Gray Area Drinking: 6 Warning Signs & How to Get Help

Gray Area Drinking: 6 Warning Signs & How to Get Help

Explore 6 warning signs that you might be a gray area drinker and how you can get help with the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine if you are considering changing your relationship with alcohol.

What Is Gray Area Drinking?

As we begin to think about Substance Use Disorders (SUD) in new ways, one thing that has changed is thinking about alcohol consumption. Previously, if you suspected that you had a “ problem with drinking,” you were considered an “alcoholic.” But, it is now recognized that alcohol consumption patterns differ significantly. And the problems surrounding alcohol can come in many different forms. From this realization, the term “gray area drinking” was created.

Gray area drinking is just as it sounds. So it is when your drinking habits are in a hard to define zone. Do you have a problem or not? It’s not black or white. Are your drinking habits “normal,” or are you consuming too much?

More like this: Alcohol Use Disorder: Easy to Meet Criteria

Gray Area Drinking Guidelines

Here are the guidelines that the NIAAA puts out:

“Moderate Drinking is defined as limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which directs the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as:

“5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.”

There is ambiguity, even within the NIAAA and SAMHSA guidelines. So we believe that it can come down to you taking a hard look internally.

How do you know if you need help? So how do you know if you have a problem with drinking? How do you know if you need an alcohol detox?

Gray Area Drinking: 6 Warning Signs

So that you can try and better understand if you have an issue with drinking alcohol, here are some things to consider.

  1. Do some research! There are some terrific resources, like our Alcohol Treatment Guide, that can help you understand your relationship with alcohol and yourself.
  2. What is your gut telling you? Look within. What would your body tell you if you were bluntly honest? Deep down inside, do you have an issue with drinking?
  3. Ask your best friend or significant other or your grown children. This can be scary, we know. How do they feel about the amount you drink?
  4. Have a conversation with your primary care doctor.
  5. If you were your loved ones, what would they see in you? What would they say?
  6. Contemplate going to a peer support meeting to see if other people’s stories stir something within you.

More like this: Stop Drinking Alcohol: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself


Gray area drinking can easily be considered “normal” and overlooked even when it negatively affects your life. Stopping drinking alcohol can be challenging because it has become ingrained in our culture and lives. Generally, we have to force ourselves to look at our problems in someone we know to conclude. You may need to face your denial.

We have helped thousands of patients at the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine effectively, successfully, and safely stop drinking long-acting Naltrexone. Either with Vivitrol® or an implant. We would be happy to talk with you privately if you have questions about gray area drinking. We can discuss whether The Coleman Method may be just the detox program you need to stop drinking altogether.

Deborah Reich, MD

Recovery Starts With Finding The Right Detox Option For You.

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