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Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

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The Basics

If you choose to drink, have only a limited (or moderate) amount. This means:

  • No more than 1 drink a day for women
  • No more than 2 drinks a day for men

One drink is a:

  • Bottle of beer (12 ounces)
  • Glass of wine (5 ounces)
  • Shot of liquor (1.5 ounces)

For most adults, moderate drinking doesn’t cause any serious health problems.

How can I tell if I’m at risk for a drinking problem?
Use this tool to see if your drinking habits put you at risk. If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting down or quitting.

If you have a problem, it’s important to see a doctor right away.

How will drinking less or quitting help me?
Drinking in moderation or not drinking at all can help you:

Who needs to avoid drinking completely?
Don’t drink at all if you:

Take Action!

Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking. Remember, try to limit your drinking to:

  • No more than 1 drink a day for women
  • No more than 2 drinks a day for men

Keep track of your drinking.
First, set a drinking limit. For example, you may decide to have no more than 3 drinks per week.

  • Step 1: Write down your drinking limit on a piece of paper.
  • Step 2: Keep track of your drinking. Write down every time you have a drink for 1 week. This drinking tracker card can help.

Take a day off from drinking.
Choose a day each week (for example, Tuesday) when you will not drink.

Don’t drink when you are upset.
If you have a bad day or are feeling angry, don’t reach for a drink. Try taking a walk, calling a friend, or seeing a movie. Find healthy ways to manage stress.

Avoid places where people drink too much.
Stay away from bars and other places that make you want to drink.

Learn new skills to help you change your drinking habits.
Planning ahead can help you manage situations when you might be tempted to drink too much. Plan ahead of time how you will say “no” if someone offers you a drink. Practice these strategies to handle an urge to drink.

Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home.
This way you won’t be tempted to go over the drinking limit you set for yourself.

Make a list of reasons not to drink.
Make a list of reasons to reduce your drinking. Keep this list in your wallet, bag, or on your fridge. Refer to it when you have the urge to drink.

Get your blood pressure checked.
Heavy drinking can raise your blood pressure.

Ask for help if you need it.
Ask your friends and family to support you. Talk to a doctor or nurse if you are having a hard time cutting down on your drinking. Don’t give up!

What about cost?
Screening and counseling for alcohol misuse are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Are you worried about a loved one’s drinking?
Use these tips to talk with someone about cutting back or quitting drinking.

Learn how drinking may affect your blood pressure.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: August 22, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133