Drinking Levels Defined
Drinking in Moderation:
According to the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more.
- NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent - or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter - or higher. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.
Heavy Alcohol Use:
- NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows:
- For men, consuming five or more drinks on any day or 15 or more per week
- For women, consuming four or more on any day or 8 or more drinks per week
- SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
Patterns of Drinking Associated with Alcohol Use Disorder:
Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use can increase an individual's risk of alcohol use disorder.
Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including those who:
- Plan to drive or operate machinery, or participate in activities that require skill, coordination, and alertness
- Take certain over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Have certain medical conditions
- Are recovering from alcohol use disorder or are unable to control the amount that they drink
- Are younger than age 21
- Are pregnant or may become pregnant