Alcohol | How much is too much

December 14th, 2020

During the holiday season, alcoholic beverages can often be a ‘social lubricant’, allowing us to ‘come out of our shell’ or deal with yet another work event. At holiday and other parties, bouts of excessive drinking can seem like part of the celebration. But here’s something to think about as you raise your glass: drinking too much alcohol at a party — or at any time — can be a sign of alcohol abuse or dependance.

While enjoying an occasional alcoholic beverage is unlikely to harm your health, drinking in excess can have substantial negative effects on your body and well-being.

You may wonder at what point your drinking becomes harmful to your health, as well as how much is too much.

How much is too much?

These are the limits to reduce your long-term health risks from drinking alcohol.

For healthy women, it is:

  • no more than two standard drinks a day
  • no more than 10 standard drinks a week
  • at least two alcohol-free days per week.

For healthy men, it is:

  • no more than three standard drinks a day
  • no more than 15 standard drinks a week
  • at least two alcohol-free days per week.

You may find that you are more comfortable drinking much less. Or you may choose to drink no alcohol at all. Your rate of drinking, body type and genetic makeup, age, existing health problems, and medication use can all affect how much you can drink.

The health risks of drinking too much

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to problems in your relationships, job, and other aspects of your life, especially your health.

Excessive drinking (defined as more than one drink per day for women and more than one or two drinks per day for men) is associated with an increased risk for many health issues, such as liver disease (hepatitis and cirrhosis), irregular heart rhythms and heart failure, stomach ulcers, brain damage, stroke, cancer (especially of the breast, colon, liver, esophagus, or throat), sleep difficulty, osteoporosis, malnutrition, depression, high blood pressure, dementia, difficulty concentrating, depression, weight gain, and anxiety. In pregnant women who drink alcohol, there is also a danger that the baby will develop physical and psychological problems.

Do you have a problem?

If you are not sure if you have a problem, try to not drink for a month. If that is hard for you, then maybe it’s a problem. Or ask the people around you what they think. If it is causing them distress, then it may be a problem.

Getting help

Start by talking to your GP. They can check for signs that alcohol is affecting your health, such as higher blood pressure or higher liver enzymes.

Asking a friend or family member to help you stay on track can make a difference. So can a change in environment and social activities. Figure out some way to make things different to change your pattern.