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Drinking in relationships: How much is too much?

by AirTalk®

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How do you relate to people who drink significantly more or less than you? RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50.9 percent of Americans drink regularly, which the agency chalks up as having more than twelve drinks per year. The CDC also says that an average of more than one drink a day for a woman qualifies as “heavy drinking.”

In modern American society, it is common practice for millions of us to return home from work and pop a bottle of wine or crack open a beer. Nearly all our social events have an aspect of imbibing… eggnog at Christmas, champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve, wine as a housewarming gift and endless pints of beer at birthday parties and sporting events. Americans love to both drown their sorrows and celebrate their joys with a drink or two.

But what happens in social situations when someone doesn’t drink at all, or another person drinks significantly more on a regular basis? Mismatched social norms when it comes to alcohol can lead to relationship strife, and it works both ways. Ever go out with a friend who doesn’t drink at all… or another who has far more than one too many? How does it make you feel? It seems that somewhere between actual ‘moderation’ and “everything in moderation, including moderation” is a blurry line that marks ‘too much’ for a given individual in a social setting or relationship.

Substance abuse is a dangerous and deadly social problem, but alcohol might be as American as apple pie. So where do you draw the line? How do you relate to people who drink significantly more or less than you?


Adi Jaffe, post-doctoral fellow and addiction researcher at UCLA, contributor to Psychology Today and founder of

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