Drinking in Moderation: According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by 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.
NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent – or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter – or higher. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts 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.
Heavy Alcohol Use:
NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows:
For men, consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week For women, consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week
SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
Patterns of Drinking Associated with Alcohol Use Disorder : Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use can increase an individual’s risk of alcohol use disorder. Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including those who:
Plan to drive or operate machinery, or participate in activities that require skill, coordination, and alertness Take certain over-the-counter or prescription medications Have certain medical conditions Are recovering from alcohol use disorder or are unable to control the amount that they drink Are younger than age 21 Are pregnant or may become pregnant
How many alcoholic drinks a day is OK?
Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol
- Alcohol consumption is associated with a variety of short- and long-term health risks, including motor vehicle crashes, violence, sexual risk behaviors, high blood pressure, and various cancers (e.g., breast cancer).1
- The risk of these harms increases with the amount of alcohol you drink. For some conditions, like some cancers, the risk increases even at very low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink).2,3
- To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.4 The Guidelines also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason and that if adults of legal drinking age choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.4
- Two in three adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.5
The Guidelines note that some people should not drink alcohol at all, such as:
- If they are pregnant or might be pregnant.
- If they are younger than age 21.
- If they have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol.
- If they are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink.4
The Guidelines also note that not drinking alcohol also is the safest option for women who are lactating. Generally, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages by a woman who is lactating (up to 1 standard drink in a day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the woman waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing or expressing breast milk.
- The Guidelines note, “Emerging evidence suggests that even drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of death from various causes, such as from several types of cancer and some forms of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol has been found to increase risk for cancer, and for some types of cancer, the risk increases even at low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink in a day).” 4
- Although past studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption has protective health benefits (e.g., reducing risk of heart disease), recent studies show this may not be true.6-12 While some studies have found improved health outcomes among moderate drinkers, it’s impossible to conclude whether these improved outcomes are due to moderate alcohol consumption or other differences in behaviors or genetics between people who drink moderately and people who don’t.6-12
- Most U.S. adults who drink don’t drink every day.13 That’s why it’s important to focus on the amount people drink on the days that they drink. Even if women consume an average of 1 drink per day or men consume an average of 2 drinks per day, increases the risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm in the short-term and in the future.14
- Drinking at levels above the moderate drinking guidelines significantly increases the risk of short-term harms, such as injuries, as well as the risk of long-term chronic health problems, such as some types of cancer.1,15,16
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., Accessed April 18, 2022.
- Di Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, Bagnardi V, Donati M, Iacoviello L, de Gaetano G., Arch Intern Med 2006;166(22):2437-45.
- Rehm J, Shield K. Alcohol consumption. In: Stewart BW, Wild CB, eds., Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.,9th Edition, Washington, DC; 2020.
- Henley SJ, Kanny D, Roland KB, et al., Alcohol Alcohol 2014;49(6):661-7.
- Chikritzhs T, Fillmore K, Stockwell T., Drug Alcohol Rev 2009;28:441–4.
- Andréasson S, Chikritzhs T, Dangardt F, Holder H, Naimi T, Stockwell T., In: Alcohol and Society 2014, Stockholm: IOGT-NTO & Swedish Society of Medicine, 2014.
- Knott CS, Coombs N, Stamatakis E, Biddulph JP., BMJ 2015;350:h384.
- Holmes MV, Dale CE, Zuccolo L, et al. BMJ 2014;349:g4164
- Naimi TS, Brown DW, Brewer RD, et al., Am J Prev Med 2005;28(4):369–73.
- Rosoff DB, Davey Smith G, Mehta N, Clarke TK, Lohoff FW., PLoS Med 2020;17:e1003410.
- Biddinger KJ, Emdin CA, Haas ME, et al., JAMA Netw Open 2022;5(3):e223849.
- Naimi TS., J Stud Alcohol Drug 2011;72:687.
- Holahan CJ, Holahan CK, Moos RH., Am J Prev Med 2022 (in press);10.1016.
- Vinson DC, Maclure M, Reidinger C, Smith GS. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2003;64:358-66.
- Nelson DE, Jarman DW, Rehm J, et al. Am J Public Health 2013;103(4):641-8.
Is 7 drinks a day too much?
The Basics: Defining How Much Alcohol is Too Much Step 1 – Read the Article
- Show your patients a standard drink chart when asking about their alcohol consumption to encourage more accurate estimates. Drinks often contain more alcohol than people think, and patients often underestimate their consumption.
- Advise some patients not to drink at all, including those who are managing health conditions that can be worsened by alcohol, are taking medications that could interact with alcohol, are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or are under age 21.
