What counts as a heavy drinker?
Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published some interesting statistics related to heavy drinking. They are noteworthy because most people think it takes a lot more alcohol to be classified as a heavy drinking person.
For instance, CNN (cnn.com) recently interviewed a man who guessed that 25-30 drinks a week qualified as heavy drinking and questioned a woman who said that consuming 15-20 drinks a week would make one a heavy drinker. Both of these individuals were shocked to find how much they had overestimated the number. The CDC statistic however indicates that both of these individuals are incorrect. In fact, women are considered heavy drinkers if they have 8 or more drinks a week, while men can have up to 14 before they are considered a heavy drinker. So, according to the CDC study, if a woman drinks 8 or more drinks per week and if a man drinks 15 or more drinks per week, they are considered heavy drinkers.
If you’re wondering why the numbers are different, the answer is that women and typically smaller than men and metabolize less alcohol in the stomach, meaning more ends up in their blood stream.
The definition is different for women because women’s bodies are typically smaller than men’s. They also metabolize less alcohol in the stomach, meaning more ends up in their blood stream. Further, the CDC reports what a standard drink is in the U.S.:
“A standard drink is equal to 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in
- 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
- 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
- 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).” (cdc.gov)
Chronic heavy drinking can lead to anemia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, dementia, depression, high blood pressure, nerve damage, infectious disease, gout, seizures, and pancreatitis.