Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

There are no health benefits to drinking. If you don’t drink at all, there’s no reason to start. If you choose to drink, it’s important to have only a moderate (limited) amount.

Some people should not drink at all. Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, people who are younger than age 21, and people with certain health conditions should not drink alcohol.

What is a moderate amount of alcohol?
A moderate amount of alcohol means:

  • Up to 1 drink in a day for women
  • Up to 2 drinks in a day for men

What is 1 drink equal to?
Different types of beer, wine, and liquor have different amounts of alcohol and calories – and these calories add up. In general, 1 drink is equal to a:

  • Bottle of beer (12 ounces)
  • Glass of wine (5 ounces)
  • Shot of liquor or spirits, like gin, rum, or vodka (1.5 ounces)

Learn more about the amount of alcohol in different drinks.

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The Basics: Health Effects

How can I tell if I’m at risk for a drinking problem?
Drinking is a problem if it causes trouble with:

  • Your relationships
  • School or work
  • How you think and feel

If you have a drinking problem, it’s important to see a doctor right away. You can improve your health by drinking less or not drinking at all. Use this tool to see if your drinking habits put you at risk.

How will drinking less or quitting help me?
Drinking only in moderation – or not drinking at all – can help you:

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The Basics: Don't Drink If...

Who should not drink at all?
Don’t drink at all if you:

It’s also very important not to drink if you plan to drive a car or use a machine (like a lawn mower).

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Take Action!

Take Action: Set Limits

Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking.

Keep track of your drinking.
Keep track of how much you drink. This drinking tracker card can help. Tracking each drink may help you drink less overall.

Set goals.
Decide how many days a week you will drink and how much you will drink on those days. For men, stick with no more than 2 drinks a day. For women, stick with no more than 1 drink a day. It’s a good idea to have some days when you don’t drink.

Don’t drink when you are upset.
If you have a bad day or are feeling angry, don’t reach for a drink. Try taking a walk, calling a friend, or seeing a movie. Find healthy ways to manage stress.

Avoid places where people drink a lot.
Stay away from bars and other places that may make you want to drink.

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Take Action: Make a Plan

Learn new skills to help you change your drinking habits.
Planning ahead can help you manage situations when you might be tempted to drink too much. Think ahead about how to say “no” if someone offers you a drink.

Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home.
This way you won’t be tempted to go over the drinking limit you set for yourself.

Make a list of reasons not to drink.
Make a list of reasons to drink less or quit. Keep this list in your wallet, bag, or on your fridge. Look at it when you have an urge to drink.

If you want to lose weight or save money, use these calculators to:

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Take Action: Get Help

Ask for help if you need it.
Ask your friends and family to support you. Talk to a doctor or nurse if you are having a hard time cutting down on your drinking. Don’t give up!

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, requires most health care plans to cover screening and counseling for alcohol misuse. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

Are you worried about a loved one’s drinking?
Use these tips to talk with someone about cutting back or quitting drinking.

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