You may be familiar with the term moderation, but what does it really mean? According to CDC Guidelines, to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, adults of legal drinking age should limit intake of alcohol to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women. Weekly, moderation is considered 14 drinks or less for men and 7 drinks or less for women.

Drinks Levels Defined

Binge Drinking: The ****NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent - or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter - or higher. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.

Why Binge Drinking Harmful

Binge drinking is associated with many health problems  including:

  • Unintentional injuries such as motor vehicle crashes falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning
  • Violence including homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Unintended pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.
  • Cancer of the breast (among females), liver, colon, rectum, mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus.
  • Memory and learning problems.

Heavy Drinking vs Binge Drinking

Heavy Alcohol Use: The NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows:

  • For men, consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week
  • For women, consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week
  • SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.

Understanding Our Intake

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for American adults recommends that if alcohol is consumed, it should only be consumed in moderation — up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. This is not intended as an average over several days, but rather the amount consumed in any single day. Following these guidelines reduces the risk of health problems such as cancer, liver disease, reduced immunity, ulcers, sleep problems, complications of existing conditions, and more. It also reduces the risk of depression, social problems, and difficulties at school or work.