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How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

When it comes to the question of how much alcohol per day is too much, you might hear conflicting answers. There are varying guidelines from different organizations, although they tend to be somewhat similar.

Recommendations about how much alcohol per day is too much are designed to minimize the risk of related health problems and promote a balanced approach to consumption.

Recommendations for daily alcohol intake are based on research and data analysis, taking into account factors like the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol, the long-term health effects of consumption, epidemiological studies that link drinking to chronic diseases, and patterns of consuming alcohol and their impact on public health.

Recommendations and Limits for Daily Alcohol Intake

The following are some commonly cited recommendations for daily alcohol intake:

  • According to indications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men should drink no more than two drinks daily; for women, the limit is one.[1]
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says that for men, no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 per week. For women, the recommended limit is no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven total in a week.[2]
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting your alcohol consumption overall to reduce the risk of health problems.[3] They don’t specify their limits but support the overall guideline of two drinks daily for men and one for women.

A standard drink in the United States is often much smaller than we think. It’s about 14 grams of pure alcohol and 12 ounces of beer. It’s around five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

Following limits and avoiding drinking too much alcohol can be important to prevent health complications and issues like liver disease, heart problems, mental health issues and the development of certain cancers.

The goal of these guidelines is to promote enjoying alcohol in a way that is less likely to harm health.

While these are very broad, you also have to consider individual differences when consuming alcohol, like age, genetic factors, weight and current health issues.

How Much Alcohol Per Day is Too Much?

Alcohol consumption can be divided into moderate, excessive and problem drinking categories. These are important to understand so you can recognize potential risks and address harmful patterns of consuming alcohol.

Excessive alcohol intake is when you’re consuming more than the recommended limits set by health organizations.

Binge drinking is when you consume a lot of alcohol in a short period of time, which raises your blood alcohol concentration quickly. This can be around five or more drinks for men on one occasion. It could be four or more drinks for women on a single occasion.

Heavy drinking is typically any time you’re consuming alcohol above the daily or weekly recommended limits for an extended period. For men, this can be more than four drinks per day or more than 14 per week.[4] For women, heavy drinking could be more than three drinks on any day or more than seven in a week.

Problem drinking can include a range of patterns and behaviors that negatively affect your health, relationships and daily functioning.

Problem drinking can include an alcohol use disorder, which is a medical condition where you can’t control or stop drinking even when you know it’s causing bad consequences.

What Is an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

AUD is diagnosed as mild to severe based on how many symptoms someone has.[5] These symptoms include:

  • Drinking more or longer than you intend
  • Trying to stop or control your drinking but being unsuccessful in doing so.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or attempting to recover from the effects of alcohol.
  • Experiencing a strong desire to drink.
  • Continuing to drink despite problems that arise because of it or get worse because of your alcohol use.
  • Giving up important activities to drink instead.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations.
  • Developing a tolerance so you drink more to achieve the desired effects.

Alcohol dependence is a severe type of problem drinking where you’re physically reliant on alcohol, which leads to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Functional alcoholism is a term for problem drinking where you can maintain your relationships and jobs but still show problematic drinking patterns, and alcohol abuse is drinking leading to impairment or distress.

Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Alcohol

It’s important to recognize when your alcohol consumption crosses into a problematic or excessive area so you can take steps toward healthier habits.

Physical signs that you’re drinking too much can include:[6,7]

  • An increased tolerance.
  • Withdrawal symptoms like sweating, nausea or shakiness when not drinking.
  • Frequently experience hangovers after drinking.
  • Choosing alcohol over food leads to poor nutrition.
  • Appearance changes like a bloated face or weight fluctuations.

Behavioral signs of too much alcohol consumption can include:

  • Drinking more than you plan.
  • Trying to cut back and not being able to.
  • Dedicating a lot of your time to things related to drinking.
  • Not meeting obligations at school, home or work because of alcohol use.
  • Engaging in risky activities while you’re drinking.
  • Losing interest in social activities or hobbies because of drinking.

Psychological signs include:

  • Strong urges to drink.
  • Drinking to cope with emotional issues like stress or anxiety.
  • Memory blackouts.
  • Irritability and mood swings.

Social signs of drinking too much alcohol can include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Experiencing frequent conflict with loved ones.
  • Legal issues like DUIs.
  • Relationships are damaged because of drinking.
  • Declining health and issues like liver problems.
  • Continuing to drink despite the problems it’s causing.

Recognizing these signs is a needed first step toward addressing possible alcohol issues. You should consider talking to a professional if you identify with several of the above symptoms. Early intervention when you’re struggling with your alcohol consumption, can prevent more severe health complications and improve your quality of life.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Alcohol Use and Your Health
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Drinking Levels Defined
  3. World Health Organization (WHO): No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health
  4. CDC: What is Excessive Drinking?
  5. NIAAA: Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder
  6. National Institute of Health: The Risks Associated With Alcohol Use and Alcoholism
  7. WHO: Alcohol