Many adults enjoy drinking a few alcoholic beverages, but how much is too much? It’s a common question, especially when you’re trying to determine if your own drinking habits are worrisome. The threshold for harmful drinking is much lower than you might imagine.
Millions of people drink beer, wine, and spirits on a regular basis. They can do so without ever developing a drinking problem. However, you can drink at levels that could put your health and well-being in jeopardy without drinking becoming an alcohol abuser, alcohol dependent, or an alcoholic.
An estimated 4 to 40 percent of medical and surgical patients experience problems related to alcohol. Roughly 1 in 10 deaths among working age adults results from excessive drinking.
How much alcohol can you drink at a safe level and still be considered a low-risk drinker? How much will place you in the high-risk group?
Men: Four or Fewer Drinks Per Day
For men, low-risk alcohol consumption is considered drinking 4 or fewer standard drinkson any single day and less than 14 drinks during in a given week To remain low-risk, both the daily and weekly guidelines must be met.
In other words, if you are a man and you drink only four standard drinksper day, but you drink four everyday, you are drinking 28 drinks per week. That is twice the recommended level for low-risk alcohol consumption. Likewise, drinking four drinks a day four times a week would also exceed the guidelines.
Women: Three or Fewer Drinks Per Day
Research has shown that women develop alcohol problems at lower levels of consumption than men. Therefore, the guidelines for low-risk drinking are lower for women. The guidelines are 3 or fewer standard drinksa day and no more than 7 drinks per week.
Again, both the daily and weekly standards must be met to remain in the low-risk category. If you drink only two drinks a day but drink them every day, that is 14 drinks a week, or twice the recommended amount for low-risk consumption.
What is a “standard drink”? Amounts are based on a “standard drink,” which is defined as 14 grams of ethanol, as found in 140ml of wine, 340ml of beer, or 40ml spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin etc).
Keep in mind that all of these guidelines are for the “average” person. Since the thresholds vary greatly and there are many factors involved, it’s best to take a personalized approach to find a safe level of drinking.
Harvard Men’s Health Watch suggests that you speak to your doctor to determine how much alcohol is too much for you. Only they know your entire medical history and, with that, you can get a more accurate recommendation. It may also need to lower as you age or if you need to keep certain health conditions, like your blood pressure, in check. What is healthy for you may not be the same for everyone else.
If you regularly exceed the above guidelines for low-risk drinking, you might be a good idea to cut down your alcohol consumption or quit entirely and seek help if you believe it would help you do so.