Alcohol: How Much Is Too Much?

Alcohol: How Much Is Too Much? - The Meadows Texas

By Alanna Hilbink

How much is too much alcohol?

This is a hard question to give a concrete answer to, as ”too much” can vary from person to person. And for each person, it’s going to vary from one life situation to the next. As you consider the role of drinking in your life, it can be wise to examine, if not redefine your relationship with alcohol depending on how it’s affecting your overall well-being.

How Often Should You Drink Alcohol?

It turns out, while a drink every now and then can be a balanced part of some people’s lifestyles, how often should you drink is a question that never needs asking. The New York Times shares that even moderate drinking can elevate your risks of cardiovascular problems and cancer. And the purported health benefits of a glass of wine? It’s most likely just the result of an otherwise healthy lifestyle as recent research has shown moderate drinking to offer zero health benefits.

Even moderate drinking can elevate your risks of cardiovascular problems and cancer.

However, never isn’t the choice everyone, or even most people, are going to make. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) shared a 2019 survey that revealed 85.6% of adults reported drinking alcohol at some point in their life, with 54.9% reporting usage in the past month. Research taken since then indicated a significant increase in alcohol sales during the pandemic that potentially elevated these numbers even further. This means that at some point, many, if not most of us, are going to have to assess our own drinking.

Guidelines for Determining How Much Is Too Much Alcohol

While there is never a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to individual mental or physical health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does give us standard guidelines for “excessive” and “moderate” drinking.

Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks or less per day for men, and one drink or less per day for women. Excessive drinking can involve binge drinking, drinking a lot over one occasion or a short period of time, or heavy drinking, consuming a lot over a span of time. The CDC defines binge drinking as four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men during one occasion. And if you’re a woman consuming eight or more drinks per week, or a man having 15 or more, this is considered heavy drinking.

The real way to know how much is too much alcohol is to examine the role of alcohol in your life and look for signs of alcohol abuse.

But keep in mind that these are generalized, universal guidelines. We all have unique minds and bodies. Your version of moderation or excess will be all your own. Externally defined excessive drinking doesn’t necessarily signal a problem, and moderate drinking doesn’t exclude one. The real way to know how much is too much alcohol is to examine the role of alcohol in your life and look for signs of alcohol abuse.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Rather than look at volume when it comes to determining how much is too much alcohol, ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • Do you find you drink more than you plan to?
  • Have you tried to drink less or less often, but couldn’t?
  • Has your drinking affected your health or safety?
  • Has drinking had an impact on your ability to keep your job or do your job well?
  • Has drinking had an impact on your home life and relationships with family members?
  • Has drinking changed your friendships or your friend circle as a whole?
  • Do you spend more time drinking and less time doing other activities and hobbies you enjoy?
  • Do you spend a portion, or all, of the day thinking about drinking?

If you’re wondering, When does drinking become a problem?, the real answer isn’t a specific number of drinks. It comes down to considering how much time and space alcohol takes up in your mind, your life, and your relationships.

Am I Drinking Too Much?

“Too much” can look like the extremes of addiction we see in the media. But “too much” can also be having one drink too many on the occasions you drink, or relying on an alcoholic beverage or two each evening. In our Beyond Theory podcast, author and therapist Kelley Kitley describes this well:

“I didn’t get a DUI. I didn’t drink during the day. [I had] all these qualifiers that I kept running through, being like, You’re OK, you’re OK … But it was when I started seeing it bleed over into … having a hangover and feeling like I couldn’t tend to my kids the way that I wanted to. Or picking a fight with my spouse at the end of the night because I had had too much to drink, and then regretting it the next day. And just feeling very anxious most of the day until I gave myself permission to have that glass of wine … and then the consequences of just not liking who I was, was enough to say, You know, maybe this isn’t working for me anymore.

Any amount of alcohol can be too much if it is changing how you experience life. Take an honest look at the signs of abuse or addiction listed above, and consider the role alcohol plays in your life. You can get clean even if you don’t want to.

And when you’re ready to learn more, we’re here for you at The Meadows Texas. We can provide a compassionate conversation and professional assessment followed by an appropriate and personalized treatment plan to help you end alcohol’s hold over your life. No matter how big or small alcohol impacts your life, there is complete freedom and healing that awaits you if you have the courage to take that first step.