- Otherwise, advise patients who choose to drink to follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, by limiting intake to 1 drink or less for women and 2 drinks or less for men—on any single day, not on average, Drinking at this level may reduce, though not eliminate, risks.
- Don’t advise non-drinking patients to start drinking alcohol for their health. Past research overestimated benefits of moderate drinking, while current research points to added risks, such as for breast cancer, even with low levels of drinking.
How much, how fast, and how often a person drinks alcohol all factor into the risk for alcohol-related problems. How much and how fast a person drinks influences how much alcohol enters the bloodstream, how impaired he or she becomes, and what the related acute risks will be.
Over time, how much and how often a person drinks influences not only acute risks but also chronic health problems, including liver disease and alcohol use disorder (AUD), and social harms such as relationship problems.1 (See Core articles on and,) It can be hard for patients to gauge and accurately report their alcohol intake to clinicians, in part because labels on alcohol containers typically list only the percent of alcohol by volume (ABV) and not serving sizes or the number of servings per container.
Whether served in a bar or restaurant or poured at home, drinks often contain more alcohol than people think. It’s easy and common for patients to underestimate their consumption.2,3 While there is no guaranteed safe amount of alcohol for anyone, general guidelines can help clinicians advise their patients and minimize the risks.
- Here, we will provide basic information about drink sizes, drinking patterns, and alcohol metabolism to help answer the question “how much is too much?” In short, the answer from current research is, the less alcohol, the better.
- A note on drinking level terms used in this Core article: The 2020-2025 states that for adults who choose to drink alcohol, women should have 1 drink or less in a day and men should have 2 drinks or less in a day.
These amounts are not intended as an average but rather a daily limit. brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or more, which typically happens if a woman has 4 or more drinks, or a man has 5 or more drinks, within about 2 hours.
Is 7 drinks a week too much?
Mayo Clinic Q and A: Is daily drinking problem drinking? DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Is it possible to become an alcoholic just by having one or two drinks nightly? I have a glass or two of wine with dinner but never drink to the point of feeling drunk. Should I be concerned? ANSWER: Occasional beer or wine with dinner, or a drink in the evening, is not a health problem for most people.
- When drinking becomes a daily activity, though, it may represent progression of your consumption and place you at increased health risks.
- From your description of your drinking habits, it may be time to take a closer look at how much you drink.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation generally is not a cause for concern.
According to the, drinking is considered to be in the moderate or low-risk range for women at no more than three drinks in any one day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, it is no more than four drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks per week. That said, it’s easy to drink more than a standard drink in one glass. For example, many wine glasses hold far more than 5 ounces. You could easily drink 8 ounces of wine in a glass. If you have two of those glasses during a meal, you are consuming about three standard drinks.
- Although not drinking to the point of becoming drunk is a common way people gauge how much they should drink, it can be inaccurate.
- Researchers who study find that people with high tolerance to alcohol, who do not feel the effects of alcohol after they drink several alcoholic beverages, are actually at a higher risk for alcohol-related problems.
It’s also important to note that, even though you may not feel the effects of alcohol, you still have the same amount of alcohol in your body as someone who starts to feel intoxicated after one or two drinks. Your lack of response to the alcohol may be related to an increase in your body’s alcohol tolerance over time.
- Some people are born with high tolerance; many people develop a tolerance with regular drinking.
- Drinking more than the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommended limits puts you in the category of “at-risk” drinking.
- That means you have a higher risk for negative consequences related to your alcohol use, including health and social problems.
You are also at higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol. Alcohol can damage your body’s organs and lead to various health concerns. For women, this damage happens with lower doses of alcohol, because their bodies have lower water content than men. That’s why the moderate drinking guidelines for women and men are so different.
- The specific organ damage that happens with too much alcohol use varies considerably from one person to another.
- The most common health effects include heart, liver and nerve damage, as well as memory problems and sexual dysfunction.
- Unless you notice specific negative consequences related to your drinking, it probably is not necessary for you to quit drinking alcohol entirely.
However, I would strongly encourage you to reduce the amount you drink, so it fits within the guidelines of moderate drinking. Doing so can protect your health in the long run. —, Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota : Mayo Clinic Q and A: Is daily drinking problem drinking?
Is 20 standard drinks a day too much?
Adults – If you’re a healthy adult:
To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol. For some people, not drinking at all is the safest option. A standard drink contains 10 g of pure alcohol. Many drinks have more than 1 standard drink in them. Check the label on your bottle or container, or refer to the Standard Drinks Guide, to see how many standard drinks are in it.