If you drink alcohol, health care providers advise limiting how much you drink. This is called drinking in moderation, or responsible drinking.
Definition of 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.
Tips of Drinking Responsibly
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 alcohol use runs in your family, you may be at a higher risk of having an alcohol problem 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:
- Reduced risk of heart disease or a heart attack
- Reduced risk of strokes
- Lower risk of gallstones
- Lower risk of diabetes
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider 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 have tried.
Alcohol use disorder - responsible drinking; Drinking alcohol responsibly; Drinking in moderation; Alcoholism - responsible drinking
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Fact sheets: alcohol use and your health. www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm. Updated December 30, 2019. Accessed January 23, 2020.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Alcohol & your health. www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health. Accessed January 23, 2020.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Alcohol use disorder. www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders. Accessed January 23, 2020.
O'Connor PG. Alcohol use disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.
Sherin K, Seikel S, Hale S. Alcohol use disorders. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 48.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and behavioral counseling interventions to reduce unhealthy alcohol use in adolescents and adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2018;320(18):1899-1909. PMID: 30422199 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30422199/.
Review Date 1/23/2020
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.