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If you need alcohol treatment while practicing physical distancing, there are several professionally led treatment and mutual-support group options available to you.

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Questions & answers

  • Why is being able to "hold your liquor" a concern?

    For some people, it takes quite a few drinks to get a buzz or feel relaxed. Often they are unaware that being able to "hold your liquor" isn't protection from alcohol problems, but instead a reason for caution. They tend to drink more, socialize with people who drink a lot, and develop a tolerance to alcohol. As a result, they have an increased risk for developing alcohol use disorder. The higher alcohol levels can also harm the liver, heart, and brain without the person drinking noticing until it's too late. And all people who drink need to be aware that critical decision–making abilities and driving–related skills are already diminished long before a person shows physical signs of intoxication.

  • Why do women face higher risks?

    Studies show that women start to have alcohol-related problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men do and for multiple reasons. On average, women weigh less than men. Also, alcohol resides predominantly in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men.

    This means that after a woman and a man of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC, the amount of alcohol in the blood) will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm. Other biological differences may contribute as well.

  • What medications interact harmfully with alcohol?

    Some medicines that you might never have suspected can react with alcohol, including many that can be purchased "over the counter" without a prescription. Even some herbal remedies don't mix well with alcohol. The pamphlet Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines lists medications that can cause harm when taken with alcohol and describes the effects that can result. It does not include all possible medicines that may interact with alcohol, however. Protect yourself by avoiding alcohol if you are taking a medication and don't know its effect, or talk to your pharmacist or other health care provider.

  • Can I do anything to protect my liver from the effects of too much alcohol?

    There is no scientific evidence that anything will prevent liver damage from too much alcohol. Liver damage from alcohol misuse happens in stages. Some relatively mild damage may happen after a single binge drinking episode, but this reverses itself if the heavy alcohol use stops. If heavy drinking continues, however, liver damage can progress to several more advanced stages, including cirrhosis, and reversal of liver damage becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. In advanced stages, the only treatment is liver transplant. The best way to avoid damaging your liver is by not misusing alcohol, if you choose to drink. If you already have liver damage, stopping drinking could prevent progression to more serious liver disease. Even the standard recommended dose of acetaminophen can increase the risk of liver damage, particularly among people who drink heavily. For more information, see this report on alcohol-related liver disease and this advisory on acetaminophen and liver injury.

  • I am considering cutting down or quitting drinking. How do I begin?

    The first step, of course, is to decide whether cutting down or quitting is best for you. See these considerations and discuss different options with a doctor, a friend, or someone else you trust.

    Thinking about cutting back? Here are some tips to try, small changes that can make a big difference. Choose two or three to try in the next week or two. It may help to have reminders to reinforce your decision to make a change, such as automated smartphone alerts that you send yourself.

    Thinking about quitting? One size doesn’t fit all, and it’s important to find options that appeal to you. Start by visiting the choose your approach page. Here you’ll find links to self-help strategies, a helpful publication about treatment options, and information about professional help and social support.

    Changing habits such as smoking, overeating, or drinking too much can take a lot of effort, and you may not succeed with the first try. Setbacks are common, but you learn more each time. Each try brings you closer to your goal. Whatever course you choose, give it a fair trial.

  • I’ve decided to cut back on my drinking and I may even quit. How can I get people to stop pressuring me to drink?

    Anyone who is cutting back or quitting drinking is likely to be offered a drink at times when it’s unwanted. Rethinking Drinking has a module or “mini-guide” to help you build resistance skills and stay in control. You’ll learn how to recognize the types of pressure to drink, avoid pressure, and cope with situations you can’t avoid.

    As an example, here’s one tip: Have a polite, convincing "no, thanks" ready. The faster you can say no to drink offers, the less likely you are to give in. If you hesitate, it allows you time to think of excuses to go along. See the module for more insights and suggestions, including a worksheet where you can script your ‘no’ to practice for a situation in which the pressure persists.

    If you worry about how others will react or view you if you make a change, challenge these thoughts by remembering that it's your life and your choice, and that your decision should be respected.

  • What treatments are available for someone with an alcohol problem?

