If you’re like a lot of people, you enjoy an occasional glass of wine or beer. Or, perhaps it’s not that occasional – you may like to have a glass of wine (or two) each night while you cook dinner or a nice cold beer when you get home from work and tune in to your favorite TV shows.
You don’t consider yourself a heavy drinker, but you cringe a little every time you have to answer the question, “How many alcoholic drinks do you consume each week?” on your doctor’s medical questionnaire. Suddenly you’re thinking, “Is 7 to 10 drinks a week, sometimes more too much?” What do the experts have to say?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, “If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.” So, what qualifies as binge drinking?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says that a person engages in binge drinking when they have adopted a pattern of drinking where their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08% (the legal limit). So, for an individual to reach a .08% BAC, it usually means four alcoholic drinks for women and five drinks for men.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) seems to be on the same page as the NIAA. The SAMHSA clearly defines binge drinking as four (or more) alcoholic drinks for women, and five (or more) alcoholic drinks for men during a single occasion.
What counts as a single occasion? It refers to drinking four or five (or more) alcoholic beverages at the same time (back-to-back), within a few short hours of each other, or on one or more days in the last 30 days.
Examples of ‘Binge’ Drinking
Some people drink on a daily basis; for example, they’ll drink two or three drinks after they get home from work, and then they’ll drink five or six drinks on Friday and Saturday evenings. Others, drink occasionally, but they’ll go hog wild on the weekends and drink five or more drinks on Fridays and Saturday nights when they hit the bars, nightclubs, or friends’ house parties. Regardless if someone has one or two drinks or five, they should not operate heavy machinery and this especially means motor vehicles.
According to the NIAAA, “Certain people should avoid alcohol completely.” The organization goes on to say that this includes people who plan to drive, people who are on medications that interact with alcohol, and those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.