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Low risk alcohol use

Guidelines from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism define low-risk drinking in the following way:

Healthy men under 65:

  • No more than 4 drinks in one day and no more than 14 drinks per week.

Healthy women (all ages) and healthy men 65 and older:

  • No more than 3 drinks in one day and no more than 7 drinks per week.
  • One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. So remember that a mixed drink or full glass of wine are probably more than one drink.

Abstinence from alcohol

  • Abstinence from alcohol is the best choice for people who take medication(s) that interact with alcohol, have health conditions that could be exacerbated by alcohol (e.g. liver disease), are pregnant or may become pregnant or have had a problem with alcohol or another substance in the past.

Benefits of “low-risk” drinking

  • Following these guidelines reduces the risk of health problems such as cancer, liver disease, reduced immunity, ulcers, sleep problems, complications of existing conditions, and more. It also reduces the risk of depression, social problems, and difficulties at school or work.

What is “at-risk” drinking?

  • You don’t have to be an alcoholic for alcohol use to cause problems for yourself or others. In the United States, most alcohol-related harm involves people who are not addicted, but who use alcohol in a hazardous or harmful manner.

How alcohol can harm you or others

  • Decreased productivity.
  • Poor performance or absence from work or school.
  • Job loss or expulsion.
  • Interpersonal problems.
  • Arguments.
  • Divorce.
  • Strained relationships.
  • Violence.
  • Health-related problems.
  • Interactions with medications.
  • Birth defects
  • Expensive medical bills.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Other drug use.
  • Heart disease.
  • Liver disease.
  • Driving under the influence.
  • Prison.
  • Death.

Warning signs that your drinking is harmful to you or others:

Taking risks while under the influence.

  • Drinking and driving.
  • Unprotected sex.
  • Lying about or covering up how much you drink.
  • Feeling guilty after drinking.
  • Blackouts or “losing time” after drinking.
  • Preoccupation with drinking.
  • Reducing other activities that don’t include alcohol.
  • Problems at work or school, with family or friends, or with finances.
  • Health problems that might be caused by or made worse by heavy alcohol use.
  • No interest in friends who don’t drink.

Become a “low-risk” drinker -- Make a change

Once you’ve assessed the impact of drinking on your health, use the following tips to make a positive change.

Identify good reasons to cut down:

Find reasons that are important and meaningful to you. Keep those in mind as you create your plan.

Explore how making a change might impact your life for the better:

What might happen if you continue to drink at risky levels? How will things be different if you cut back or stop?

Identify situations where you might drink too much and plan for them:

Do you drink when you are bored? What else could you do? Come up with alternatives for yourself.

Find a buddy:

Enlist the help of someone who will support you in achieving your goals.