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Responsible drinking

Alcohol use disorder - responsible drinking; Drinking alcohol responsibly; Drinking in moderation; Alcoholism - responsible drinking

If you drink alcohol, health care providers advise limiting how much you drink. This is called drinking in moderation, or responsible drinking.

Definition of Responsible Drinking

Responsible drinking means more than just limiting yourself to a certain number of drinks. It also means not getting drunk and not letting alcohol control your life or your relationships.

Tips of Drinking Responsibly

The tips in this article are for people who:

  • Do not have a drinking problem, now or in the past
  • Are old enough to drink legally
  • Are not pregnant

Healthy men of legal drinking age should limit themselves to:

  • No more than 2 drinks a day
  • No more than 14 drinks a week

Healthy women of legal drinking age should limit themselves to:

  • No more than 1 drink a day
  • No more than 7 drinks a week

Other habits that will help you be a responsible drinker include:

  • Never drinking alcohol and driving.
  • Having a designated driver if you are going to drink. This means riding with someone in your group who has not been drinking, or taking a taxi or bus.
  • Not drinking on an empty stomach. Have a snack or meal before you drink and while you are drinking.

If you take any medicines, including ones you bought without a prescription, check with your provider before you drink. Alcohol can affect the way your body uses some medicines. A medicine may not work correctly, or it could be dangerous or make you sick if combined with alcohol.

If excessive alcohol use or problem drinking runs in your family, you may be at a higher risk of having an alcohol problem yourself. Not drinking at all might be best for you.

Can Responsible Drinking Improve Your Health?

Many people drink now and then. You may have heard about some health benefits from moderate drinking. None of these benefits have been definitively proven. None of them should be used as a reason for drinking.

Some of the possible benefits of moderate drinking that have been studied are:

When to Call the Doctor

Contact your provider if:

  • You are concerned about your own drinking or a family member's drinking.
  • You would like more information about alcohol use or support groups for problem drinking.
  • You are unable to drink less or stop drinking, even though you have tried.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Alcohol use and your health. www.cdc.gov/alcohol/about-alcohol-use/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm. Updated May15, 2024. Accessed June 19, 2024.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Alcohol's effects on the body. www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body. Accessed February 15, 2024.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Understanding alcohol use disorder. www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder. Updated January 2024. Accessed February 15, 2024.

O'Connor PG. Alcohol use disorders. In: Goldman L, Cooney KA, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 27th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2024:chap 364.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and behavioral counseling interventions to reduce unhealthy alcohol use in adolescents and adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2018;320(18):1899-1909. PMID: 30422199 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30422199/.

 

Review Date: 2/8/2024

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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