Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
How much is too much?
Drinking alcohol can have benefits (relaxation, social interactions, taste), but it is also associated with a wide range of variety of risks:
- Reduced inhibitions (doing and saying things you wouldn’t do or say sober)
- Motor impairment that can result in falls, bodily harm, automobile accidents, and other consequences
- Impaired memory/concentration/judgment
- Harmful interactions with prescribed medications
- Damage to gastro-intestinal tract, liver, kidney, and other medical problems
- Erectile dysfunction and reduced testosterone levels
If you do choose to drink alcohol, drinking moderately reduces your risk for alcohol-related problems. Here are the recommended limits from the National Institute of Alcohol Use and Alcoholism:
- Women: 1 drink a day and no more than 7 drinks per week
- Men: 2 drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks per week
- Anyone over 64 years of age: 1 drink a day and no more than 7 drinks per week
- Avoid heavy (or “binge”) drinking, defined as 5 or more drinks in about 2 hours (men), 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours (women)
These guidelines refer to a drink that is equal to a 12-oz. beer (5%), a 5-oz. glass of wine (12%), or 1 ½ oz. spirits (80 proof). Higher levels of alcohol content require lower volume of drinks to stay within healthy limits.
Who should not drink alcohol?
- Children and adolescents under the age of 21
- People of any age who plan to drive, operate machines, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination
- People who cannot limit their drinking to the recommended levels
- Women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant
- People who take certain medications that interact with alcohol
- People with certain medical conditions (e.g., cirrhosis, pancreatitis)
- People who are recovering from alcohol use disorder
Thinking about your drinking?
If you are wondering or concerned about how much or how often you drink, your VA health care team can help if you have questions about limiting alcohol. They are not there to label or judge you. Instead, they will listen to your concerns and discuss a variety of different options available to help you reduce or stop your alcohol use and live a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. There is a wide range of effective treatments provided by the VA that include individual counseling, group treatments, medications to reduce craving or prevent relapse, and inpatient or residential treatment.
For More Information:
- VHA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: https://www.prevention.va.gov/Healthy_Living/Limit_Alcohol.asp
- Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and your Health- a self-assessment tool*: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/IsYourDrinkingPatternRisky/WhatsYourPattern.asp
- Alcohol and Your Health*: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health
* Indicates that the link leads to a non-VA website. The VA is not responsible for content on the site.