Drug and Alcohol Counseling: The Social Drinker

In chapter 4 of the book, Doweiko evaluates the element of social drinking. Social drinking, as described by Burns and Gallant (2018), is leisure drinking, especially with friends. Social drinkers are not in the category of people who abuse alcohol, but those who do it for their own entertainment. Doweiko started by evaluating the effects of alcohol on the sleeping patterns of social drinkers. The article observed that social drinkers do not follow their normal sleeping patterns. Such problems increase, especially after a binge drinking session. With an increase in drinking sessions, the social drinker gets more sleeping problems such as sleep apnea. As such, the social drinker snores a lot due to the weakening of the pharyngeal muscle, which has been reported to weaken right after a drinking session. Sleep apnea is often accompanied by respiratory problems and people with such problems are advised by Doweiko to have a medical session with their doctors before engaging in drinking.

Besides the sleeping problems, Doweiko evaluated the possible effects of drinking on the stroke problem. Light alcohol use, which has been defined as two mixed drinks in a period of 24 hours, has been reported to reduce the individual’s risk of death from coronary artery disease. Although it may sound like good news, it should not be celebrated. Consumption of less than one standard drink per day has been observed to have an association with increased risk of death as a result of stroke, which may be disappointing to a social drinker. The subject of stroke and social drinkers has been evaluated by Ronksley et al. (2011) and it has been determined that social drinkers expose themselves to the risk of stroke due to their behaviors. The study has been reported by Doweiko that the same risk is faced even by the least consumers of alcohol, the casual drinkers. The level of consumption of alcohol and the functional outcome of an individual who suffered a stroke was not established. This was interpreted to mean that the level of alcohol was not a factor that affected post-stroke recovery. These revelations should send a warning to social drinkers or casual drinkers. The kind of risk they expose themselves to is significantly high and with disastrous results. The effects of stroke are often long-term and as such, to somebody who is not addicted, it safe not to indulge in risky behavior, which multiplies the risk of stroke attack by a significant factor.

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Another effect that Doweiko evaluated concerning social drinking is the relationship between alcohol use and neurocognitive effects. Neurocognitive effects are related to the functionality of the brain and the nervous system. Doweiko starts by explaining that alcohol use has been shown to induce brain damage even with non-serious drinkers such as social drinkers. For instance, as Daweiko reports in a study conducted with social drinkers as participants, the subjects were administered with two glasses of wine or three glasses of beer. Through a medical procedure known as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, it was found out that the subjects showed a decrease in the level of creatine, which is a chemical in the brain that works to protect neurons. The level of alcohol content increase was associated with a direct reduction in the level of creatine. It was postulated that this was the same mechanism that was used by heavy drinkers to cause brain damage.

Doweiko cites a study that came to the conclusion that heavy drinking or acute intoxication is a factor that contributes significantly to the disruption of the process of neurogenesis in the brain of an acute drinker. Neurogenesis is the formation of new neurons in the brain. This means that someone with a neurogenesis problem faces the problem of a receding brain since new cells are not formed to replace the aging ones. As a result, such an individual is exposed to mental health disorders such as depression. The level of depression, in this case, is not a normal depression; rather, it is one that leads to self-abusive behaviors. Doweiko reports that the level of self-abusive behavior is so high such that it was observed in two-thirds of people who were observed to consume alcohol. Prior to the commission of the self-abusive behavior, two-thirds of the people with the problem were found to have consumed alcohol, a clear indication of brain damage.

The effects to the brain out of drinking were found to persist for hours even when the individual completed the process of eliminating alcohol in their system through biotransformation. Social drinkers were found to have longer reaction times despite the belief that they were engaging in safe drinking. To the brain, social drinkers due to the increased reaction time were found to be more likely to cause a road accident after separating their drinking time and the driving activity by long durations. This further pushes the risk factors of drinkers to higher levels.

It should be noted that the discussion above has severally mentioned acute drinkers and not social drinkers. It should also be noted that social drinking is the precursor of acute drinking. When repeated over time, an individual develops alcohol tolerance and increases either the frequency of drinking or the amount of the alcohol dose. With such behaviors, the tendency to damage their brain increases and the results have been demonstrated in a stepwise fashion. The process starts from social drinking to acute drinking, the setting in of brain damage, and the effects which are depression, and consequently self-abusive behavior, which is injurious and sometimes fatal.

Doweiko evaluated other consequences of social drinking and started the session on a serious and heavy tone by mentioning that the death of the drinker is another consequence. He mentions that alcohol is responsible for more deaths than any other known chemical overdose. The higher the level of alcohol dose, the closer the individual gets to death. Alcohol has been related to difficulties in uric acid excretion from the body. High levels of uric acid have been shown to increase the level of kidney stones and severe gout attacks. Gout attacks were shown to increase in frequency in periods between 24 hours of drinking. Another effect that has been evaluated by Doweiko is the “beer goggle” effect. Brief alcohol intake reduces the ability to make choices. As such, the drinker is less capable of selecting their partners and the drinker experiences shock the next morning after waking up next to a stranger whom they would not have an encounter under normal circumstances. Alcohol interferes with the ability to distinguish between the sexual attractiveness of a potential mate and as such, encourages an individual to engage in risky behavior.

In conclusion, it has been clearly elaborated that social drinking is not as cool as it is often perceived. Social drinkers expose themselves to serious risks, which have the potential to materialize to severe health complications or death with time. From stroke to brain damage, to poor sexual choices, the health of a social drinker is often at risk even when the dose of alcohol intake is low. As such, it is better to keep off alcohol, no matter the dosage.


Burns, R., & Gallant, K. A. (2018). What’s a Drink with Friends? A Qualitative Systematic Synthesis of Social Drinking as Leisure. Leisure Sciences, 1-17.

Doweiko, H. (2011). Concepts of chemical dependency. Nelson Education.

Ronksley, P. E., Brien, S. E., Turner, B. J., Mukamal, K. J., & Ghali, W. A. (2011). Association of alcohol consumption with selected cardiovascular disease outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 342, d671.

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