How many drinks are too many?
“I usually have about three glasses of wine every night,” Laurie tells me. “I never really think about it. It’s an automatic thing when I get home, and I don’t get drunk.”
“My husband has three or four beers when he gets home on weekdays, and he drinks more when he doesn’t have to work the next day.” Michelle says. “Is that too much?”
Sometimes it can be hard to judge your own alcohol consumption, or even to judge the alcohol consumption of a loved one. It may be difficult to know how many drinks are too many.
How many drinks are too many? Factors
There are a lot of factors that determine how many drinks is too many including body weight, body fat, hydration, initial blood sugar, stomach content etc. Typically a “serving” of alcohol is 8 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce (one shot) of liquor. Once alcohol is absorbed, it enters the blood stream and is distributed in the body’s tissues. Alcohol is broken down by the body at the rate of 0.5 OZ per hour in the average person. This translates into about 1 drink per hour.
Alcohol use affects a person’s behavior and functioning. When a person begins to consume more alcohol than their body can eliminate (i.e. more than one drink per hour) their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) begins to rise. Most people are fairly functional at .08 BAC however some will have noticeable impairment. Generally a night of “Heavy drinking”, or to the point where a person blacks out, generally is from a BAC around .18-.22. Most people will become unconscious at .22-.25 BAC. A BAC over .25 can cause long term loss of brain function, induce heart attacks, and so on.
How many drinks are too many? Individual Concerns
However, that is just the science of drinking. What also determines how many drinks are too many depends on what you are most afraid of. If it is alcoholism, than limiting yourself to one drink per night will keep most women out of the danger zone. If you are pregnant, than total abstinence is the way to go.
This is not to say that if you have, say, two drinks a night, you are alcoholic or slightly alcoholic. For some people, two drinks a night isn’t a big deal, for others, the same amount can compel them to overindulge.
The key to recognizing a problem with drinking is deciding whether it has a detrimental effect on your life. That is the important part in determining how many drinks is too many. If you find yourself habitually making inappropriate comments, acting out sexually, driving dangerously, blacking out, or waking up with a hangover, these are signs of a problem, no matter how infrequently you drink.
Alcoholism is usually diagnosed by control, compulsion, and consequences. If you find yourself drinking more than you intend do, are preoccupied with drinking, or suffer negative consequences from drinking, then you probably have a problem that requires professional help.