Alcohol Drinking Levels

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What does moderate drinking mean?

There is no one definition of moderate drinking, but generally the term is used to describe a lower-risk pattern of drinking. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, drinking in moderation is defined as having no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.

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Is it safe to drink alcohol and drive?

No. Alcohol use slows reaction time and impairs judgment and coordination, which are all skills needed to drive a car safely. The more alcohol consumed, the greater the impairment.

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What does it mean to be above the legal limit for drinking?

The legal limit for drinking is the alcohol level above which an individual is subject to legal penalties (e.g., arrest or loss of a driver's license).

  • Legal limits are measured using either a blood alcohol test or a breathalyzer.
  • Legal limits are typically defined by state law, and may vary based on individual characteristics, such as age and occupation.

All states in the United States have adopted 0.08% (80 mg/dL) as the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle for drivers aged 21 years or older. However, drivers younger than 21 are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle with any level of alcohol in their system.

Note: Legal limits do not define a level below which it is safe to operate a vehicle or engage in some other activity. Impairment due to alcohol use begins to occur at levels well below the legal limit.

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How do I know if it's okay to drink?

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that if you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do not exceed 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men. According to the guidelines, people who should not drink alcoholic beverages at all include the following:

  • Children and adolescents.
  • Individuals of any age who cannot limit their drinking to low level.
  • Women who may become pregnant or who are pregnant.
  • Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination.
  • Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Individuals with certain medical conditions.
  • Persons recovering from alcoholism.

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Is beer or wine safer to drink than liquor?

No. One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. It is the amount of alcohol consumed that affects a person most, not the type of alcoholic drink.

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What are caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs)?

Caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs) are premixed beverages that combine alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants. They may be malt- or distilled spirits-based and usually have higher alcohol content than beer (e.g., 5%–12% on average for CABs compared to 4%–5% for beer). The caffeine content in these beverages is usually not reported.