How Much Alcohol is Too Much


If a little alcohol can be good for you and a lot of alcohol is bad for you, how much alcohol is too much?  The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has some guidelines on the how much alcohol is too much question.  The NIAAA describes moderate drinking as 2 drinks of alcohol for men and 1 drink of alcohol for women.  The NIAAA also points out that as little as 2 drinks for men and 1 drink for a woman can be too much.  Here are some examples:

  • if you are planning to drive a vehicle or operate machinery
  • if you take medication that can interact with alcohol
  • if you have a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking
  • if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Other times you may not want to drink alcohol might include

  • before going to a job interview
  • prior to meeting your girlfriends parents
  • etc., etc., etc.
  • applying common sense when using this list

The NIAAA describes “low risk” drinking as:

  • 4 drinks per day for a man
  • 3 drinks per day for a woman


  • 14 drinks per week for a man
  • 7 drinks per week for a woman


Anything in excess of these limits is considered heavy or at risk drinking levels. For instance, saving all your drinks for one night and drinking all 14 at once is risky behavior.

Also, binge drinking for men occurs when they have 5 or more drinks in about a 2 hour period and they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more.  Binge drinking for women occurs after 4 drinks in about a 2 hour period and they have a BAC of 0.08 or more.

Spending 2 hours having beers with your buddies after work is OK but if you have 5 beers it is binge drinking.  Binge drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder and it can cause fatty liver and other problems, including a drinking and driving ticket.

How Much Alcohol is Too Much

One factor that seems to be missing is weight.  What if you are big and weigh more than average people.  A bigger body means a lower BAC  than a short skinny person who has had an equal quantity of beer/drinks because size and weight dilute the amount of alcohol in the body.

See National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s pamphlet on Rethinking Drinking for more on how much alcohol is too much

Also see:
Binge Drinking Facts
Neuroplasticity and Addiction
Home: Do I Have A Drinking Problem