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Everything You Should Know About Drinking Alcohol: Are Your Drinking Habits Normal?

Alcohol, and drinking alcohol, are deeply engrained within Western culture. But there's a fine line between enjoying having a drink and going overboard. How do you decide when too much is too much?

Gif of liquor being poured into a glass
Adrian Drew

Adrian Drew

Self-help blogger and freelance writer. Personal development writer and founder and editor of Mind Cafe (https://medium.com/mind-cafe), a Medium publication.

Love it or hate it, the fact that drinking alcohol is an integral part of Western culture is undeniable. It’s everywhere, and booze seems to accompany near-every special occasion or Friday night in just about every household.

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Health 86.4% of Americans have drunk alcohol at some point in their lifetime, 70.1% reporting to have drunk in the past year and 56.% in the past month.

Clearly, alcohol is ubiquitous. It’s easy to get swept up in societal norms like drinking, but it’s important to asses how healthy our relationship with alcohol really is.


How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

The latest dietary guidelines make it clear that nobody should be drinking alcohol, or drink more often in order to receive health benefits. For some people, avoiding alcohol altogether isn’t always a feasible option, though. And perhaps it doesn’t need to be.

What’s important is that we’re aware of how much is too much so that we avoid drinking ourselves and our liver into oblivion. As a general rule of thumb, Mayo Clinic states that up to one drink per day can be considered moderate for men and women of 65+ years of age, and two drinks for men below 65. The following amounts constitute one drink:

  • Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters)
  • Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)
  • Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters)

What About Red Wine?

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding claims that red wine is a healthy and acceptable form of alcohol - but do these claims hold any real truth?

It’s true that red wine contains significant quantities of antioxidants - molecules shown to reduce internal damage caused by particles called free radicals which come from unhealthy foods, smoking, and, incidentally, alcohol. Whether or not the antioxidants in red wine provide any real health benefits, however, is uncertain.

There’s also something in red wine called resveratrol - a key ingredient that’s been shown to helps prevent damage to blood vessels and lower cholesterol, contributing to heart health. More research is needed to determine whether or not resveratrol lowers the risk of inflammation and blood clotting, but early evidence sounds promising.

Red wine certainly holds some potential benefits, but any more than one or two glasses in an evening undermines these effects, causing more harm than good.

How to Improve Your Relationship With Alcohol

It’s easy to fall into the trap of binge drinking at parties or on nights out, but having a healthy relationship with alcohol can ensure that our drinking habits keep both our body and mind well.

A healthy relationship means that you can drink alcohol occasionally without feeling as though you need it or are missing out if you choose not to get drunk.

Knowing when to tap out is also a critical component of a positive union with alcohol. You know your limits, and you keep track of just how much you’re drinking. When you’ve crossed the threshold of drinking more than makes you feel comfortable, you know it’s time to stop.

Frequently losing track of how much you’ve consumed in a single session of drinking is a sign that perhaps you should rethink your relationship with booze. Instead, having 1-2 drinks and then opting for a few glasses of water to keep yourself from getting too drunk will help you to stay in control.

The Takeaway

Whether you enjoy a glass of wine on a Friday evening or crawling a dozen bars with your friends, ensuring that you have a healthy relationship with alcohol is critical to ensuring that you aren’t drinking to dangerous excesses.

By becoming aware of exactly how much you should be drinking, are drinking already and learning your limits, you’ll be able to enjoy alcohol socially without worrying about the impact it’s having on your life and relationships.

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