Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(6):1885

What is a sensible drinking limit?

If you don't have a drinking problem, it's probably safe for you to drink a limited amount of alcohol without affecting your health. A sensible drinking limit for people who don't have a problem with alcohol is:

  • For men, no more than two drinks per day

  • For women, no more than one drink per day

  • For people more than 65 years of age, no more than one drink per day

Experts define “one drink” this way:

  • One 12-ounce can of beer or bottle of wine cooler

  • One 5-ounce glass of wine

  • One jigger (shot) of hard liquor (1.5 ounces)

Each of these drinks has about the same amount of pure alcohol in it.

Is alcohol causing a problem in my life?

  • Have your family or friends ever complained about your drinking?

  • Have you been late to or absent from work because of hangovers?

  • Have you ever driven after drinking?

  • Have you had trouble with the law after drinking?

  • Have you gotten into a fight after drinking?

  • Do you drink even when you don't feel well?

  • Has your doctor told you that you have health problems related to drinking?

  • Have you ever tried to quit drinking?

  • Have you ever had a blackout while drinking?

  • Do you sometimes have a drink in the morning to stop your hands from trembling or to ease a hangover?

  • Do you end up drinking more than you meant to drink?

  • Have you stopped doing things you used to do because you would rather drink?

  • Do you drink more than you used to drink?

If you said yes to any of these questions, drinking may be a problem for you. If you have any problems with alcohol, ask your doctor how much alcohol is safe for you.

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