It seems that there’s a study released each week that touts the health benefits of alcoholic beverages. Let’s toast to our good health, right? Not quite. Unfortunately, it turns out that even moderate levels of drinking can have a lasting impact. The cumulative effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits can take their toll. Still, many common activities revolve around. Think tailgates, parties, and after-work happy hours—alcohol is widely viewed as a pleasurable pastime. The question is, how much alcohol is safe to drink daily?
It can be difficult to determine how much drinking is relatively safe. We’re reviewing how alcohol impacts the body and mind, risks of dependency, and which alcoholic beverage is better, if any.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a serious condition that affects nearly 15 million Americans, with one in four people reporting at least one episode of binge drinking in the last month. As one of the country’s most addictive and toxic (yes, booze is technically toxic to the human body) substances, alcohol can lead to dependency. Contact our alcohol treatment center directly at 855-281-5588 for more information on our proven programs that address alcohol abuse and co-occurring disorders.
How Alcohol Impacts the Body
Alcohol is a legal substance embedded in American culture, society, and social norms. It’s celebrated in music, business, throughout college, and even viewed as a relaxing routine after hours. Such a widely accepted activity should be relatively safe, right? Unfortunately, it’s not.
It’s no surprise that alcohol causes noticeable changes to a person’s thought process and behavior. If you’ve ever dealt with a tipsy friend or have experienced overdrinking firsthand, you may recognize the dangers of overindulgence such as:
- Loss of motor control
- Slow and poor judgment
- Vision problems
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- Slurred speech
How much alcohol is safe to drink daily, considering the immediate effects of alcohol? Can small amounts prevent damaging repercussions? It’s complicated. An August 2018 study published by The Lancet concluded that the recommendations to consume alcohol in moderate amounts might be too much. Other studies have suggested that the best option for overall health was no drinking at all.
Alcohol Consumption & Physical Wellness
Drinking moderately or to excess carries numerous risks. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
As you drink, alcohol goes into the bloodstream and affects how these systems function. When you drink a lot, these functions slow down considerably. Being drunk is the physical symptom of your body being unable to process the amount of alcohol consumed. To understand alcohol’s impact on the body and mind, it’s essential to know how alcohol is processed in the body.
First, here are some quick facts to note on alcohol and health:
- Alcohol use was the seventh leading cause of death and disability worldwide in 2016
- For ages 15 to 49, alcohol was the leading risk factor for death and disability worldwide
- Health risks increase with rising amounts of alcohol use
Processing Alcohol through the Liver
An alcoholic beverage is processed in the liver. The liver detoxifies the body and is, therefore, tasked with eliminating the chemical. The liver can only process so much alcohol depending on gender, size, and weight. In general, the rule of thumb is one standard drink per hour. Anything in excess is circulated through the blood to await processing.
Alcohol left in the blood can drastically increase blood alcohol content (BAC). The higher the BAC, the more vulnerable the body is to toxicity. Occurrences of blackouts and alcohol poisoning are likely when a person’s blood alcohol content reaches .15 or higher. These are more immediate concerns due to binge drinking. What about daily drinking that exceeds recommendations set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?
Excessive drinking is responsible for one in ten deaths among working adults. Excessive drinking includes binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinking for women or five or more for men. On the other hand, heavy drinking refers to eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men.
Recurrent alcohol use can result in dependency and numerous health complications, especially with the liver. As high as 20% of individuals battling with alcohol use disorder develop fatty liver disease. This can morph into a deadly and irreversible disease called cirrhosis. Limiting drinks and frequency of use can help ensure that bodily functions remain healthy to carry out intended jobs.
How Much Alcohol Is Safe to Drink Daily?
Daily consumption of alcohol is generally not recommended. However, the CDC provides guidelines for drinking, plus a few tips to ensure the recommended levels of alcohol are not exceeded. The guidelines are one drink for women and two for men, comprised of:
- 12 oz of 5% beer
- 5 oz of 12% wine
- 1.5 oz of 40% (80 proof) spirits
Each of these will increase the BAC by the same amount.
In order to understand how much alcohol is safe to drink daily, it’s critical to know the limits for your specific age, weight, gender, and health conditions. Some other factors may aid in ensuring that safe drinking is possible. These factors include:
- Using alcohol-free drinks to slow intake
- Counting your drinks and keeping track
- Eating before (and during) consuming alcohol
- Skipping drinking games and shots
It’s best to avoid alcohol if taking any medications or using other substances. It’s also important to understand how mental health fits in with alcohol abuse. Co-occurring disorders continue to increase and are especially prevalent among those with AUD.
Alcohol & Co-Occurring Disorders
Knowing how much alcohol is safe to drink daily might mean evaluating health factors that can cause negative interactions with alcohol. Mental health disorders, for example, can make a person vulnerable to self-medicating practices. These individuals are also more prone to abusing alcohol. After all, alcohol is a widely available remedy that offers temporary relief. However, the feeling is fleeting and can actually result in heightened symptoms of mental illness or trauma.
Alcohol is a highly addictive substance that is also a central nervous system depressant. Drinking profoundly alters an individual’s mood, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning. The effects of alcohol can trigger anxiety and increase levels of stress.
The Addiction Center reports that, mentally, alcohol reduces an individual’s ability to reason, lessens inhibitions, and distorts judgment. If an individual consumes too much alcohol too rapidly, they can depress the central nervous system to the point of respiratory failure, coma, or death.
Alcohol impacts the brain in a variety of ways. The substance binds to receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter responsible for producing feelings of calmness and sedation and the depression of the central nervous system that causes suppression of breathing and heart rate. These chemical responses in the brain can trigger dependency as users find themselves attempting to replicate the feel-good emotions brought forth by the surge in dopamine.
Is it Possible to Drink Safely?
In the long term, substantial drinking patterns can damage brain cells, increase blood pressure, lessen life expectancy, and even result in a stroke. Heavy drinking is extremely dangerous. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism considered high-risk, or excessive, drinking a pattern that includes five or more drinks a day and 15 or more drinks in a week.
Is one beverage better than another in terms of health? Health experts agree that if the decision is to drink to limit sugars and calories as these can elevate the effects of alcohol. Typically vodka soda or wine with fewer sulfites tend to be less harmful than other beverages. Alcohol consumption should not exceed one serving per day for women and two for men. Understanding limits and keeping track of alcohol consumed can greatly reduce health problems that go hand-in-hand with excessive drinking.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Colorado
AspenRidge Recovery provides clients with a comprehensive treatment program that addresses alcohol dependency and helps individuals find the strength to say no. Our licensed therapists offer supportive services that seek to identify reasons for alcohol abuse related to mental health care. Our team of experts can also help you build skills and coping mechanisms that promote healthier lifestyles and self-care.
What We Offer
AspenRidge’s trained, board-certified therapists, medical staff, and counselors offer counseling and rehab programs for those addicted to alcohol. Our Colorado alcohol addiction treatment programs take on a dual diagnosis approach. We guide clients using evidence- and holistic-based treatment modalities to address alcoholism and the underlying issues that exacerbate it.
Various options include:
- Day Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- AspenRidge REACH Online IOP
- IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Outpatient Program
- Alumni & Aftercare Program
Online Alcohol Therapy Program
Online alcohol addiction counseling is now a Colorado statewide program that is an excellent option for individuals that can help more Coloradans access safe and successful treatment.
AspenRidge’s REACH Colorado online alcohol addiction program has achieved great results and positive feedback from clients satisfaction from both board-certified counselors and clients. Individual and small-group virtual therapy has been as effective in treating alcohol use disorder and the underlying mental health issues that may impact long-term recovery.