Many people enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages at dinner or as social drinks. But, how can someone tell if their alcohol consumption is safe? How many beers a day are too many? Most people are shocked to learn that the threshold for harmful drinking is much lower than they imagine.
Millions of people drink beer, spirits, and wine without developing alcohol addiction. However, someone’s alcohol consumption can place their health and well-being at risk, even if they don’t struggle with a substance abuse disorder.
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Understanding the Different Levels of Drinking
To notice the actual levels of drinking, you have to understand what “a drink” means. More than the amount of alcohol on each drink, it has to do with the alcohol content available on each drink. For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a standard drink can be:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 8 ounces of liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of spirits
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks. Those who engage in moderate drinking are usually the ones that claim to be “social drinkers.”
Lots of people consider themselves to be “social drinkers,” the ones that will have a glass of wine over dinner. Meaning they drink in social situations such as bars, parties, and other gatherings. A significant difference between someone who is just a social drinker and someone struggling with alcohol dependence is that the latter will likely drink regardless of their environment. They may drink at work, at all times of the day, and with or without any particular company.
Binge and Heavy Drinking
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), when women have four or more drinks in 2 hours or men have five or more drinks in the same amount of time, it is considered binge drinking. Binge drinking SAMSHA defines five or more times in the past month as heavy alcohol use.
On the other hand, excessive drinking means eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 drinks or more per week for men. It’s important to note that people who engage in binge drinking or drink excessive alcohol amounts might not have an alcohol use disorder or aren’t dependent on alcohol.
Most people who engage in binge drinking or excessive drinking are likely to continue their alcohol misuse to the point that the damages to their brains cause alcohol addiction.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Simply drinking multiple alcoholic beverages each day does not equal an alcohol use disorder diagnosis. However, meeting two or more of the following criteria does indicate an alcohol use disorder. If the diagnosis criteria of even a mild alcohol use disorder are met, this is one way to know that the number of beers consumed every day is too much.
- Drinking more or for longer than intended
- Wanting to stop drinking but not being able to
- Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking
- An all-consuming desire to drink
- Drinking or hangovers interfering with responsibilities to one’s home, family, work, or schooling.
- Continued drinking despite consequences to relationships and responsibilities
- Drinking instead of doing activities that were previously more important or interesting
- An increase in risky behaviors
- Constant drinking despite increased feelings of anxiety and depression, or after backing out
- Increasing alcohol consumption to achieve the same effects
- Presence of withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wear off
Is There a Safe Drinking Limit?
When it comes to determining safe drinking limits, many factors come into play. Some individuals are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol and developing a substance use disorder. Those who struggle with other addictions, have mental health disorders, or have a previous history of drug and alcohol abuse in their family are more likely to develop an alcohol addiction.
However, there are what we know as “low-risk” levels of alcohol consumption that serve as some guidance for both men and women.
For men, the threshold is between four or fewer drinks on any single occasion and less than 14 total during a given week. According to the NIAAA, daily and weekly guidelines must be met to fall into the low-risk category.
For example, drinking four drinks per day, four times a week, would exceed these guidelines. Any men who fall under these drinking patterns might be showing signs of alcohol abuse disorder.
For women, the threshold is between three or fewer drinks a day and no more than seven drinks per week. Again, women must meet both standards to remain in the low-risk category. Similarly, if a woman has two drinks a day, that’s twice the recommended amount for low-risk consumption every day.
Using a Personalized Approach Instead
There’s only one problem with the NIAAA guidelines — they’re for the “average person.” In reality, thresholds vary significantly, and factors such as weight, age, medications, preexisting conditions, and more play a huge role. Instead, take a personalized approach to find a safe level.
Talk to your doctor to determine how much alcohol is safe for you to consume. Doctors can look at your entire medical history to make an accurate recommendation. Remember that these recommendations will change as you age.
The Bottom Line
Odds are if you’re asking whether or not you’re having too many beers in one day, it is because you or someone you know is worried about your alcohol drinking patterns. If you or someone you know looks like they’re struggling with alcohol abuse, it’s best to consult an addiction specialist.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our specialist goes over confidential assessments of your drinking habits to determine whether or not you’re struggling with addiction. We understand how unique alcohol addiction can be, which is why we only offer customized treatment plants that adapt to your individual needs. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatments.