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  • How Many Drinks A Day Is Considered Alcohol Abuse?

    How Many Drinks A Day Is Considered Alcohol Abuse?

    Depending on if you’re male or female, if you have more than four or five drinks a day it’s likely alcohol abuse. This is especially true if you’re drinking within a two-hour period. 

    It could also be considered alcohol abuse if you have more than one drink a day if you’re female, and more than two drinks if you’re a male.

    However, there’s more to alcohol abuse than just the number of drinks you have on any given day. Let’s take a look at some of the guidelines and risks of alcohol abuse.

    Drinking Guidelines

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a very specific definition of what one drink is. A standard drink contains 14 grams or 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. In common alcoholic beverages, this means:

    • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
    • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
    • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
    • 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor 

    According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking means one drink or less per day for women or one to two drinks per day for men. Anything more than this could be considered alcohol abuse.

    Alcohol Abuse Guidelines

    Alcohol abuse has its own guidelines. These guidelines define heavy drinking and binge drinking

    However, keep in mind that if someone is drinking heavily or binge drinking, it does not always mean they have a drinking problem. That being said, heavy drinking habits can put you at a higher risk of alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence.

    Binge Drinking

    Based on The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) guidelines, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that leads to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or more within a two-hour time span. 

    In terms of the number of drinks, binge drinking means 4 or more drinks for women or 5 or more drinks for men. 

    Heavy Drinking

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on five or more days in the past month and consuming 15 or more drinks per week for men and eight or more drinks per week for women.

    Effects Of Alcohol Use

    Alcohol abuse causes both short-term and long-term effects. Short-term effects may include:

    • poor coordination
    • slurred speech
    • impaired thinking
    • memory impairment

    Long-term effects of alcohol abuse can include cirrhosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

    Risk Factors For Alcohol Use Disorder

    Not everyone is at risk of alcohol use disorder. That being said, there are some risk factors that make some people more vulnerable to alcohol use disorder than others, including:

    • more than 15 drinks per week if you’re a man
    • more than 12 drinks per week if you’re a woman
    • frequent binge-drinking
    • having a parent with alcohol use disorder or a history of alcohol abuse
    • having mental health problem like depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia
    • experiencing a high level of stress
    • living in a family or culture where alcohol use is common and accepted

    Treating Alcohol Use Disorder 

    Treatment for alcohol abuse can include inpatient or outpatient care, support groups, therapy, and detox programs to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. However, what works for one person may not work for someone else.

    To learn about our alcohol addiction treatment options for yourself or a loved one, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - About Alcohol
    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - Alcohol Use and Your Health
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Drinking Levels Defined
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Blood Alcohol Level

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 17, 2022
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