How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

Drinking excessive alcohol or binge drinking is a problem that can very often transform into alcoholism. The following article tries to provide an answer to the question "Do you have too much alcohol?" There are also resources that you may require to assess the situation of your drinking and to obtain support to bring a change in your habit.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

A small amount of alcohol is beneficial but too much of it can damage your body and spirit. But how can you know if you are having too much alcohol? BAC may help you out in this question. BAC, also referred to as blood alcohol concentration or blood alcohol content, is the total amount of alcohol present in your blood.

It is calculated as the ethanol weight in grams in 100 ml of blood or 210 liters of breath. A blood test, a urine test or a breathalyzer test can be used to measure BAC. Monitor your BAC to make it under 0.08% to have you on the safe side because:

  • 0.08% BAC is set as the legal limit for DUI (driving under the influence) by all the 50 states.
  • A BAC of 0.04% can lead to a DUI conviction for commercial drivers.
  • A zero tolerance limit is recommended for persons younger than the age of 21, which means any amount of alcohol in their blood can lead to a DUI conviction.

The results of the BAC depends on several factors including your gender, body weight, personal tolerance to alcohol and total fat percentage of the body.

Suggested Alcohol Consumption per Day

So what is the safe level of drinking? How much alcohol places you in the low risk category and how much places you in the high risk category? Or exactly how much alcohol is too much? Extensive research conducted by the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) suggests alcohol use according to the following guidelines:

  • For men: It should be about 4 or less standard drinks per day and less than 14 drinks per week. The NIAAA suggests that men should meet both the daily and the weekly guidelines to remain in the low risk category.
  • For women: According to research, lower levels of consumption of alcohol may lead to alcohol problems in women. Hence, the alcohol consumption guideline for women is drinking 3 or less standard drinks per day and less than 7 drinks per week. Like men, women should also meet both the daily and the weekly guidelines to remain in the low risk category.
  • During pregnancy: It is not safe to drink any amount of alcohol during pregnancy as there is always a risk of passing toxic effects of alcohol via the placenta to the fetus. This can lead to severe damage to the unborn baby regardless of the stage of pregnancy.

Standard Drink Defined

If you want to know the exact answer to "How much alcohol is too much?" you should know what a standard drink means. In the USA, a standard drink equals 14.0 g (0.6 oz) of pure alcohol. Usually, this amount is present in:

  • 12 oz. of beer (alcohol content 5%)
  • 8 oz. of malt liquor (alcohol content 7%)
  • 5 oz. of wine (alcohol content 12%)
  • A shot or 1.5 oz. of 80-proof (alcohol content 40%) liquor or spirits such as vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, etc.

What Happens If You Drink Too Much Alcohol?

If you binge drink, you are put your heath at stake. Look at the following risks of drinking too much alcohol to get a better understanding:

Short-Term Health Risks

Drinking too much alcohol or binge drinking has many immediate effects on the health of a person including:

  • Injuries such as falls, motor vehicle accidents, burns, drowning, etc.
  • Violence such as suicide, homicide and sexual assault
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency
  • Risky sexual activity such as having sex with more than one partner or having unprotected sex
  • Stillbirth and miscarriage in pregnant females

Long-Term Health Risks

Drinking too much alcohol chronically can cause multiple chronic diseases and other illnesses including:

  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Digestive problems
  • Liver disease
  • Several types of cancer such as of throat, mouth, breast, liver, colon, etc.
  • Memory and learning problems such as dementia
  • Mental problems such as anxiety and depression
  • Social problems like unemployment and family problems
  • Alcoholism or alcohol dependence

How to Keep Yourself on the Safe Side

If you are concerned about "How much alcohol is too much?" you may be drinking too much alcohol. Follow the below mentioned guidelines suggested by the NIAAA to curb your drinking:

  1. Write it down: You can feel motivated by writing down the reasons to curb your drinking such as sleeping better, feeling healthier or improving your relations.
  2. Set a goal: Setting a limit on how much you will drink is also helpful. The amount of drinking should be kept below the recommended limits. You can consult your doctor to determine what the right amount is for you.
  3. Track you progress: Keep a record for every 3-4 weeks, writing down information as to how much and what you drank and also the place you drank. Compare this information to the goal you have set.
  4. Remove all temptations: Avoid places and people that encourage you to drink. You should keep a track of your feelings. You may be tempted for a drink when you are alone, worried or angry. You can limit the amount you drink by not keeping alcohol at your home. Cultivate new and healthy techniques to manage stress.
  5. Drink slowly: Drink in sips. After you had an alcoholic beverage, it is advised to drink water, soda or juice. Don’t have a drink on an empty stomach.
  6. Set no-alcohol days: Decide on not drinking on a couple of days per week; it is a good way to drink less. You can also abstain for a week or a month and see the physical and emotional changes you have in your life.
  7. Mind peer pressure: It is best to stay away from persons with whom you feel encouraged to drink. Make it a habit to say a polite no to a drink offered.
  8. Keep yourself busy: You can keep yourself busy by playing sports, taking a walk or catching a movie. You can pick up a new hobby or revive an old one as an alternative activity to drinking. These can include painting, or playing a musical instrument.
  9. Ask for support when needed: It is not easy to curb your drinking. You can ask for support from your family members, friends, doctor, therapist or counselor.
  10. Be persistent: You may need several attempts to be successful in cutting down your drinking. You may have setbacks but don’t let them refrain you from reaching the final goal of curbing alcohol. 
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