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Published on April 28, 2017

Alcoholic beverages: How much is too much?

Alcohol consumption can be tricky—on one hand, some researchers say moderate alcohol use may have some health benefits for some people, but too much alcohol can cause serious health problems, from cancer to stroke to heart disease. Read on to learn exactly how much you should limit your alcohol consumption to maintain good health. 

What is moderate alcohol consumption?

If you choose to drink alcohol beverages and are otherwise healthy, it is likely safe to drink if you stick to what experts consider “moderate” limits. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), this means no more than:

• One drink per day for women

• Two drinks per day for men

Some studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption may have a few health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease, ischemic stroke or diabetes. However, you don’t need to start consuming alcohol if you don’t currently drink.

Keep in mind that researchers have not confirmed that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is helpful for all people.

What counts as one drink?

• 12 ounces of beer (one can)

• 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor

• 5 ounces of wine

• A 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits (such as vodka, whiskey, gin, rum or tequila)

Health risks from too much alcohol

Exceeding the low-risk drinking limits can increase your risk for:

• Alcohol withdrawal syndrome • Brain damage and birth defects in unborn children • Cancer, particularly breast, esophageal, mouth and throat cancers • Heart muscle damage, which can cause heart failure • High blood pressure • Liver disease • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas, which regulates digestion and metabolizes blood sugar) • Serious injury or death from an accident • Stroke • Sudden death if you already have heart disease • Suicide

If you are concerned that you drink too much and have trouble stopping, please call our Psychiatric and Addictions Therapeutic Healing Services (PATHS) program at 828-696-4250.