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The Biggest Danger Sign You're Drinking Too Much Alcohol, Say Doctors

If you can't do this, you may have developed alcohol use disorder.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan
Depressed woman

According to the latest U.S. dietary guidelines released last month by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, it's considered healthy for an adult woman to consume one alcoholic beverage per day and an adult man to drink two per day. Health experts have raised concern that the guidelines are too generous for men, and that the vagueness of the per-day guidelines don't address the dangers of binge drinking. "For those who drink alcohol, recommended limits for better health are up to 1 drink per day for both women and men," a panel of doctors who advise the government reported after the guidelines were released.

Regardless, signs of alcohol use disorder—the catchall term for problems that may arise from drinking too much—and the amount of alcohol that drives dependence, may vary from person-to-person, says Robert Doyle, MD, a psychiatrist at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the book Almost Alcoholic. For some, the signs of a problem may manifest itself in poor sleep, for others, it could be the occasional lateness to work or lack of control. The symptoms of AUD, according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, include strong cravings, high anxiety, sweating, trembling, nausea, giving up things you love to drink, and developing a high tolerance.

"If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder," their health experts write.

But according to Dr. Doyle, the surest sign your alcohol use is a real problem is if you try to stop for a period of time and you simply can't.

"Don't drink for a month," he advises. "If that's hard for you, then maybe it's a problem. Or ask the people around you what they think. If it's causing them distress, then it's a significant problem."

Doyle also emphasizes that problems may become more profound as you age and you stick to the same amount that you're used to drinking in your younger years. After all, if you're getting older, your body's ability to metabolize alcohol diminishes, and your drinking habits should change in tandem if you don't want to impair your body's ability to function properly. "Ask your doctor to check for signs that alcohol is affecting your health, such as higher blood pressure or higher liver enzymes," Doyle advises.

If you or someone you know may be exhibiting signs of an alcohol use disorder, it may be time to seek out professional help. And if you're considering cutting back, a great way to start is to avoid The Most Dangerous Alcoholic Drink for Your Body, According to Experts.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more