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Grey area drinking is a term used to describe a pattern of alcohol consumption that exceeds the recommended dietary guidelines but does not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. The 2020 – 2025 dietary guidelines for alcohol consumption recommends a limit of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Grey area drinking describes the vague area of alcohol consumption between moderate drinking and alcohol dependence. A study found that about 29.1% of alcohol consumers practice a pattern of alcohol consumption characteristic of grey area drinking. While major negative effects may not be associated with this behavior, grey area drinkers may experience other subtle negative impacts of this pattern of alcohol consumption. Grey area drinking is not an official diagnosis like alcohol use disorder, therefore, it can be hard to define and spot. Its effect on general health and well-being can also be subtle as it is usually not as spectacular as the effects of alcohol dependence and heavy drinking.

Risk Factors for Grey Area Drinking.

Anyone that consumes alcohol is at risk of gliding almost unnoticeably into this pattern of alcohol consumption. However, persons who experience prolonged episodes of stress are at greater risk of grey area drinking.

 Experts also suspect that persons with some form of neurotransmitter imbalance, such as GABA (this inhibits anxiety), serotonin (a natural antidepressant), and dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter), may be at greater risk as they use alcohol consumption to deal with the effects of these imbalances.

Also, persons who have experienced significant losses in their relationships, finances, careers, and marriage may be at a higher risk of grey area drinking.

Signs of Grey Area Drinking

If you worry that your pattern of alcohol consumption might be in the grey area, you should watch out for the following signs:

–        Worrying about your level of alcohol consumption

–        Being unable to stop drinking even though you might be able to abstain from alcoholic beverages for some periods.

–        Being excessively preoccupied with thoughts of your next drink.

–        Wavering back and forth on thoughts about the state of the level of your alcohol consumption

–        Feelings of guilt over your alcohol intake even though physical withdrawal symptoms are not being experienced.

–        Inability to stop drinking despite concerns from friends, relatives, and significant others.

Adverse Effects of Grey Area Drinking

Grey area drinking, though less threatening than alcohol dependence, can also impact persons negatively. Some of the dangers involved in grey area drinking include the following:

–        Health concerns: This level of drinking pattern also predisposes to diverse health problems such as liver damage, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions, and increased risk of cancers.

–        Impact on work and career: Persons who practice this pattern of alcohol consumption may also experience difficulties being fully productive and optimal at work. This can increase absenteeism and, eventually, job loss.

–        Impaired Judgement: Alcohol consumption at this level may also impact a person’s decision-making and make them more susceptible to risk-taking behaviors such as drinking and driving.

–        Financial Difficulties: Grey area drinking may also lead to increasing financial difficulties, especially among persons with low income levels.

–        Interpersonal Conflicts: There may also be an increased rate of conflicts with colleagues, superiors, friends, and spouses.

Tips for Avoiding Grey Area Drinking

If you are dissatisfied with your pattern of alcohol consumption and are bothered that you may be experiencing grey area drinking, here are some tips on how you might address this.

–        Set well-defined limits: To prevent slipping into grey area drinking, you need to set clear daily drinking limits. It is recommended to follow the alcohol intake guideline given by the food and dietary regulation.

–        Develop better coping mechanisms: Instead of drinking to cope with stress, practice other adaptive coping mechanisms such as enjoying nature, sunbathing, having a cold bath, and interacting with friends and families.

–        Find alternatives: It is also important to find other healthy alternatives to replace drinking when relaxing or having fun. Having healthy alternatives and more options will reduce your vulnerability to defaulting to alcohol use.

–        Seek Support: Professional help and support from groups can also help reduce one’s vulnerability. Being accountable to friends and relatives can also help reduce one’s predisposition,

Seeking Help

If you worry about your present level of alcohol consumption and desire a change, then you should seek professional help; grey area drinking can be alleviated when professional help is sought. At Grace recovery center, we offer professional services and support to help you achieve optimal wellness in your physical and mental well-being journey. Contact us today for the support you need from our well-trained multidisciplinary team of professionals.

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