HomeAbuseAre Average Drinking Guidelines Set Too High?

Are Average Drinking Guidelines Set Too High?

Written By: Harris House

Category: Abuse, Addiction, Brain

Think you’re safe by sticking with the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption? Think again. According to recently published research, the current thresholds for lowest risk pertaining to alcohol use may be too high. In fact, researchers are suggesting that thresholds for safer alcohol should potentially be lowered. Here’s a closer look at the data, along with what it means for people who use alcohol.

Person holding three glasses of wine in one hand and another in the other hand.

How much is too much? The answer may be lower than you think.

Evaluating the Current Thresholds

While many different countries have set forth guidelines for safe alcohol usage, the reality is that determining these figures is a complex process. Factor in that there are a number of different detrimental health outcomes associated with alcohol use, including everything from physical problems like liver cirrhosis and cardiovascular disease to mental health issues like dementia and depression. Even more alarming? While some research has indicated that moderate alcohol consumption can lead to health benefits, others suggest that this may not actually be the case.

Currently, the recommended alcohol guidelines in the US limit alcohol intake to approximately 11 glasses of wine or pints of beer per week (for men) adding up to 196 grams. However, research suggests that the threshold for lowest risk for mortality attributable to alcohol consumption closer to five or six drinks a week — or approximately 100 grams of alcohol. By keep alcohol intake below the 100 gram per week threshold, researchers posit that drinkers could increase their life expectancy by as much as two years!

Study co-author Dr. Dan G. Blazer II, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University, concluded in a statement:

“This study has shown that drinking alcohol at levels which were believed to be safe is actually linked with lower life expectancy.” 

So what’s preventing these more appropriate guidelines from being implemented? Say the researchers, “The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol.” In other words, factors unrelated to health — such as lobbying from within the alcohol industry — are directly (and detrimentally) influencing the guidelines.

Why It Matters

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) as reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, roughly 15.1 million American adults are living with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Furthermore, approximately 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related causes. Given the advice about “safe” drinking, it’s particularly important to correct misinformation on the topic.

Talke with bottle turned on its side and a person with a glass of amber liquid.

Is this drink taking years off your life? Researchers say it may be.

For starters, guidelines are just guidelines. Alcohol impacts different people differently, with genetics and environment both playing a role. Therefore, what’s “safe” for one person may not be “safe” for someone else. And even if you do fall within the guidelines and don’t feel like you have a drinking problem, you may be doing your long-term health and wellness a serious disservice by continuing to imbibe. The key takeaway, according to lead study author Dr. Angela Wood? “If you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions.”

All of this begs the question: What if the degree to which you drink is outside of your control? Cutting back by getting the help you need may mean the difference between life and death.  Contact us at Harris House today to learn more about how our substance abuse treatment programs have been helping people gain control of their addictions in order to enjoy healthier, happier, and longer lives.