The gray area of drinking refers to the fact that alcoholism isn’t just black and white; there is a gray area between people who only drink occasionally for social situations and people who have a dependence on alcohol and can’t control their cravings. During the pandemic, gray area drinking became a common social issue up for discussion. If your alcohol consumption has become a problem, even if you still fall under the category of gray area drinkers, you can get help at Casa Serena. 

Casa Serena is a premier women’s drug and alcohol rehab in Santa Barbara that offers comprehensive addiction and mental health treatment. Contact us today to learn more about our available treatment services.

What is Gray Area Drinking?

Gray area drinking is defined as alcohol consumption that is not yet a qualifying substance use disorder but is only a few steps away. 

As the name suggests, this type of alcohol consumption is a gray area of drinking which means it’s somewhere between moderate consumption and an inability to control yourself.

Some people are gray area drinkers if they drink in non-social situations, perhaps by themselves, and they don’t have any reason to and question why they are doing it in the first place.

Other examples of gray area drinking involve people who experience physical hangovers and anxiety connected to heavy alcohol consumption.

In effect, gray area drinking is mindless consumption, not yet a physical dependence but drinking for no real reason, and more often than you would if you had a reason.

What Are the Signs of Gray Area Drinking?

During the pandemic, mindless alcohol consumption took the form of drinking at any hour and calling it “wine o’clock,” starting the day with a cocktail knowing that you didn’t have to go anywhere, or just drinking two or three times what you normally would in an evening knowing that you didn’t have to drive. 

But what are the signs of gray area drinking today?

  • For some people, gray area drinking means having one glass to relax or deal with stress but ending up binge drinking.
  • It’s common for gray area drinkers to experience physical side effects from their alcohol consumption, including hangovers. These physical effects are usually felt after a night of binge drinking.
  • Other signs include building a tolerance such that you have to consume larger amounts of alcohol just to achieve the same relaxing effects.
  • Gray area drinking means you feel compelled to consume alcohol in order to relax or enjoy yourself in social situations.
  • Gray area drinkers start to have anxiety about their drinking habits, worrying that people might be judging their consumption or worrying that they are drinking too much.
  • The gray area of drinking can lead to symptoms of trying to stop drinking for a few weeks or a few months but feeling compelled to return regardless.

How to Know When Alcohol Consumption Becomes a Problem

There are different levels of drinking. Alcohol consumption spans a spectrum between occasional binge drinking and addiction. 

Recognizing the stages in between can help you decide when it’s time to reach out to Casa Serena for detox and residential treatment center for women

Problem Drinking

Uncontrollable alcohol abuse on a regular basis can lead to problem drinking. Problem drinking is when you start to notice that drinking makes you sick, impacts your sleep, or leaves you feeling anxious and depressed, but you enjoy the effects of alcohol too much to stop. You might also notice social changes because of alcohol consumption, like sudden changes in your friends, decreased social activity, or relationship issues. You’re more likely to experience legal problems like driving under the influence at this stage.


If you don’t get help, you’ll develop an alcohol dependence. Dependence is when you are aware that alcohol is adversely affecting your life, but you can’t control how much you consume. You may have developed a tolerance, so you’ll have to drink more in order to get the same buzz, and you’ll experience severe withdrawal symptoms if you sober up, like nausea, sweating, difficulty sleeping, irritability, or tremors. 

If you reach either of these places and need help, Casa Serena offers alcohol detox, inpatient, outpatient, and transitional living levels of care. Our full continuum of care is designed to meet your needs. Our staff can help you move through the most appropriate level of care while undergoing family therapy, trauma treatment, mental wellness, and career counseling. 

Your treatment takes place at our center, minutes from the beach. We provide gender-specific treatment for women, by women, so you can feel comfortable and safe in your recovery. 

Reach out to Casa Serena today to learn more about our treatment center.

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