Summer Drinking — How Much is Too Much?

how much is too muchA cold beer on a hot beach, a chilled white wine on a front porch or an icy margarita at a backyard party … all things I really look forward to. With less driving, more socializing and fewer responsibilities, many of us get our drink on during the summer months. I am over 21. I see nothing wrong taking a break from the stress of the every day with an alcoholic beverage … or two … sometimes more.

As a physician, I believe the occasional drink does more good than harm. As an Irish girl, I believe being over-served once in a while ain’t so bad. A couple of studies I’ve come across recently have me checking my intake. (Sometimes, I really hate the damn internet.)

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found heavy drinking among Americans is on the rise since 2005, largely due to women catching up to men when it comes to binge drinking. Woo hoo — girl power … oh wait, that’s not a good thing, right?

1 out of 10 deaths in adults, between the ages of 20 and 65, is related to excessive alcohol use, according to a CDC study published last year. It isn’t only fatal because of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Excessive alcohol intake contributes to high blood pressure, stroke and breast cancer. Additionally, falls and accidents account for a large percentage of these deaths. I really don’t want people at my funeral saying I shouldn’t have hit the bottle quite so hard. I want them to say, “Geez, we thought she’d never kick it, the old bat.”

Just because you aren’t an alcoholic doesn’t mean your drinking isn’t excessive. 90% of excessive drinkers do not meet the criteria for alcoholism, but probably do meet the criteria for ill health effects and acting like a jackass once in a while.

How much do you need to be drinking to qualify as excessive? Not as much as you may think. If you are man (and this really gets my goat) you can drink about 14 drinks a week and pat yourself on the back for your skills in moderation. If you are a woman, you can only drink about 7-8 drinks a week before you tip the scale into excessive. (Don’t tell anyone, but I’m pretty sure I had almost that many on my last big night out.)

I know, I know. Total buzz kill, but as I’ve already added worry and guilt to my summer fun, I thought I might as well do the same to yours. My misery needs some company.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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