    People commonly think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehabilitation as the only options for treating alcohol problems. Other choices are available, however. It’s a good idea to start by talking with a primary care doctor to put together an individualized treatment plan. A treatment plan can include:

    • Behavioral treatments. Counseling led by a health professional aims to change drinking behavior. Types of counseling include cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and marital and family counseling. It’s important to choose an approach that avoids heavy-handed confrontation, incorporates empathy, and increases motivation while focusing on changing drinking behavior.
    • Medications. Three medications are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol dependence. These medications help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. All approved medications are non-addictive, and can be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment.
    • Mutual-support groups. People who are quitting or cutting back on their drinking may also find peer support through organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other mutual support groups.

    The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator® is an online tool that helps focus the search for alcohol treatment to find options that increase the chance for success. The Navigator helps people learn about different types of alcohol treatment options and how to spot quality treatment, as well as linking to databases of providers and recommending questions to ask them. You can also find a summary of treatment options in the NIAAA publication Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help. The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with an alcohol problem can benefit from some form of treatment.

. Although we are unable to provide a personal response on this page, we will post answers to questions of general public interest.

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Is your "lite" beer light in alcohol?

Not necessarily. Although they have fewer calories, many light beers have almost as much alcohol as regular beer—about 85% as much, or 4.2% versus 5.0% alcohol by volume, on average.

Check the alcohol content of your beverage. Malt beverages are not required to list their alcohol content on the labels, so you may need to visit the bottler's Web site.

See What's a standard drink?

How many "drinks" are in a bottle of wine?

A typical 25-ounce (750 ml) bottle of table wine holds about 5 "standard" drinks, each containing about 5 ounces. This serving size of wine contains about the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce regular beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

Get to know what 5 ounces looks like by measuring it out at home. That way you can estimate how many standard drinks you're being served in a restaurant or bar that uses large glasses and generous serving sizes.

See What's a standard drink?

Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, a loss of coordination, internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. Alcohol can also make a medication less effective. For more information, see Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines.

Examples of medical conditions for which it's safest to avoid drinking include liver disease (such as from hepatitis C), bipolar disorder, abnormal heart rhythm, and chronic pain.

Among the dangers of underage drinking:

Even moderate amounts of alcohol can significantly impair driving performance and your ability to operate other machinery, whether or not you feel the effects of alcohol.

Heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause brain damage and other serious problems in the baby. Because it is not yet known whether any amount of alcohol is safe for a developing baby, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not drink.

Highest risk

About 50% of people who drink in this group have alcohol use disorder.

Increased risk

This "increased risk" category contains three different drinking pattern groups. Overall, nearly 20% of people who drink in this category have alcohol use disorder.

Low-risk drinking

Only about 2% of drinkers in this group has alcohol use disorder.

A U.S. standard drink contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol (also known as an alcoholic drink-equivalent). That's the amount in 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of table wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Low risk drinking levels - On any single day: Men, no more than 4 drinks on any day. Women, no more than 3 drinks on any day. Per week: Men, no more than 14 drinks per week. Women no more than 7 drinks per week.

Distilled spirits include vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, and tequila.

Light to moderate drinking

Heavy or at-risk drinking

Low-risk drinking

Men: No more than 4 drinks on any day and no more than 14 per week

Women: No more than 3 drinks on any day and no more than 7 per week

People with a parent, grandparent, or other close relative with alcoholism have a higher risk for becoming dependent on alcohol. For many, it may be difficult to maintain low-risk drinking habits.

Pace yourself: It's best to have no more than one standard drink per hour, with nonalcoholic "drink spacers" between alcohol beverages. On any day, stay within low-risk levels of no more than 4 drinks for men or 3 for women. Note that it takes about 2 hours for the adult body to completely break down a single drink. Do not drive after drinking.

For comparison, regular beer is 5% alcohol by volume (alc/vol), table wine is about 12% alc/vol, and straight 80-proof distilled spirits is 40% alc/vol.

The percent alcohol by volume (alc/vol) for distilled spirits is listed on bottle labels and may be found online as well. It is half the "proof," such that 80-proof spirits is 40% alc/vol.

Convert proof to alc/vol

Enter in the proof of the alcohol in the left field to automatically calculate the alc/vol.


Convert to fluid ounces

Enter in the measurement in milliliters in the left field to automatically calculate the amount in fluid ounces.