YOU HAVE PROBABLY HEARD THAT, IF YOU CONSUME alcohol, you should cap it at seven (for women) to 14 (for men) standard drinks weekly. The descriptor light-to-moderate drinker comes to mind regarding such individuals.
But is moderate alcohol consumption okay, or does the drinking pattern matter? Can you be a weekend consumer of alcohol, drinking four drinks on Saturday and three on Sunday, and still call yourself a light or moderate drinker?
“I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Alcohol problems among moderate drinkers
In their provocative recent report, researchers observe that “a significant amount of binge drinking among adults escapes public health scrutiny” because it occurs among people who drink at a moderate average level.
A new observational study looks at a binge drinking pattern in predicting alcohol problems among moderate drinkers in the United States.
Is moderate alcohol consumption safe, regardless of the drinking pattern? Researchers examined over 1,200 current drinkers enrolled in the study of Midlife Development in the United States.
Here are the study results:
Independent of the average amount of alcohol consumption, binge drinking appeared to be associated with an almost 3-fold increase in the number of alcohol-related problems and a 40 percent increase in the number of alcohol problems nine years later.
Interestingly, moderate average drinkers accounted for most cases of binge drinking and multiple alcohol problems. Among this group, binge drinking appeared to be linked to a nearly five-times increase in concurrent multiple alcohol problems.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defined moderate drinking as an average of no more than one drink daily for women and two for me. High drinking is an average of more than one drink for women and more than two for men.
A separate question separated a regular versus binge drinking pattern on one occasion. Researchers asked the subjects: Considering all alcoholic beverage types, how many times during the past month did you have five or more drinks on the same occasion? The scientists defined binge drinking as five or more drinks on the same occasion.
Alcohol problems and moderate drinkers: My take
Moderate average-level drinkers accounted for the majority of cases of binge drinking and multiple alcohol problems. Note that the findings represent correlation and do not establish causality. As the study participants self-reported data, there may have been recall bias.
The surveys defined binge drinking as five or more drinks on occasion for both men and women. Today, binge drinking in women is more commonly defined as four or more drinks on a single occasion; thus, the study findings may have underreported binge drinking in women.
Moderate drinkers need to be aware that they can cross into binge drinking. Everything in moderation, as we have all heard. Thank you.