What Kind of Drinker Are You?

Use the following phases and their descriptions to determine what kind of drinker that you, a friend or family member is.

Occasional Drinker: Phase 1

  • Joe and Jane may choose to drink once in awhile.
  • When they do drink, they do not get impaired. Since they do not drink to impairment, there’s no increase in their tolerance.
  • There are no negative outcomes from their drinking.
  • They have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude about drinking.

Social Drinker: Phase 2

  • Jane and Joe enjoy drinking. They drink regularly, perhaps two or three times per week.
  • When they do drink, they usually get impaired. Because they are drinking to impairment, their tolerance is increasing.
  • There are no apparent negative outcomes from their drinking, except maybe a hangover once in awhile. 
  • They generally look forward to the weekend so they can “really let loose.”

Problem Drinker: Phase 3*

*At Phase 3, an individual still has the option of going back to being an occasional or social drinker.*
Early Phase:
  • Jane and Joe drink regularly.
  • They get impaired regularly. Their tolerance is continuing to increase.
  • They arrive late for classes and sometimes cut classes due to drinking and/or hangovers.
  • The quality of their school work is inconsistent. They are missing deadlines.
  • They seem to be preoccupied with drinking.
  • They might experience a blackout.

Middle Phase:
  • Jane and Joe begin to cut classes regularly.
  • They become unreliable. Their personal relationships begin to suffer from disagreements with roommates, teammates and/or friends.
  • They avoid situations where there is no drinking.
  • They become ill more frequently.
  • They experience more money problems.
  • They drink in the morning once in awhile to cure their hangovers.
Late Phase:
  • Jane and Joe cut classes a week at a time.
  • At times their attitudes are belligerent and aggressive or passive and withdrawn.
  • They experience many personal problems with friends and family.
  • They have more money problems. Maybe they get a job to support their partying.
  • They may get a DUI violation or encounter serious trouble with school administration.
  • Their academic performance may deteriorate drastically.

Addicted to Alcohol: Alcoholic: Phase 4*

*At phase 4, an individual CANNOT go back to being an occasional, social or problem drinker; the person has become an alcoholic and always will be.*
  • Jane and Joe become totally undependable. They experience serious family and other relationship problems.
  • They drink to cure their withdrawal from alcohol.
  • They experience serious legal difficulties.
  • They get suspended or drop out of school.
  • They experience many other negative outcomes.
Can someone consume alcohol and not experience any serious alcohol problems? As you can see, drinkers in Phase 2 may be doing just that. They are out drinking, getting impaired yet not experiencing any problems. But—and it’s a huge but— each time we drink to impairment our tolerance increases. We know that if we continue to drink to impairment, our tolerance will continue to increase - it is a biological fact. As a result, the increasing tolerance moves us eventually to Phase 3 and eventually to Phase 4. (That is why increasing tolerance is always an indicator of increased risk for alcoholism. The student who brags about his or her ability to consume excessive quantities of alcohol is actually revealing, and ignorantly bragging about, his or her increased risk for alcoholism.)

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