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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(6):1497-1498

What is considered a “drink”?

One drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer (4.5 percent alcohol), or one 5-ounce glass of wine (12.9 percent alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirit, like whiskey or gin.

How much alcohol is too much?

You are drinking too much if you are:

  • A woman who has more than seven drinks per week or more than three drinks per occasion.

  • A man who has more than 14 drinks per week or more than four drinks per occasion.

  • Older than 65 years and having more than seven drinks per week or more than three drinks per occasion.

Am I taking risks with alcohol?

You are taking serious risks with alcohol if you:

  • Drink any amount of alcohol and drive or operate machinery.

  • Mix alcohol with medicine (over-the-counter or prescription medicines).

  • Drink regularly without telling your doctor, surgeon, or pharmacist that you are a regular drinker.

  • Drink at all while you are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. Even small amounts of alcohol may hurt an unborn child.

  • Drink alcohol while you are taking care of small children.

Has my drinking become a habit?

You should be worried about this if you regularly use alcohol to:

  • Relax, relieve anxiety, or go to sleep.

  • Be more comfortable in social situations.

  • Avoid thinking about sad or unpleasant things.

  • Socialize with other regular drinkers.

Has drinking alcohol become a problem for me?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you felt that you should cut down on your drinking?

  • Do you feel annoyed when people make comments to you about your drinking?

  • Do you feel guilty about your drinking?

  • Do you ever need a drink in the morning to get yourself going or to get rid of a hangover?

If you answer “yes” to just one of these questions you may have a problem. If you answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, it is highly likely that you have a drinking problem.

Other signs that your drinking has become a problem include:

  • Worrying about having enough alcohol to last through an evening or a weekend.

  • Hiding alcohol or buying it at different stores so no one will know how much you are drinking.

  • Switching from one kind of drink to another to keep from drinking too much or getting drunk.

  • Trying to get “extra” drinks at a social event or sneaking drinks when others are not looking.

  • Failing to do what you should at work or at home because of drinking.

  • Not being able to remember what happened while you were drinking.

  • Not being able to stop drinking once you start.

  • Hurting someone else as a result of your drinking.

How can I get help for an alcohol problem?

If you feel you need help to cut down on your drinking, you can contact:

Your doctor

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Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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