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Assessing your own drinking can be really tricky. Even people who "don't drink that much" can suffer from alcohol use disorder. Could you or someone you love be at risk?

Moderate alcohol consumption can't just be fun, relaxing, and oil social interactions, it also has some health benefits. Did you know that being a social drinker and enjoying a little glass of something alcoholic preferably at mealtime, can actually reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by raising your levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol, as well as lowering your chances of developing dementia, gallstones, and the common cold? A drink now and then can raise your libido and even lengthen your life, studies reveal. Though alcohol gets a bad press, in other words, it can play a positive role in your life. 

Assessing your own drinking habits can, however, be challenging. Out of every 12 Americans, statistics show, one is an alcohol abuser or an alcoholic. Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are most at risk, but alcohol can end up playing too significant a role in the lives of people of all ages and all social backgrounds.

Often, risky drinking habits creep up slowly. Without realizing it, you can end up with an alcohol use disorder — yes, even if you "don't really drink that much."

Booze: What's Healthy, And What Isn't?

Men can generally enjoy two drinks a day without wandering into dangerous territory, while women and elderly individuals should stick to one drink a day at most. What actually constitutes "a drink"? The guidelines are clear enough: 

  • Spirits:  1.5 ounces
  • Wine: 5 ounces
  • Beer: 12 ounces

All of these contain 0.5 ounces of alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIAAA, defines low-risk drinking as enjoying no more than three drinks on a single day and seven drinks per week for women, and no more than four drinks a day and 14 in a whole week for men. If you or any loved-ones you're concerned about have no trouble sticking to these guidelines, you can safely stop reading right now — you have nothing to worry about. If, however, you or someone you're worried about drinks more than that, stay with us, because risky drinking comes in several forms

The NIAAA defines binge drinking as drinking patterns that rise a person's blood alcohol levels to 0.08 g/dL. That tends to happen after four drinks for women and five drinks for men. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration uses a different definition of binge drinking, saying that having five or more drinks on the same occasion in a single day at least once in the last 30 days qualifies you as a binge drinker.

Binge drinking becomes a real problem if you don't just do it occasionally, when it's your birthday or you got a promotion for instance, but it becomes a fairly regular event in your life.

Should you find yourself binge drinking more than once a month every month, you may have a developing problem on your hands. 

Heavy drinking, meanwhile, becomes a concern when you have more than five drinks on a single occasion five or more days a month, especially when you do it regularly. 

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