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October 30, 2019

How much is too much when it comes to drinking alcohol?

Adult Health Alcohol
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Have you ever really looked at how much alcohol you consume on a weekly or monthly basis? The health problems from alcohol abuse begin with smaller amounts than you may realize.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "at risk" or "heavy" drinking among men is considered more than four drinks on any day or 14 drinks per week. In women, the threshold is more than three drinks daily or seven per week.

Experts say these limits are often exceeded. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 26.4% of people ages 18 and older had engaged in binge drinking in the past month, and 6.7% claimed heavy alcohol use in the past month.

A man binge drinks when he consumes five or more drinks within two hours. For women, the parameters are at least four drinks within 2 hours.

The NIAAA warns that excessive drinking increases your risk for alcohol use disorder, and about 1 in 4 people who drink heavily already have it.

The organization also emphasizes that how often you drink like this is important too. Even one heavy-drinking day a month can increase your risk for alcohol use disorder.

A standard drink is defined as: (Sources: NIAA, The Mayo Clinic, Stanford)

• 12 ounces of regular beer (about 5% alcohol)
• 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
• 5 ounces of unfortified wine (about 12% alcohol)
• 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor (about 40% alcohol)

What exactly is alcohol use disorder? The Mayo Clinic defines it as "a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking." Common withdrawal symptoms are nausea and sweating and shaking.

Alcohol use disorder is associated with serious safety and health risks.

Safety concerns include drunk driving; problems at school, work or in relationships; engaging in risky behavior; and increased suicide risk.

The health risks are liver disease, digestive problems, heart disease, and diabetes complications. It can even weaken the immune system and cause neurological problems.

If you are worried about a loved one's drinking habits or your own, there are resources to help. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has resources on their website. You can also call their national helpline, (800)-662-HELP (4357).

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