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Alcohol - How Much Is Too Much?

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Alcohol - How Much Is Too Much?

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This article helps in the self-assessment of alcoholism in a common person using a validated scientific questionnaire.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At November 15, 2014
Reviewed AtJanuary 13, 2023


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


Is It Harmful to Consume Alcohol Every Day?

Yes, it is harmful to consume alcohol every day. Excess alcohol can damage the cardiovascular and circulatory systems. It may also cause mental problems such as anxiety, depression, memory loss, and dementia.


How Many Alcoholic Drinks per Day Is Normal?

Consuming a fixed amount of alcohol every day is called drinking in moderation. Moderate alcohol use for adults includes up to one drink for women and two drinks for men per day. However, if consumed every day, it may lead to alcohol addiction.


Can Every Day Drinking Make a Person Alcoholic?

Alcohol addiction may also be known as alcohol use disorder. Drinking every day may not necessarily cause addiction. But regular drinking can very well lead to alcohol-related complications such as liver and cardiovascular disorders.


What May Be the Signs of Drinking Too Much Alcohol?

The various symptoms of drinking too much alcohol may include:
 - Friends and family express concern.
 - Drinking alone.
 - Hiding the habit of drinking.
 - Unable to reduce drinking.
 - Work and personal life get affected.


Is Any Form of Alcohol Healthy?

Alcohol, in any form, has its own risk. However, red wine is comparatively healthier alcohol. Red wine contains antioxidants. They can prevent cell damage and, at the same time, promote the overall health of a person.


What Are the Signs of Liver Damage in Alcoholism?

The signs of liver damage due to alcohol may include:
- Sickness
- Weightloss.
- Appetite loss.
- Excessive vomiting.
- Bloody stools.


How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Blood?

Alcohol may stay in the blood for up to 12 hours. Alcohol can be detected in urine for up to 3 to 5 days via the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test or 10 to 12 hours via the traditional method.


Why Does Alcohol Make You Feel Sleepy?

Alcohol makes a person feel very drowsy because alcohol can depress the central nervous system. It gives a sedative effect to the body. It relaxes the senses and hastens the onset of sleep.


What Are the Ways to Test for Alcoholism?

The most common ways to test for alcoholism are AUDIT (alcohol use disorder identification test). This test contains a questionnaire of 10 questions. The questions will be pertaining to the frequency of alcohol consumption and the problems related to it. The points determine the gradient of alcoholism.


What Are the Ways to Stop Drinking?

Ways to stop drinking includes:
- Making a written resolution.
- Setting a goal.
- Limiting the days and the number of drinks.
- Not storing alcohol in the house.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Krishnadas Thulasidoss
Dr. Krishnadas Thulasidoss

Internal Medicine


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