Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Responsible drinking

If you drink alcohol, doctors advise limiting how much you drink. This is called drinking in moderation, or responsible drinking.

Responsible drinking means more than just limiting yourself to a certain number of drinks. It also means not getting drunk and not letting alcohol control your life or your relationships.

Alternative names

Alcohol use disorder - responsible drinking; Drinking alcohol responsibly; Drinking in moderation

What you need to know

The tips in this article are for people who:

  • Do not have a drinking problem, now or in the past
  • Are old enough to drink legally
  • Are not pregnant

Healthy men, up to age 65, should limit themselves to:

  • No more than 4 drinks a day
  • No more than 14 drinks a week

Healthy women of all ages and healthy men over age 65 should limit themselves to:

  • No more than 3 drinks a day
  • No more than 7 drinks a week

Other habits that will help you be a responsible drinker include:

  • Never drinking alcohol and driving.
  • Having a designated driver if you are going to drink. This means riding with someone in your group who has not been drinking, or taking a taxi or bus.
  • Not drinking on an empty stomach. Have a snack or meal before you drink and while you are drinking.

If you take any medicines, including ones you bought without a prescription, check with your doctor before you drink. Alcohol can affect the way your body uses some drugs. A drug may not work correctly, or it could be dangerous or make you sick if combined with alcohol.

If alcoholism runs in your family, you may be at a higher risk of becoming an alcoholic yourself. Not drinking at all might be best for you.

Can responsible drinking improve your health?

Many people drink now and then. You may have heard about some health benefits from moderate drinking. Some of these benefits have been proven more than others. But none of them should be used as a reason for drinking.

Some of the possible benefits of moderate drinking that have been studied are:

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • You are concerned about your own drinking or a family member's drinking.
  • You would like more information about alcohol use or support groups for problem drinking.
  • You are unable to drink less or stop drinking, even though you've tried.

References

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol use disorder: a comparison between DSM-IV and DSM-5. November 2013. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/dsmfactsheet/dsmfact.pdf. Accessed on May 11, 2014.

O'Connor PG. Alcohol abuse and dependence. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 32.

Sherin K, Seikel S. Alcohol use disorders. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 49.

Updated: 5/11/2014

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com