Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician’s Guide

Published by
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Publication Date

Introduction

This Guideis written for primary care and mental health clinicians. It has been produced by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA),a component of the National Institutes of Health, with guidance from physicians, nurses, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, and clinical researchers.

How much is “too much”?

Drinking becomes too much when it causes or elevates the risk for alcohol-related problems or complicates the management of other health problems. According to epidemiologic research, men who drink more than 4 standard drinks in a day (or more than 14 per week) and women who drink more than 3 in a day (or more than 7 per week) are at increased risk for alcohol-related problems.

Individual responses to alcohol vary, however. Drinking at lower levels may be problematic depending on many factors, such as age, coexisting conditions, and use of medication. Because it isn’t known whether any amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, the Surgeon General urges abstinence for women who are or may become pregnant.