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What Is a Standard Drink and How Much Is Too Much?

What Is a Standard Drink? | Just Believe Recovery PA

In This Article

In the United States, a standard alcoholic drink consists of 14 grams of pure alcohol, equal to about 0.6 fluid oz. A standard drink is typically defined as the following:

  • 12 fl oz of beer, cider, wine coolers, or hard seltzer
  • 5 fl oz of wine
  • 8 fl oz of malt liquor
  • 1.5 fl oz of an 80-proof (40% ABV) distilled spirits

Different alcoholic drinks vary in alcohol content. In addition, the effects of alcohol on the brain and body depend on blood alcohol concentration (BAC), as the liver can only process about one drink in an hour.

Although standard drink amounts can help people follow health guidelines, they don’t always reflect standard serving sizes. Also, while the alcohol concentrations listed are considered typical, there can be significant variability in the amount of alcohol contained in each kind of alcoholic beverage. For example, some wines are only 7-8% ABV, whereas others can be as high as 18%.

The alcohol content can differ significantly for different types of beer, cider, wine, or liquor. However, some differences are smaller than many would expect. Moreover, many light beers contain almost as much alcohol as regular beers do, or about 85% as much. On average, this equates to 4.2% alcohol content compared to 5.0% by volume.

Variations in Types of Alcoholic Drinks

Alcoholic beverages contain alcohol, water, and various other ingredients. There is a substantial difference in the alcohol content of drinks, depending on the type of beverage. Common types of alcoholic beverages include beer, hard cider, wine coolers, hard seltzer, wine, malt liquor, liqueur, and spirits. As noted, various brands of the same type of alcoholic drinks can have different alcohol content. Check the label of each to find the exact percentage of alcohol in the beverage.

Alcohol Abuse Side Effects

Alcohol consumption can cause several adverse effects. Short term effects of alcohol consumption include the following:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of coordination and awareness
  • Poor memory
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Slurred speech
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Accidents and injuries

Long term effects of alcohol consumption include the following:

  • Liver damage
  • Brain damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Increased risk of several cancers
  • Weakened immune system
  • Social, legal, and financial issues

What Is a Standard Drink? | Just Believe Recovery PA

Moderate Drinking

Moderate drinking is considered no more than two drinks or less a day for men and one drink per day for women. Drinking in moderation helps to mitigate the risk of alcohol-related mental and physical health problems. This is why nearly all health providers and experts recommend abstinence or moderate alcohol consumption.

Of note, each individual has a different response to consuming alcohol, and this is largely dependent on body weight, metabolic rate, and genetic factors. Moreover, some people can react strongly to minor amounts of alcohol, and others have a relatively mild reaction to higher amounts.

Binge Drinking

Consuming four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in an episode is considered binge drinking. When people think about binge drinking, it’s common for college students to come to mind. Still, anyone can engage in this behavior, and it has become increasingly common among middle-aged adults, especially men.

Also, consuming this amount of alcohol in a single session on five or more days per month is considered excessive drinking.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem?: A Questionnaire

Those who regularly consume more alcohol than the recommended guidelines may have an alcohol use disorder, increasing the risk of developing significant health issues.

1) Have you ever wanted to cut back on drinking or quit entirely but found you cannot?
2) Have you been drinking more or more often than you originally intended?
3) Do you keep drinking increasing amounts of alcohol to feel the desired effects?
4) Have you found that drinking interferes with aspects of your life, such as a career, family, or self-care?
5) Do you spend significant time drinking alone?
6) o you spend significant time seeking opportunities to drink or recovering from drinking, including hangovers and blackouts?
7) Are you experiencing alcohol-induced health conditions?
8) Do you continue to keep drinking despite health, social, legal, or financial issues?
9) Do you have intense cravings for alcohol?
10) Do you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you’re not drinking alcohol, such as irritability, anxiety, or tremors?

If you respond “yes” to 2-3 questions, you may have a mild alcohol use disorder. Answering “yes” to 4-5 questions may be considered a moderate alcohol use disorder. Six or more “yes” answers may indicate a severe alcohol use disorder.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Many treatment options are available for alcohol abuse and addiction, including residential (inpatient) and intensive outpatient rehab. Just Believe Recovery Center offers these comprehensive programs, including various corrective services and experiential activities, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and more.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery PA at (888) 380-0342. Our specialists can assess your needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.
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