adults

Carnegie Mellon University — Drinking Alone Foreshadows Future Alcohol Problems

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Alcohol Use and Your Health

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction — Drinking Levels Defined

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction — Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.