Alcoholism and its related health consequences are a major healthcare issue all over the world. The social, economic, and health consequences are well known. But it is also important to acknowledge the fact that alcohol is an important part of our lives in the form of relaxation, fine dining, socialization, etc. A common man or woman who wants to enjoy drinking responsibly faces a lot of questions. Some of them are;
- Am I drinking within limits, or how much is too much?
- Am I addicted to alcohol?
Read this article to find answers to these questions.
How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
It is important to recognize that alcohol and its effects vary between sexes, ethnic groups, and even amongst individuals. Women are less tolerant of the effects of alcohol than men. Alcohol is processed in the body through two enzymes (ADH - alcohol dehydrogenase and ALDH - aldehyde Dehydrogenase). The function of these enzymes varies among individuals, and some suffer worse health consequences than others drinking equivalent amounts.
There is also a clear racial and ethnic difference in alcohol-related effects. The above factors must be considered, and individuals must judge themselves regarding their body’s ability to handle alcohol. Still, there needs to be a quantification system to know how much an individual drinks. Alcohol consumption is standardized (standard drink) in many countries. It is easier to calculate your consumption in standardized quanta or portions.
The British Units system is easy, as the units can be calculated by Alcohol By Volume (ABV) mentioned in the beverage container and the amount consumed in mL as well as clear guidelines.
- One unit is defined as 10 mL of pure alcohol (7.9 grams).
- The following formula can give exactly the units someone consumes, and what is required is the ABV and the amount of alcohol consumed.
- It is as follows: Units = ABV % x amount consumed in mL per 1000.
- For example, if someone drinks 100mL of 40 percent whiskey, the units consumed will be 40X100/1000 = 4 units.
The UK recommendation is that men should not drink more than three to four units per day and women not more than two to three units per day. Also, weekly, not more than 21 units for a man and 14 units for a woman are recommended. Binge drinking is defined as drinking more than eight units a session for men and six units for women.
Again, as mentioned earlier, it is advisable to fix your own ‘dosage’ of alcohol as per your sex, ethnic group, and tolerance level. Also, it is important to have two to three alcohol-free days per week to reduce the chance of tolerance to alcohol which reduces the chance of dependence and excessive drinking. For example, for a man, it should be 50 to 60 percent per day (1.5 to 2 units) of the UK recommendation three to four days per week, for instance.
Now let us see the units in common alcoholic beverages:
- Small bottle of beer (4 to 5 percent, approximately 350 mL) - 1.7 units.
- 175mL of wine (13 percent) - 2.3 units.
- 25 mL of spirit -1 unit (brandy, whiskey, gin, rum, vodka, etc.).
Now, it should be possible for a person to know how much exactly they are drinking and whether it is within limits that they think are appropriate for their sex and ethnicity.
Am I Addicted to Alcohol?
If someone is asking this question, they should first calculate their daily or weekly unit consumption. Doctors ask what is called a CAGE questionnaire to screen people for alcoholism and dependence. It includes the following questions.
C - Have you ever felt the need to cut down on drinking?
A - Have you ever been annoyed by other's criticism about your drinking?
G - Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
E - Have you ever felt the need to drink, as the first thing in the morning to overcome the hangover (Eye opener)?
If the answer is yes for more than two out of four or yes for drinking as an eye opener (E in CAGE), then the person has a problem with alcoholism.
Frequently Asked Questions