What is a Safe Level of Drinking Alcohol?

Across the ages, alcohol has held a complex relationship with our health and well-being. While heralded as a method of feeling more comfortable and reducing stress, alcohol wreaks havoc on those who do not enjoy it responsibly. In modern times, excessive alcohol intake leads to numerous health hazards and physical injury risks. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, over 3 million deaths a year are alcohol-related. That’s about 6% of all deaths across the globe annually. So, that begs the question, what is a safe level of alcohol consumption? SBIRT Mississippi is here to explore the answer to this question and investigate what we can do to drink responsibly and safely.

How Much Alcohol is Safe Per Day?

The latest in alcohol research indicates that drinking nothing is the absolute best approach for health and safety. For those who do not want to practice abstinence, moderate drinking is the suggested approach. 

What is moderate drinking? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for those over the legal drinking age, two or fewer standard alcoholic daily drinks for men and up to one standard alcoholic daily drink for women is moderate drinking defined. 

A standard alcoholic beverage contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol normally. This would be:

  • 12 ounces of beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine (about 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (which is a standard American-sized shot, at about 40% alcohol)

In short, for women, moderate drinking would be one 12-oz beer, one 5-oz glass of wine, or one 1.5-oz shot or mixed drink a day. For men, any two drink combination of the above would be considered moderate daily alcohol consumption. Again, drinking no alcohol at all is the ideal and healthiest approach. 

However, there are personal considerations to take into account when deciding on a moderate and safe level of alcohol consumption. For instance, age, weight, pregnancy, and overall health can affect the safety of moderate drinking. Also at play are family histories of alcohol use disorder and drinking alcohol while taking medications. All of these factors can make even moderate drinking more dangerous and lead to various health and physical hazards. For instance, drinking even one drink while on certain medications can result in impaired driving, making one drink extremely dangerous. 

Risks of Excessive Drinking

The risks from drinking any alcohol at all, even moderate alcohol consumption, are high. Binge drinking is especially dangerous. When drinking alcohol excessively, numerous detrimental effects leading to serious consequences can occur including:

  • Liver damage
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Impaired cognitive function & reaction time
  • Memory loss & blackouts
  • Decreased decision-making abilities
  • Risk-taking tendencies
  • Mental health issues like depression and anxiety, 
  • Increased likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder
  • Legal, work, and social issues

Best Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder Near Me

Moderate alcohol consumption can be enjoyed responsibly without a high level of risk or harm. Drinking alcohol in a controlled, balanced, and cautious manner, as well as staying within the recommended guidelines is always the best approach. 
If you are concerned that you or someone you love has an alcohol use disorder or is drinking excessively, take the free, online SBIRT screening tool. This quick quiz can help identify if there is a problem with alcohol and recommend nearby alcohol treatment facilities. Awareness, attention, and action are the best ways to protect yourself and the ones you love from the dangers of alcohol.