How Much Is Too Much to Drink? A Guide To Use

Having a drink with friends can be a fun, social thing to do. But sometimes it can get to be too much.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports Wisconsin is a top-six state for alcohol use and No. 1 for binge use. Neighboring states Illinois and Michigan are in the top 20 in both categories.

With careful research, the CDC found a harsh truth — excessive drinking is responsible for one in 10 deaths among working-age adults age 20 to 64.

Excessive alcohol use can lead to a number of health problems, including alcohol poisoning or alcohol addiction. Even the short-term hangover is your body’s signal that something is wrong.

What Is Excessive Drinking?

This includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, any drinking by a pregnant woman or people younger than age 21.

Binge drinking is:

For women — 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.
For men — 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.

Heavy drinking is:

For women — 8 or more drinks per week.
For men — 15 or more drinks per week.

A drink equals:

12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol)
8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol)
5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol)

1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor – such as whiskey, gin, rum, vodka(40% alcohol)

Short-term Health Risks

The CDC notes there are real health risks with excessive drinking, which often involves binge drinking.

  • Injuries — such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, drownings and burns.
  • Violence — including homicide, suicide, sexual assault and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning — results from high blood alcohol levels. This is a medical emergency.
  • Risky sexual behaviors — including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders among pregnant women.

Long-term Health Risks

Excessive drinking can lead to chronic diseases and problems.

How Can I Tell If Someone Has a Problem with Alcohol?

You might have heard a friend say, “I’m fine… I don’t have a problem.” Here are some questions to ask to see if there might be a problem with alcohol:

  • Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
  • Does your drinking ever make you late for work or school?
  • Does your drinking worry your family?
  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won’t?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while drinking?
  • Do you get headaches or have a hangover after drinking?

If you or a loved one answers ‘yes,’ to any of these questions, there may be a problem with alcohol.

If you have concerns about the alcohol use of someone you care about, we have suggestions for how to approach the topic.

Now that you’re more informed, if you’d like to cut back on drinking, consider these suggestions:

  • Keep track of how much you drink.
  • Avoid places where over drinking takes place.
  • If you drink when stressed, find new ways to manage stress.

If you have questions about alcohol use, visit with your health care professional or find a qualified behavioral health addiction specialist.

It’s never too late to take a positive step forward.

Meet the Author

Lance P. Longo, MD has been recognized as one of the area's top psychiatrists for treating addictions. He has a concentration in general psychiatry and addictive disorders with a specialty in pharmacological interventions for substance abuse. He also specializes in working with anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder and thought disorders. In addition to being board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with added qualifications in addiction psychiatry, Dr. Longo is certified in addiction medicine by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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