Low-Risk Drinking

Many would argue that no significant harm occurs with social drinking, sometimes referred to as “acceptable low-risk drinking” (Box 6.8) with the exception of drinking during pregnancy. Indeed, significant evidence suggests beneficial effects from moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly in the form of red wine to reduce the risk of heart disease (for further reading, see Movva and Figueredo, 2013).

BOX 6.8


Two different federal government definitions of acceptable low-risk drinking have been formulated:

1. US Dietary Guidelines, based on health and nutrition factors “No more than two drinks per day for a man, and no more than 14 drinks in a week (no saving drinks for another day), and for a female one drink per day/and no more than seven drinks per week.” A drink is defined here as containing 14 grams of ethanol.

2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) guidelines, based on longitudinal data from NIAAA’s National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol-Related Conditions (NESARC) “These guidelines suggest thresholds for the probability of transitioning to DSM-defined alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. The NESARC data showed that the risk is minimal for men when they do not drink more than four drinks per day coupled with no more than 14 per week; and for women, no more than three drinks per day and seven drinks per week. Exceeding either of these daily or weekly limits increases the risk of transitioning to alcohol abuse or dependence (together now defined as Alcohol Use Disorder), especially when both the daily and weekly limits are exceeded.”

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