Different Levels of Drinking

Although the amount of alcohol that an individual consumes is not, in and of itself, a criterion of alcoholism, the amount and frequency with which an individual drinks can be a reliable predictor of that person’s risk level. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism sets the following thresholds:

  1. Moderate alcohol consumption –1 drink per day for women; 2 drinks per day for men.
  1. Heavy drinking –5 + drinks on the same occasion on 5 + days in the past month (this threshold is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  1. Low risk for developing an AUD – no more than 3 drinks on any one day and no more than 7 drinks in a week for women; no more than 4 drinks on any one day and no more than 14 drinks in a week.
  1. Binge drinking – 4 drinks for women within a two-hour period; 5 drinks for men within the same timeframe.

*The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a slightly different definition of binge drinking – 5 + alcoholic drinks on the same occasion at least once during the past month.

What Is a Standard “Drink?”

Not all alcoholic drinks are created equal – the amount of alcohol in a beverage depends on the type of liquor:

  • Beer/wine cooler – 12 ounces, typically regular-sized one can or bottle.
  • Malt liquor – 8-9 ounces; a popular “40 ounce” bottle will hold up to one ratio 5 standard drinks.
  • Table wine – 5 ounces; a typical wine bottle holds 5 standard drinks.
  • Fortified wine (sherry, port) – 3-4 ounces; a typical wine bottle can hold up to 8 standard drinks.
  • Cordial liqueur – 2-3 ounces; a regular-sized bottle can hold almost 13 standard drinks.
  • Brandy –1.5 ounces (one jigger); a regular-sized bottle can hold almost 17 standard drinks
  • Spirits/”hard” liquor (80-proof whiskey, vodka, etc.) – 1.5 ounces; a pint bottle will hold approximately 8 kind-and-a-half standard drinks.

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