How Much Is Too Much? A Closer Look at Moderate Drinking

Approximately 90% of Americans have had alcohol, about 50% are reported to consume alcohol on a yearly basis, and about 50% or so consume it regularly (as in within the last month). But how many of these people are drinking too much?

Obviously, the answer to that question depends on your definition of “too much.” According to the Mayo Clinic, “too much” means more than one drink a day for a woman and two drinks a day for a man. These guidelines are flexible. However, it definitely means that more than 14 drinks a week for a man or 7 drinks a week for a woman count as drinking too much alcohol according to currently accepted standards. So how many people end up drinking “too much” in the U.S.?

You might be surprised to learn that only about 7% of Americans are heavy drinkers. The numbers increase substantially when we look at college-aged adults (as high as 50%!) but overall, the rates of heavy drinking are relatively low. Even so, we know that is this sort of heavy drinking that is most likely to lead to drinking problems in the long run. That is why at Alternatives we focus on teaching clients with drinking problems how to moderate drinking.

What is moderate drinking?

Moderate Drinking at Picnic









Many of you may have never heard about moderate drinking as a treatment goal for people with drinking problems. That’s not surprising because the goal is not offered by many treatment providers (and it’s one of the things that makes Alternatives so unique). However, more than 30 years of research have revealed that for many people with drinking problems, it’s totally possible to learn how to moderate drinking instead of completely quitting for life. Realistically, although very few treatment centers offer moderate drinking as a goal, it is the most likely outcome for those who experience drinking problems. Abstinence is rare, especially over the long term, and may not be the most desired outcome for those who can manage moderate drinking.

But back to the question of “what is moderate drinking?” Any drinking pattern that falls between a single weekly drink and the above mentioned moderate drinking limits (7 for women, 14 for men) would qualify as moderate drinking. However, when we at Alternatives teach our clients how to moderate drinking we focus less on the limits and more on reductions in drinking and the alleviation of consequences. After all, clients come to us because drinking is interfering with their life and they want to take it back. As I wrote previously: clients don’t come to treatment to stop drinking; they come to live a better life.

So if you would like to learn more about moderate drinking or see if you’re a good candidate for it, please contact us. We’re here to help.

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