When Drinking Becomes Alcohol Abuse

February 10, 2019

The Risks of Excessive Drinking

In our society, drinking alcohol is associated with relaxing, socializing and celebrating important occasions. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than half of adults in the United States report drinking in the previous month.

While most people drink safely and moderately, others have trouble recognizing when to stop. According to Bruce Campbell, MD, Chair of Executive Health at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, 23 percent of adults nationwide drink in excess.

Dr. Campbell explains that excessive drinking, also called risk drinking, can make you more likely to develop a number of health problems.

“Studies show that risk drinking can increase the risk of heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, high blood pressure, liver disease and esophageal and mouth cancer,” he says. Traffic and other accidents are also higher among risk drinkers.

Knowing Your Limits

The first step in understanding how to drink safely is to know what counts as a drink. The amount of liquid you drink doesn’t necessarily match the amount of alcohol. A standard drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1½ ounces of liquor.

With these standards in mind, you can establish your personal limits. According to Dr. Campbell, men who consume 15 or more drinks per week or five or more drinks in one day are risk drinkers. For women and men over age 65, those numbers are eight or more drinks per week or four or more in one day.

With the risks associated with this type of excessive drinking, it’s important to stay under these limits. The NIAAA defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men.

“If you drink, make sure you’re staying within limits,” he says. “Otherwise, you could be putting your health at risk.”

Risks Associated With Alcohol Abuse

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.