Am I Drinking Too Much?

It’s common for adults of legal drinking age to use alcohol as a way to wind down after a long day or have fun with friends. Many of us enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, a happy hour beer or a cocktail at a party. But how much is too much?

What’s a “standard” drink size, and what’s considered “drinking in moderation”?

First off – let’s define a standard drink size. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), standard drink sizes include:

  • 12 ounces of 5% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) beer
  • Eight ounces of 7% ABV malt liquor
  • Five ounces of 12% ABV wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 40% (80 proof) ABV distilled spirits (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, etc.)

So, how many of those drinks are considered a “moderate” amount? In the CDC’s “Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol,” it defines drinking in moderation as one drink or less in a day for women and two drinks or less in a day for men (on days when alcohol is consumed).

Take a Look at Your Habits

“First, just be aware and mindful of how much you’re drinking. Sometimes we tend to minimize the amount when we think about it, and it can be easy to lose track when drinking in a social setting,” said Terri Hamblen, a program manager for the adult outpatient program at WellPower. “There’s a growing trend called ‘mindful drinking,’ where you actively track and manage how much you drink – similar to counting calories or counting steps.”

According to, there are four general categories of drinkers. And although alcohol affects everyone differently, you might relate to one:

  1. Social Drinkers: Consume alcohol occasionally and mainly in social settings
  2. Heavy Drinkers: Frequently consume alcohol in large quantities beyond the recommended guidelines
  3. Problem Drinkers: Have a problematic relationship with alcohol and continue to drink despite it causing recurrent issues
  4. Alcohol Dependent Drinkers: Depend on the effects of alcohol both physically and psychologically

Signs that there might be a problem

When looking at your drinking habits, you might notice some common trends in your behavior. And those can shed light on whether your drinking has become excessive or not. Here are some signs that it might be time to cut back or get some support:

  • You’re drinking more than you planned.
  • You’re spending a lot of time drinking.
  • Your tolerance has gone up. You have to drink more to get the same feeling you once did from alcohol.
  • You’re dropping the ball on responsibilities in your life.
  • Your drinking habits are causing some friction in your relationships.
  • You put yourself in risky situations or make poor decisions.
  • You give up other activities to drink.
  • Your alcohol intake is causing health problems.
  • You’ve gotten into legal trouble.
  • You have withdrawal as alcohol wears off.
  • You want to stop, but you can’t or you’re having a hard time cutting down your alcohol consumption.

“Drinking alcohol can seem somewhat effective in the short term, but it has long-term consequences,” Terri said. “Alcohol is a depressant, so it decreases serotonin in the brain and can increase depression and anxiety in the long run.”

I think I might be drinking too much – what should I do?

If you’re thinking of cutting down after you’ve taken a look at your habits, you can start with something simple: If you’re at a bar, or other social setting, and you think of getting another drink, wait 20 minutes and see if your craving passes. Maybe you order a nonalcoholic drink or a mocktail instead.

“Not drinking alcohol is becoming a bigger thing in the media and our culture. It’s becoming a lot more socially acceptable not to drink or to be ‘sober curious,’” Terri said. “A lot of the beer, wine and alcohol makers are taking note of that and offering more nonalcoholic products.”

One of the most important things is to know why you’re drinking, as well as why you want to cut down or stop.

“Know what your motivation is – why do you want to stop? Sometimes letting family and friends know you’re trying to stop can help with accountability and support,” Terri said.

Resources to help

There are many professional resources available if you feel like you’re drinking too much: