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Drinking Too Much Alcohol? How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

How does a person know when they are drinking too much alcohol? How much alcohol is too much? Get trusted answers on drinking too much alcohol here.

How does a person know when they are drinking too much alcohol? How much alcohol is too much? These are questions that many people ask themselves when they take a look at their drinking habits, but the definition of too much alcohol is different for each person and each situation. Any time drinking causes problems in a person's life it is easy to say they are drinking too much alcohol, but if drinking isn't interfering with a person's life, how much alcohol is too much?

Drinking Too Much Alcohol - What is a Drink?

The first step in determining if a person is drinking too much alcohol is to define what "drink" is to see how many drinks a person consumes. A standard drink in the United States is:

  • 12-ounces of regular beer or wine cooler
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Drinking Too Much Alcohol - How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

Alcohol is a drug and should always be consumed in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can have long and short-term health consequences including high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide and cancer. (read: short-term and long-term effects of alcohol)

Drinking too much alcohol is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and is defined differently for women and men.

  • Women should have no more than one drink per day.
  • Men should have no more than two drinks per day.
  • Older men or women should limit themselves to one drink per day.

Men and women have different definitions for too much alcohol as studies have shown that women become more intoxicated than men after consuming the same amount of alcohol. This is likely due to differences in size, body fat ratio and an enzyme in the stomach that breaks down alcohol and is four times more active in men than it is in women.ix

Drinking Too Much Alcohol - Any Alcohol is Too Much Alcohol

While most people can drink moderately, as defined above, safely, there are some people for whom drinking any amount is drinking too much alcohol. These people are in groups where any drinking is too much alcohol due to the risks involved.

One of the most important groups that need to understand that any alcohol is considered too much alcohol are women who are pregnant or women who plan on becoming pregnant. Drinking alcohol when pregnant can cause miscarriage, birth defects, fetal alcohol syndrome and is linked to lower IQ scores in children.ix

Other people for whom any alcohol is too much alcohol include:

  • People who cannot limit alcohol intake including those who abuse alcohol and alcohol addicts
  • Anyone under the legal age of consumption
  • Anyone planning on operating heavy equipment such as a vehicle
  • Individuals on medications, including over the counter medications
  • Individuals with certain medical conditions such as liver disease or some mental illness

article references


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next: Alcoholism Screening Test for Problem Drinking
~ all alcohol addiction articles
~ all articles on addictions

Last Updated: 20 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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