The Difference Between Casual Drinkers and Alcohol Abusers

In August 8, 2022
a person taps a drink while pondering the difference between casual drinkers and alcohol abusers

Alcohol is a social drug that people can use responsibly without causing much harm to their health or their personal life. However, it can be hard to tell the difference between casual drinkers and alcohol abusers. Understanding the differences between casual drinking vs. alcohol abuse can help you put your own relationship with alcohol into perspective. Recognizing the signs of alcohol abuse can help you know when it is time to get help. Staying in the cycle of alcohol abuse and addiction can be detrimental to your health and future.

Seasons in Malibu knows how important alcohol addiction treatment in a luxury environment can be for people struggling to control their drinking. Located in sunny Southern California, our addiction treatment programs provide luxury comfort while people learn to manage their drinking. With help from our highly-educated, compassionate staff, you can trust you’re receiving the best care possible. If you struggle to recognize the difference between casual drinkers and alcohol abusers, it may be time to get help. Contact our team online or call today to get started.

What Is Casual Drinking?

Despite its addictive nature, plenty of people have a very casual relationship with drinking alcohol. They can go to a party or a bar, have one beer or maybe two, and call it a night. Then they might not think about drinking again until the next time they go out a few weeks later.

Being a casual drinker is not entirely impossible because some people are less vulnerable to developing addictions. They might have no family history of addiction, no environmental factors leading to addiction, and no problems with mental health. Alcohol is meant to be used casually, and those that can handle it without any interference in their lives should feel okay about enjoying a drink now and then.

Casual Drinking vs. Alcohol Abuse

How do you know if you are a casual drinker or have started abusing the drug in ways that are harmful to your health? There are a few guidelines and signs and symptoms that help identify whether a person has an alcohol problem or is simply a social drinker. It has to do with the amount and frequency of consumption and the impact on a person’s life.

One thing to understand about alcohol abuse is that there are different types and levels of someone having a problem. People who drink excessively can fall into different categories, such as heavy or binge drinking. Someone who drinks heavily will have more than four drinks in a day and up to fourteen drinks in a week.

Someone who binges will consume excessive alcohol in a short period. Usually, having more than four or five drinks within only two hours is considered binge drinking. People who drink heavily or binge drink might not necessarily be alcoholics, but their behavior is considered alcohol abuse and therefore is no longer in the realm of casual drinking.

In many cases, heavy drinking can escalate and become more frequent and expand to more and more drinks as the person builds up a tolerance. Alcohol abuse can quickly lead to alcoholism when it becomes more difficult for the person to go specific lengths of time without drinking. Their body becomes dependent on alcohol because they put so much of it in their system.

The Difference Between Casual Drinkers and Alcoholics

Someone is an alcohol abuser when their drinking behavior has lasting effects on their emotions and ability to function well in their daily lives. A casual drinker will see almost no impact from the amount of alcohol they drink. They can still succeed at work, maintain relationships, and avoid alcohol or cut back when needed.

What makes someone addicted to a substance is their inability to moderate their behavior regarding its consumption. They might go to a party thinking they don’t want to drink and have four or five drinks. An alcoholic will also feel guilt about their drinking and try to cover it up by lying or hiding their behavior.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

When alcohol abuse becomes alcoholism, the patterns of drinking behavior begin to affect the person’s health and personal life. They may start to notice more negative consequences of their drinking and changes in their behavior. People around them might feel concerned about their physical and mental health.

Casual drinkers and alcoholics have very different relationships with drinking. People struggling with alcoholism often show signs like:

  • Drinking alone and in secret
  • Prioritizing drinking over other responsibilities such as work and family
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, or anxiety
  • Dramatic mood swings and irritability
  • Drinking despite negative consequences such as poor performance at work or conflict in relationships
  • Inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed

It can be difficult for someone with a drinking problem to recognize that they need to change their behavior. Denial can be very powerful when you are addicted to something, and you may not want to admit that you have no control over your drinking. However, once you realize that you have the symptoms of alcohol abuse or alcoholism, it is essential to get professional help.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Seasons in Malibu

Seasons in Malibu is a residential treatment center that offers individualized care and evidence-based therapies to help people struggling with addiction. We provide a safe and comfortable environment for our clients to heal and recover from alcoholism. Our caring staff will work with you to create a treatment plan that meets your unique needs.

During your stay, you will experience evidence-based healing, including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medication management
  • Holistic therapy, like art and equine activities

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, please call us at to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment program.


By Dr. Reuben Vaisman-Tzachor

Seasons Malibu