Many of us usher out the old year and bring in the new one with a champagne toast, which is a fun tradition to celebrate. While there is certainly nothing wrong with a glass or two of bubbly, new recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force are advising doctors to modify their screening guidelines and start asking more questions about their patients’ alcohol consumption.
How Much Is Too Much?
It can be difficult for some to determine if they fall within the range of normal when it comes to alcohol consumption. Individual tolerances can vary based on factors including sex, weight, age, how much food you’ve had that day, and environmental factors. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines three different categories for how to evaluate if you’re drinking too much. These three categories include low-risk drinking, heavy alcohol use, and binge drinking
Low-Risk Drinking: only 2% of people who fall into the category of low-risk drinking are shown to have a tendency for developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The qualifications for this category include no more than 3 drinks in a day and no more than 7 in a week for women. Men shouldn’t have more than 4 drinks in a day, with a limit of 14 in a week.
Heavy Alcohol Use: Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking on 5 or more days in a month.
Binge Drinking: Binge drinking has 2 different categorizations, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as well as the number of drinks per day. It’s defined as drinking 5 or more alcoholic beverages for men or 4 or more for women, within the same occasion on at least one day per month. The BAC needs to reach 0.08 g/dL in order to fit into that qualification, which typically occurs when the max number of drinks is reached within 2 hours.
What is “A Drink”?
One important factor to understand when determining how much alcohol you’re actually consuming is to know how much alcohol is considered a standard drink. A standard alcoholic drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. This amount can be found in a 12 oz beer, 8-9 oz of malt liquor, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of spirits. So when you’re reaching for that glass of wine, you should consider that the large glass you’re served at a restaurant may actually contain more than one drink.
What Are The New Guidelines?
Recommendations for doctors haven’t changed significantly since established by the United States Preventive Services Task Force in 1996, which was when the last recommendations were drafted. The screening recommendations suggest that doctors should ask a series of questions about alcohol use in adults 18 and older, including for women during pregnancy. No evidence has shown that there is a benefit to screening patients under age 18. These questions should focus on both the frequency of drinking, actual drinks consumed, as well as recommendations for how to approach evident drinking problems when they arise.
How Does Alcohol Affect My Health?
Alcohol consumption, especially heavy use or binge drinking, can pose health risks throughout your body. It’s been shown to damage the heart, liver, pancreas, immune system, and is even associated with various types of cancer. Additionally, if you’re currently of childbearing age and are planning to become pregnant, are currently pregnant, or are nursing, you have to consider more than just your own body. All alcohol consumed by a pregnant or nursing mother can affect the baby as well.
Next time you visit The Woman’s Clinic for your annual exam or for a pre- or postnatal appointment, make sure to discuss your alcohol consumption with your doctor. You may find that it can change your life in a positive manner.