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Moderate alcohol consumption is common. Many people will have a drink or two during a social outing or just to enjoy themselves. But heavy drinking and consuming too much alcohol can be dangerous and even deadly.
More than 85 percent of people who are 18 years or older report having drunk alcohol at some point in their lives. Some 69.5 percent report drinking in the last year, and 54.9 percent report drinking in the past month.
Unfortunately, while not all of these people have drinking problems, some develop alcohol use disorder (AUD). In 2019, 25.8 percent of people ages 18 and up reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month. Another 6.3 percent said that they’d engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month. About 14.1 million adults in the country have AUD.
There could be a slippery slope between drinking alcohol for pleasure and overdoing it. Sticking to a standard drink or two is the safest way to drink.
In the United States, a standard drink has about 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is found in 12 ounces of regular beer, about five ounces of wine, and about 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
For most people, enjoying a standard drink here and there does not have significant health consequences. For others, crossing the line is easy.
Moderate drinking generally refers to about one standard drink a day for women and about two standard drinks a day for men. For example, a woman may drink one glass of wine or beer a day. And a man might enjoy two glasses of wine or two beers a day.
The key is to keep it to a minimum while still enjoying yourself. Because once you become drunk (or too drunk), health and safety hazards come into play.
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How much alcohol is too much alcohol depends on the person and a number of other factors.
In most states, the legal driving limit (and the general definition of “drunk”) for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 g/dL. This refers to the percentage of ethanol (in grams) in 100 milliliters of your blood.
Several factors can affect your BAC. These include, but are not limited to:
For example, if you haven’t eaten a lot of food that day, you’ll likely get drunk faster. You may also get drunk faster than a friend who weighs more than you or is older than you.
If/when your BAC level rises above .08 g/dL, you’ll likely start experiencing some negative side effects of being drunk. At this level, you move beyond the euphoric effects of alcohol and into the “beer goggle” stage. You start to lack judgment, and your motor skills become impaired.
If you are driving, however much alcohol it takes for you to reach the legal limit of .08 g/dL is too much alcohol. However, even if you are not driving, too high of a BAC can make you a danger to yourself and others.
It’s too much alcohol when you start to lose your inhibitions and lack control. Not only does alcohol take a toll on your health. But you also become a safety hazard to yourself and those around you. For example, many car crashes (including fatal ones) and assaults often result from too much alcohol.
Having seven or more drinks per week is considered heavy or excessive drinking for women. For men, it's 15 or more drinks per week.
Regular beer is typically 5 percent alcohol. Some light beers may have a 4.2 percent alcohol content. Too much beer depends on the various factors that can affect how quickly your BAC rises.
It’s considered safe for men to drink about two beers and women to drink about one beer per day. While some people may be able to drink more beer without significant impairment, others cannot.
However, drinking beer every day can have negative health consequences.
About five ounces of most wines is about 12 percent alcohol. Again, how much wine is too much wine depends on a number of those same factors. But, as with beer, about two standard glasses of wine for men and one standard glass of wine for women is considered okay.
Because vodka (and other distilled spirits) is much stronger than beer and wine, you have to be careful not to drink too much. It’s easy to find out the hard way how much vodka is too much vodka.
About 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like vodka is about 40 percent alcohol. Like always, pay attention to the factors that can affect your BAC.
Alcohol affects everyone differently. When you consume alcohol, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase in your liver breaks it down. It metabolizes it to acetaldehyde. Then it further breaks down to acetate.
If you drink too much too fast, you can get drunk because your body can’t break down the ethanol at the same pace.
Alcohol affects your body in a multitude of ways. You may experience the following signs and symptoms of being drunk:
Every person metabolizes alcohol differently. Several factors affect alcohol metabolism. These include:
People who weigh more have lower blood alcohol concentration levels. This is because a person's body weight determines the amount of space alcohol has to diffuse within it.
Women reaches peak blood alcohol levels faster than men.
They also break down alcohol much faster.
This is because a woman's body is typically smaller, with less body water content. Their liver-to-lean-body-mass ratio is also higher. All of these factors explain why women have a lower alcohol limit than men.
Alcohol metabolism is also affected by whether or not a person ate before drinking or they're eating while drinking.
Having food in the stomach slows down the body's ability to process and metabolize alcohol. Drinking on an empty stomach irritates the digestive tract, causing faster alcohol absorption.
Certain medications increases or enhances the effects of alcohol.
These include high blood pressured meds, sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, and medications for anxiety, pain, and diabetes. Talk to your doctor if you're taking these drugs and drinking alcohol because the drug-alcohol interaction may cause severe side effects.
Drinking too much alcohol can be hazardous to your health. Excessive drinking carries both short-term and long-term risks.
Excessive alcohol consumption has led to approximately 95,000 deaths in the United States. Furthermore, 1 in 10 working-age adults aged 20-64 died due to excessive drinking.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Short-term risks of drinking alcohol include, but are not limited to, the following:
Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a lot of harmful health conditions and health risks. These include the following:
Drinking too many alcoholic beverages can kill you. In fact, an estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related reasons every year.
You should not drink alcohol if you identify with any of the following statements:
Alcohol use disorder affects more people than you may think. Some signs of alcohol use disorder include:
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