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Recent advances in treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD) have provided more choices for patients and health care professionals. In addition to the summary below, you can visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator® to learn more and search for evidence-based treatment options near you. Evidence-based AUD treatment settings come in many forms and include:

  • Outpatient—regular office, virtual, or telehealth visits for counseling, medication support, or both
  • Intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization—coordinated outpatient care for complex needs
  • Residential—low- or high-intensity programs in 24-hour treatment settings
  • Intensive inpatient—medically directed 24-hour services, and may manage withdrawal

Don't give up.

Changing unhealthy behaviors 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.

If one approach doesn't work, try something else. If a setback happens, get back on track as quickly as possible. In the long run, your chances for success are good. Research shows that most people who drink heavily, even those with AUD, can cut back significantly or quit.

The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator®

The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator™ is a one-stop resource for learning about treatment, how to recognize high-quality treatment providers, and how to search several national directories of treatment programs and specialists.

Medications to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three medications for treating AUD: naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram.

Naltrexone and acamprosate can help a person quit drinking by offsetting changes in the brain caused by AUD. Disulfiram works by causing unpleasant reactions when a person drinks while taking this medication. None of these medications is addictive. They can be combined with mutual-support groups or behavioral treatments. See Help Links for more information.

Behavioral treatments. Research has shown that behavioral treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement, marital and family counseling, or a combination of approaches, can be very effective in treating AUD.

Getting help in itself appears to be more important than the particular approach used, as long as it offers empathy, avoids heavy-handed confrontation, strengthens motivation, and provides concrete ways to change drinking behavior. Visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator® for information about finding a treatment provider, or see Help Links for a list of organizations to help you find a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other treatment professional.

Feeling depressed or anxious?

It's common for people with alcohol problems to feel depressed or anxious. Mild symptoms may go away if you cut down or stop drinking. See a doctor or mental health professional if symptoms persist or get worse. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call your health care provider or go to the nearest emergency room right away. You can call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or chat at Effective treatment is available to help you through this difficult time.

Information about depression, anxiety, and other mental health topics is available from the National Institute of Mental Health.

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 levels: Men: <= 4 drinks/day, <= 14 drinks/week. Women: <= 3 drinks/day, <= 7 drinks/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.