When you head out with your friends to kick start the weekend, you promise yourself you’re only going to have one drink. After all, it was a long, stressful week and you’re tired. But when you get to the bar and settle in, that one glass of wine turns into two. Then, you accept a beer from a friend and decide to order another. Before you know it, you’re multiple drinks in and the night is only half over.
So, what does safe alcohol consumption look like before it turns into excessive or binge drinking? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
According to a 2017 article by USA Today, the average American 18 years and older consumes roughly 1.94 drinks per day, 13.6 drinks per week and 705 drinks per year. To prevent excessive alcohol consumption, men should stick to no more than two drinks per day (or 14 drinks per week), while women should avoid drinking more than one drink per day (or 7 drinks per week).
Whether it’s a casual hang out with friends, a ball game, holiday or happy hour with colleagues, alcohol is going to be part of the menu. But simply looking at the number of drinks only tells part of the story. To calculate alcohol consumption properly, you also need to look at the amount of alcohol content in your individual drinks.
Let’s start off with the U.S. “standard” drink, which is about 14 grams of pure alcohol. When you look at a regular beer that’s 5% alcohol, that equates to a 12-ounce glass of beer. That’s pretty easy math, right? Well, the problem is not all beer is made equal with each kind having its own alcohol content. For example, a lager has 4-5% alcohol by volume, while a stout could easily have 10% alcohol or more by volume. That means if you get a 12-ounce beer that’s 10% alcohol, it’s probably best to take it slow and quit after that one drink.
Unlike the 12-ounce glass of beer, a “standard” glass of wine weighs in at five ounces because wine, on average, is about 12 percent alcohol. But similar to beer, the exact alcohol percentage of wine depends on the kind. For example, a Moscato d’Asti is 5.5% alcohol, while Riesling comes in around 12% alcohol. If you prefer dry wines like chardonnay or merlot, you’re looking at anywhere between 13.5-15% alcohol, and there are even some wines like Madeira that hit about 20% alcohol.
So, the next time you stop at the store to pick up a bottle of wine or order a glass at dinner, consider how many drinks you think you’ll have and be cognizant of the type of wine you pick out.
Liquor such as whiskey, rum and vodka don’t have as much variation in alcohol content as beer and wine do. Most types of liquor are between 35-45% alcohol, so it’s safe to estimate 40% if you’re not sure when ordering a drink at dinner or out at the bar. Since liquor contains such a large percentage of alcohol, the “standard” to stick to here is 1.5 ounces.
While a shot of whiskey is pretty simple to calculate, it’s a bit tougher when dealing with mixed drinks like mojitos and margaritas. For example, one margarita ends up equating to 1.7 drinks because of the tequila and triple sec needed to make it. If you’re having a difficult time determining how much alcohol is in your favorite mixed drink, use this cocktail drink calculator to help you.
Blowing off steam and enjoying drinks with friends or during the holidays may be fun, but that fun can quickly turn into a toxic and addicting dependence. If you’re concerned about your drinking habits or think a loved one may be abusing alcohol, Covenant Hills Treatment Center provides faith-based treatment to help those suffering from alcohol addiction. Our dedicated staff understands the emotional and physical toll alcohol abuse can have on the mind, body and spirit, and will create an individually-designed plan to help you avoid a relapse.