Okay, so we know moderate drinking is defined as one or two drinks per day, let’s get into exactly how much drinking is too much. The NIAAA considers high-risk, or excessive, drinking a pattern that includes having four or more drinks a day or more than eight drinks a week for women. For men, the numbers are five or more drinks a day and 15 or more drinks in a week. Binge drinking (also considered excessive) involves four to five drinks (or more) within two hours. And then there’s something called heavy alcohol use, which is defined as binge drinking during five or more days in the past month
Comparing these numbers to your daily and weekly habits might be jarring—I get it. Maybe your usual coping strategies are limited (going outside might be a challenge, and human contact might not be possible), maybe you have a lot of free time and a newfound love of frozen cocktails, or maybe the weird phenomenon of drinking on Zoom parties has left you drunk more than a few times. There are a lot of reasons your drinking might’ve spiked during this pandemic, but it is worth noting that heavy drinking patterns do put you at risk for alcohol use disorder. So if you’re concerned about the amount of alcohol you’re drinking, don’t automatically assume that you’re overreacting.
It’s also completely reasonable to reassess your relationship with alcohol even if you don’t meet the criteria for high-risk drinking. There’s obviously a gap between what’s considered moderate drinking and what’s considered excessive drinking, so any amount of drinking that feels unhealthy or concerning to you is worth looking into
This could mean taking a real, honest look at how much you’re drinking throughout the week and being more mindful of why you’re drinking more, how you feel afterward, and how it’s affecting various areas of your life. I recommend setting goals and limits for how much you’ll drink, measuring your alcohol before you drink it, and coming up with a plan to resist over-drinking. This might include calling a friend that you can talk to about your decision not to drink, finding substitute activities, or making a pro’s and con’s list you can reference when the urge hits you.
And if you need an item for your pros-and-cons list, here’s a freebie: – Drinking too much and too often can weaken your immune system, which could be a serious problem if you were to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus. So it’s probably wise to diversify your at-home leisure activities and find something to do in the evenings that’s not going to compromise your health if you are exposed to the virus.