How Many Drinks Per Week is Considered Too Many?
Alcohol is a large part of the United States’ culture. The majority of American adults consume alcohol from time to time. 59.1 percent of men aged 18 or older and 51.0 percent of women in this age group reported that they drank in the past month. Whether it is a cocktail at happy hour after work, champagne to toast an achievement, or beer at a baseball game, alcohol is present during many occasions and events.
While many people can have a healthy relationship with alcohol, some struggle to manage their drinking. According to the National Institute of Health, about 26% of adults in the United States reported at least one episode of binge drinking in the past month. About 6% reported heavy drinking in the previous month.
It is crucial to understand how much alcohol is considered too much and what to do if you are drinking too much. The first step for some might be keeping track of your drinks per week. Once you have an idea of how much you are really drinking, you may realize that you are drinking too much and need help to get back on track.
For more information on starting treatment, reach out to the specialists at New Jersey Addiction Interventions today.
How Many Drinks Per Week is Too Many?
According to the CDC, people can drink alcohol in moderation without severe consequences to their well-being. For men, moderate drinking means two drinks or fewer and one or fewer for women per day.
A drink is defined as:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, such as whiskey, rum, or vodka
- 5 ounces of wine
Heavy drinking is a form of alcohol abuse. The CDC defines heavy drinking as consuming more than 14 drinks in a week for men and more than 7 for women.
Why Can Men Have More Drinks Per Week Than Women?
Women and men absorb and metabolize alcohol differently. For example, women tend to have less water weight and a higher liver-to-body-mass ratio, so they can reach peak blood alcohol levels with fewer drinks than men. Women also break down alcohol at a faster rate, so their weekly alcohol intake limit is lower than men’s.
Other factors that influence how quickly the body processes alcohol include:
- Body weight – Individuals who weigh less may get drunk faster.
- Prescription medications – Some medications can affect how the body metabolizes alcohol.
- Eating before or during drinking – Having food in the stomach can slow down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed.
The Dangers of Drinking Too Much
Drinking too much alcohol can harm your short and long-term health and wellbeing. First, alcohol abuse may lead to immediate harm from accidents, injuries, or fights that happen because you are intoxicated. Alcohol suppresses the central nervous system (CNS). Drinking too much alcohol can lead to slowed respiration, loss of consciousness, or coma.
Over time, drinking too much may affect your long-term health. Prolonged or heavy alcohol use may increase your likelihood of developing liver and heart disease, brain damage, and certain cancers.
In addition to the physical and mental damage drinking too much can cause, heavy drinking is often responsible for relationship strain. It makes it more likely a person will become involved in social, financial, or legal trouble.
When someone who has been drinking too much suddenly stops, they may experience uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
Symptoms can begin as soon as six hours after your last drink. Some people develop dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including overheating, seizures, fever, hallucinations, and delusions. During withdrawal, cravings may be intense.
A small number of people will develop a life-threatening condition called Delirium Tremens (DTs) during withdrawal. This rare condition causes troubling delusions and hallucinations, fever, or seizures. While some risk factors make it more likely someone will develop Delirium Tremens, it is impossible to determine who will develop this condition before withdrawal begins.
If you or someone you love is drinking too much, you must seek immediate treatment to avoid the worst consequences of alcohol abuse.
Signs Someone is Drinking Too Much
Someone may develop an addiction after drinking too many drinks per week for a prolonged period. Signs of alcohol dependence and addiction include:
- Drinking more than planned
- Needing to drink more to get the same effect
- Continuing to drink despite negative consequences
- Changes in mood, sleep, or appetite
- Falling behind at work, school, or in responsibilities at home
- Legal or financial difficulties
- Lying, being secretive, or hiding their drinking
- Developing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
People who drink heavily often require medically supervised detox and alcohol abuse treatment to learn how to live a healthy, sober lifestyle.
What Should I Do if I’m Drinking Too Much?
If you are drinking too many drinks per week and find it difficult to stop on your own, or if you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking, you must seek treatment.
Everyone who struggles with alcohol addiction has their own experience and needs. Because of this, treatment facilities often offer a variety of treatment programs at different levels of care. Before beginning treatment, a doctor or addiction specialist will perform an evaluation that helps the staff tailor a treatment program to meet each person’s needs.
Generally, addiction treatment programs include:
- Group support
- Individual therapy
- Family therapy
- Holistic therapies
- Aftercare planning
During treatment, people will begin to identify the underlying causes of their addiction, learn new coping skills to manage stress, and discover ways to stay engaged in recovery for the rest of their lives.
Find an Alcohol Rehab Center Near You
If you or a loved one are concerned about your drinking patterns, there is no harm in seeking help. Our qualified admissions counselors at New Jersey Interventions can assess your situation and help you find the right alcohol abuse treatment program for you. Contact us today to get started.
Medically Reviewed: July 27, 2022
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.