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Are You Engaging in Moderate Drinking or Something More?


By Carolyn Heneghan January 23, 2016 Posted in: Personal Health , Article

Have you ever wondered if the amount of alcohol you drink is considered normal? While many people struggle with alcoholism as a disease, some people only partake in moderate drinking, and others drink heavily without specifically having alcoholism. Though these heavy drinkers might not be considered alcoholics by definition, their excessive drinking habits pose health risks similar to alcoholism. Excessive drinking, whether by alcoholics or not, leads to one in 10 deaths among adults aged 20 to 64, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you are unsure about whether or not you're engaging in moderate drinking or something more, it might be time to take stock of where you fit in the spectrum of alcohol consumption. Even if your situation isn't serious, it's good to know about health organizations' recommended drinking amounts so you can better quantify how much is too much.

What Is Considered One Drink?

According to the CDC, a standard drink in the U.S. has 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Consuming that much alcohol in a single drink amounts to:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol content).
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7 percent).
  • 5 ounces of wine (12 percent).
  • 1.5 ounces (about one shot) of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (40 percent).

How Does Moderate Drinking Differ From Excessive Drinking?

Moderate drinking is commonly defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men, according to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

Excessive drinking, on the other hand, includes two types of alcohol consumption: binge drinking and heavy drinking, as well as anyone who is drinking and either pregnant or under 21 years of age. Binge drinking means four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men during any single occasion. Heavy drinking is more spread out over time and includes women who consume eight or more drinks per week and men who consume 15 or more drinks per week.

Health risks associated with excessive drinking are both short-term and long-term. Short-term health risks include injuries, violence, alcohol poisoning, and risky sexual behaviors. Long-term health risks include high blood pressure, chronic liver disease, heart disease, cancers, learning or memory problems, mental health problems, and alcohol dependence. These effects are easily avoided or lessened by only drinking moderately.

Test Yourself

If you're still wondering whether you might be struggling with alcoholism, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence offers a self-test you can perform online. It involves a variety of questions that test your physical, mental, and emotional states relating to your alcohol usage. Some of these questions include:

  • Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure, or have had a quarrel with someone?
  • Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn't pass out?
  • Has a family member or close friend expressed concern or complained about your drinking?
  • When you're sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking?
  • Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking?

If you're unsure about your drinking habits and fear you may be an alcoholic, talk to your doctor about your concerns so you can work out a healthy plan together. Even if your drinking is not at a dangerous or excessive level, it's good to know where your regular intake stands up against official health standards.

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