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National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

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Limit Alcohol

If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation (women no more than 1 drink a day; men no more than 2 drinks a day). Avoid "binge drinking." If you are concerned about your drinking, talk to your VA health care team about getting help.

What's Important to Know?


One drink is:

  • 12 oz. regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol OR
  • 8-9 oz. malt liquor OR
  • 5 oz. table wine (12%) OR
  • 1.5 oz. 80-proof hard liquor

Binge drinking is having:

  • 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours for women.
  • 5 or more drinks in about 2 hours for men.

Remember, on average, women should have no more than one drink a day (and no more than 7 drinks per week) and men should have no more than 2 drinks a day (and no more than 14 drinks per week).

For many adults, drinking small amounts of alcohol does not cause serious health problems.

Too much alcohol use or binge drinking can lead to higher risk of health problems, such as liver damage or other injuries.

The following people should not drink alcohol at all:

  • Children and teenagers
  • People of any age who cannot limit their drinking to the recommended levels
  • Women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant
  • People who plan to drive, operate machines, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination
  • People taking certain medications that interact with alcohol
  • People with certain medical conditions
  • People recovering from alcohol dependence (alcoholism)

Alcohol dependence can be treated. Effective treatments include individual counseling, group treatments, medications to reduce craving or prevent relapse, and inpatient or residential treatment. Talk to your VA health care team about the resources VA has that can help.

If you have questions or interest in making a healthy living change, please see your primary care team at the VA facility in which you receive health care.

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Want to Know More?


Definition of "One Drink"
12 oz. regular beer, which is 5% alcohol, OR 8-9 oz. malt liquor OR 5 oz. table wine (12%) OR 1.5 oz. 80-proof hard liquor.
Excessive Alcohol Use
Heavy drinking (drinking more than two drinks per day on average for men, or more than one drink per day on average for women or people over age 64), or binge drinking (drinking 5 or more drinks in 2 hours for men or 4 or more drinks in 2 hours for women)
Binge Drinking
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol levels to .08. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours.
Problem Drinking
Pattern of drinking that results in harm to one's health, interpersonal relationships, or ability to work. Certain manifestations of alcohol abuse include failure to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home; drinking in dangerous situations, such as while driving; legal problems associated with alcohol use; and continued drinking despite problems that are caused or worsened by drinking. Alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism or Alcohol Dependence
A diagnosable disease characterized by several factors, including a strong craving for alcohol, continued use despite harm or personal injury, the inability to limit drinking, physical illness when drinking stops, and the need to increase the amount drunk to feel the effects.

**For more detailed definitions please visit the links embedded in the terms found in the definitions section.

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  1. Guide to Community Preventive Services. Motor vehicle-related injury prevention: Reducing Alcohol-impaired Driving
  2. NIAAA Newsletter. 2004;3(3) NIAAA council approves definition of binge drinking