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Responsible drinking

What Is Responsible Drinking?

If you drink alcohol, it is best to limit how much you drink. This is called drinking in moderation.

Yet responsible drinking means more than limiting yourself to a certain number of drinks. It means you are not getting drunk, and you are not letting alcohol control your life or the life of others around you.

What You Need to Know

The tips in this section are for people who:

Healthy men up to age 65 should limit themselves to:

  • No more than 4 drinks in 1 day
  • No more than 14 drinks in a week

Healthy women of all ages and healthy men over age 65 should limit themselves to:

  • No more than 3 drinks in 1 day
  • No more than 7 drinks in a week

Other tips that will also help you be a responsible drinker are:

  • Never drink alcohol and drive
  • If you are going to drink, have a designated driver, someone in your group who is not drinking. Or plan to get home a different way, such as a taxi or bus.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Have a snack or meal before you drink and while you are drinking.

If you take any medicines, including ones you bought without a prescription, check with your doctor before you drink. Alcohol can affect the way your body uses some drugs. A drug may not work correctly, or it could even be dangerous or make you sick if it is combined with alcohol.

If alcoholism runs in your family, you may be at higher risk of becoming an alcoholic yourself. Not drinking at all might be best for you.

Can Responsible Drinking Improve Your Health?

Many people drink now and then. You may have heard about some health benefits from moderate drinking. Some of these benefits have been proven more than others, but none of them should be used as a reason for drinking.

Some of the possible benefits of moderate drinking that have been studied are:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease or a heart attack
  • Reduced risk of strokes
  • Lower risk of gallstones
  • Lower risk of diabetes

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if:

  • You are concerned about your own drinking or a family member’s drinking.
  • You would like more information about alcohol use, alcohol abuse, or support groups for problem drinking.
  • You are unable to drink less or stop drinking, even though you have tried to.

References

Bush K,Kivlahan DR,McDonellMB,FihnSD, Bradley KA. The AUDIT alcohol consumption questions (AUDIT-C): an effective brief screening test for problem drinking. Ambulatory Care Quality Improvement Project (ACQUIP). Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Arch Intern Med. 1998; 158(16):1789–1795.

In the clinic. Alcohol use. Ann Intern Med. 2009 Mar 3;150(5).


Review Date: 6/11/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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