The Basics: Overview
If you don’t drink alcohol, there’s no reason to start. If you choose to drink, it’s important to have only a moderate (limited) amount. And some people should not drink at all, like women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and people with certain health conditions.
What is a moderate amount of alcohol?
A moderate amount of alcohol means:
- Up to 1 drink in a day for women
- Up to 2 drinks in a day for men
What is 1 drink equal to?
Different types of beer, wine, and liquor have different amounts of alcohol. In general, 1 drink is equal to a:
- Bottle of regular beer (12 ounces)
- Glass of wine (5 ounces)
- Shot of liquor or spirits, like gin, rum, or vodka (1.5 ounces)
Different drinks have different amounts of calories, too. These calories add up, and can make you gain weight. For example, a 12 ounce bottle of beer has about 150 calories. Find out how many calories are in a drink.
The Basics: Am I at Risk?
How can I tell if I’m at risk for a drinking problem?
Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol can put you at risk for personal and health problems. Use this tool to see if your drinking habits put you at risk.
What are the risks of drinking too much?
Drinking too much increases your risk for many health problems, including:
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Stomach bleeding
- Some types of cancer
Drinking too much can also put you at risk for:
- Alcohol use disorder
- Injuries and violence
- Unintended pregnancy or STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
What is alcohol use disorder?
If drinking causes serious problems in your life, you may have alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism is a type of alcohol use disorder.
Drinking may be a problem for you if any of these things are true:
- Drinking causes trouble with your relationships, school, or work
- You can’t control how much you drink
- You feel anxious, irritable, or stressed when you aren’t drinking
Use this tool to see if you have signs of alcohol use disorder. If you have a drinking problem, it’s important to see a doctor right away.
The Basics: Don't Drink If...
Who should not drink at all?
Don’t drink at all if you:
- Are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
- Are under age 21
- Take certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines (check the medicine label or talk with a doctor or pharmacist)
- Are recovering from alcohol use disorder or are unable to control how much you drink
- Have a health condition that can be made worse by drinking (like liver disease)
It’s also very important not to drink if you plan to drive a car or use a machine (like a lawn mower, chainsaw, or construction equipment).
Take Action: Set Limits
Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking.
Keep track of your drinking.
Keeping track of each drink may help you drink less overall. This drinking tracker card can help.
Decide how many days a week you will drink and how much you will drink on those days. For men, don’t drink more than 2 drinks a day. For women, don’t drink more than 1 drink a day.
It’s also a good idea to have some days when you don’t drink at all.
Take Action: Make a Plan
Learn new skills to help you change your drinking habits.
Planning ahead can help you manage situations when you might be tempted to drink too much. Think ahead about how to say “no” if someone offers you a drink.
Find healthy ways to manage stress.
If you have a bad day or are feeling angry, don’t reach for a drink. Try taking a walk, calling a friend, or seeing a movie. Get tips to help you manage stress.
Avoid places where people drink a lot.
Stay away from bars and other places that may make you want to drink.
Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home.
This way you won’t be tempted to go over the drinking limit you set for yourself when you are at home.
Make a list of reasons not to drink.
Make a list of reasons to drink less or quit. Keep this list in your wallet, on your fridge, or in an app on your phone. Look at it when you have an urge to drink.
If you want to lose weight or save money, use these calculators to:
Take Action: Get Help
If you think you might have a drinking problem, ask for help.
Ask your friends and loved ones to support you. Talk to a doctor or nurse if you are having a hard time cutting down on your drinking.
If one type of treatment doesn’t work for you, you can try another. Don’t give up!
- Find a doctor or treatment program near you.
- Call 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357) for information about treatment.
- Use the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator to explore treatment options.
What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, requires most health care plans to cover screening and counseling for alcohol misuse. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you.
Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.
Are you worried about a loved one’s drinking?
Use these tips to talk with someone about cutting back or quitting drinking.
Content last updated July 24, 2020
This information on drinking in moderation was adapted from materials from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Committee on Dietary Guidance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Working Group, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism