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What is the Alcohol Content in Wine?

The standard serving of wine is five ounces, which contains approximately 12 percent alcohol.1 However, as there are so many different types of wine, not all glasses are equal. If you prefer wine with higher alcohol by volume (ABV), your single serving should be smaller.

On the other hand, if you are drinking wine that is relatively low in alcohol, a more generous glass would equal one serving.

How Does the Body Metabolize Wine?

Once drunk, wine enters the stomach and small intestine, where small blood vessels transport it to the bloodstream. 

Approximately 20 percent of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach. Most of the remaining 80 percent is absorbed through the small intestine.2

Alcohol is metabolized by the liver. This is where enzymes break down the alcohol. Understanding the rate of metabolism is essential to understanding the effects of alcohol. Generally, the liver can process one ounce of liquor, or one standard drink, in one hour.

If you consume more alcohol than this, your body system becomes saturated. The extra alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. This is why binge drinking can lead to high blood alcohol concentrations that linger for hours.

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How Many Glasses of Wine Will Get You Drunk?

For those used to drinking beer, drinking wine can make you very drunk if you do not monitor how much you are drinking. While you may drink several beers with relative ease, consuming large quantities of wine is not a good idea.

Unless you weigh 250 lbs or more, two glasses of wine in an hour will make you legally drunk.

Factors That Affect How Quickly You’ll Get Drunk From Wine 

The average person can drink two glasses of wine within an hour before they are considered legally drunk. 

However, the following factors will influence your alcohol tolerance:

  • Body mass index
  • Age
  • Metabolism rate
  • Gender
  • ABV of the wine
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What is Considered Moderate Wine Consumption?

Moderate drinking is defined by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA) as consuming up to four alcoholic drinks for men and three for women in a day and a maximum of 14 alcoholic beverages for men and seven drinks for women per week.3

When trying to moderate alcohol consumption over an evening or a week, it helps to know how much alcohol is in each beverage.

The NIAAA defines one drink as:

  • 12 fluid ounces (fl oz) of regular beer at around five percent alcohol 
  • Between eight and nine fl oz of malt liquor at around seven percent alcohol 
  • Five fl oz of table wine at around 12 percent alcohol 
  • 1.5 fl oz of distilled spirits, including gin, rum, whiskey, tequila, or vodka 

One standard drink in the United States contains around 14 grams of pure alcohol.

While consuming alcohol in moderation may have some benefits, it is essential to remember that too much can harm your overall health. It may even be life-threatening in the long run.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to:

  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Dementia
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Anemia
  • Arrhythmias
  • Cirrhosis
  • Fatty liver
  • Gout
  • High blood pressure
  • Nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Chronic disease of the heart muscle, recognized as cardiomyopathy

Drinking alcohol has also been linked to cancers of the:

  • Breast
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Liver
  • Esophagus
  • Voicebox
  • Throat
  • Mouth

During pregnancy, moderate drinking increases the risk of pregnancy loss and a child having development and growth problems in the future. If you are worried about the amount of alcohol you drink, speak with your doctor about your concerns.

Cutting Back on Moderate Wine Consumption

To cut back on moderate wine consumption, try to make a plan before you start drinking. Set a limit on how much you are going to drink.4

It also helps to set a budget. Only bring a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol. 

Let your friends and family know you are cutting down on alcohol and that it is important to you. You may receive support from them.

If you are struggling, take it a day at a time. Cut back a little on alcohol each day. That way, every day you reduce consumption is a success.

Consider switching to smaller drink sizes, too. Buy bottled beer instead of pints or a small glass of wine instead of a big one. 

You can also opt for lower-strength drinks. Swap strong wines for options with a lower strength ABV percentage. You can easily find this information on the bottle.

Staying hydrated is critical, too. Drink a glass of water before drinking alcohol and switch alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic beverages.

Be sure to take breaks, too. Have several drink-free days weekly.

Why is it Essential to Know Your Alcohol Limit?

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to long-term effects on health. It is essential to set limits for yourself when drinking and keep an eye on how many alcoholic beverages you have. It is also vital not to binge drink.

The more you drink, the more challenging it is to stop drinking.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem? (Signs of Alcohol Misuse)

You could be misusing alcohol if:5

  • You think you should cut down on your drinking 
  • Other people have been criticizing or commenting on your drinking
  • You experience guilt about your drinking
  • You want a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

There are various treatment methods available for alcohol misuse and addiction, thanks to significant improvements in the field over the past 60 years.6 

However, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment method. What works for one person may not be suitable for another. Understanding the different treatment options can be an essential first step in the process.

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments are designed to change drinking behavior through counseling. Health professionals lead behavioral treatments.

Medications

There are three medications currently approved in the United States to help individuals stop or reduce drinking alcohol and prevent relapse. A primary care physician or other health professional prescribes these medications. They may be used alone or in combination with counseling.

Mutual-Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and similar 12-step programs offer peer support for people quitting or reducing their drinking. Combined with treatment from other health professionals, mutual support groups can provide a valuable added layer of support.

As mutual-support groups are anonymous, it is challenging for researchers to determine their success in comparison to treatments led by health professionals.

For anyone considering treatment for alcohol use disorder, speaking with a primary care physician is the essential first step. They can be an excellent source for treatment referrals and medications.

A primary care physician can also:

  • Evaluate whether an individual’s drinking pattern is risky
  • Help create a treatment plan
  • Evaluate overall health
  • Assess whether medications for alcohol may be suitable

Resources

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What Is A Standard Drink?, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH)

Alcohol and Your Body, UC Santa Cruz, December 2019

Drinking levels defined, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH)

Tips on cutting down, National Health Service, November 2018

Alcohol misuse, National Health Service, August 2018

Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), March 2021

Britton, Annie et al. “Underestimating the Alcohol Content of a Glass of Wine: The Implications for Estimates of Mortality Risk.” Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire) vol. 51,5 (2016): 609-14

Kerr, William C, and Tim Stockwell. “Understanding standard drinks and drinking guidelines.” Drug and alcohol review vol. 31,2 (2012): 200-5

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