Alcohol use

If you drink, you may sometimes wonder when it's too much

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the answer depends on how much alcohol you drink at one time or how much during a given week. For most healthy adults, “at risk” or “heavy” drinking is considered:

Men: more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks in a week.

Women: more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks in a week.

Even if you generally have less than this, you still may exceed what’s considered moderate drinking. That means no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 for men.1

Why it matters to your well-being

What’s the harm in unhealthy drinking? Besides risky behaviors and personal problems, it’s linked to many health conditions, including:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Stroke

Drinking too much can also lead to an alcohol use disorder, including alcohol dependence. Some early signs — that may get worse over time — include:

  • Drinking more or longer than you intended.
  • Trying unsuccessfully to cut back on alcohol.
  • Noticing it takes more drinks to feel the effects.
  • Having trouble fulfilling work, school or family responsibilities.
  • Skipping favorite activities in order to drink.
  • Having friends or family who are concerned about your alcohol use.
  • Feeling guilty about your drinking.
  • Getting into risky situations while using alcohol.
  • Continuing to drink even though it’s causing problems with friends or family.

Is it time to cut back or quit?

If you want to try to drink less, these tips may help:

Sip and switch

Take it slow — and drink water between beverages with alcohol.

Find your happy buzz elsewhere

Maybe that’s exploring a new hobby, or going on hikes or to dance classes with friends.

Reduce temptation 

If you tend to drink too much at home, keep little or no alcohol around.

Practice saying no

When offered a drink you don’t want, a polite “No thanks” works best.

Ask for support

Let those close to you know you’d like their help making a change.

Don’t go it alone

If you don’t think you can drink less on your own, talk with your doctor. There may be treatments, therapies or programs that could help. Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.

Your workplace may provide a confidential employee assistance program that can put you in touch with professional help as well.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Substance Use Disorder is a treatable disease characterized by an excessive use of alcohol or drugs. If you or a loved one needs help or support, you can:

What to do next

Keep tabs on your drinking. That’s responsible. But what counts as a drink? It depends on what’s in your glass, can or bottle. Be familiar with the portion size of a single serving of alcohol for the type of beverage as they vary considerably.


  1. As defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020. Some people should drink less than these amounts or not use alcohol at all.