Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Risky Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder

Drinking alcohol may be enjoyable, but it also can cause a number of health problems and other issues. Drinking alcohol can:

  • Affect your memory, concentration, or judgment

  • Make you more likely to do and say things you wouldn't normally do or say

  • Make you more likely to fall, hurt yourself, get in a car accident, or suffer other consequences

  • Cause you to have a harmful drug interaction when you drink alcohol with your prescribed medicines

How much drinking is too much?

If you choose to drink alcohol, drinking moderately reduces your risk for alcohol-related problems. Here are the recommended drink limits:

  • Women. No more than 1 drink in a single day and no more than 7 drinks per week

  • Men. No more than 2 drinks in a single day and no more than 14 drinks per week

  • Adults ages 65 and older. No more than 1 drink a day and no more than 7 drinks per week

Do not binge drink. Binge drinking means drinking:

  • 5 or more drinks on one occasion for men 

  • 4 or more drinks on one occasion for women and adults ages 65 and older

One drink is equal to:

  • A 12-ounce bottle of beer (5% alcohol)

  • A 5-ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol)

  • A 1.5-ounce shot of liquor (80-proof alcohol)

Some drinks may have higher levels of alcohol content, for example, many craft beers. This means you have to drink fewer drinks to stay within healthy limits.

Alcohol use disorder

Drinking more than the recommended limit on a regular basis can lead to an alcohol use disorder. You may have withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or cut back on your drinking. These symptoms can include:

  • Insomnia

  • Sweating

  • Higher pulse rate

  • Nausea

  • Agitation

You may have this problem if you:

  • Drink too much from day to day

  • Have problem with your work, school, or other responsibilities because of your drinking

  • Have strained relationships with friends or family because of your drinking

  • End up drinking more, or longer than you wanted to

  • Tried more than once to cut down or stop drinking, but couldn't

  • Spend a lot of time drinking, being sick from drinking, or getting over the aftereffects

  • Have had a strong need, or urge, to drink

  • Gave up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you so you can drink

  • Got involved in risky situations while or after drinking, such as driving

  • Continue to drink even though it makes you feel depressed or anxious or adds to another health problem

  • Have to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want

Talk with your healthcare provider if you are drinking more than the recommended limits or have any of the signs listed above.

Alcohol use disorder is a long-term disease. It's not a weakness or a lack of willpower. Like many other diseases, it has known symptoms and is treatable. It is also influenced by your genes and your life situation.  

Do You Have Thoughts About Suicide?

Do you or a loved one have thoughts about death or suicide? Call 911 or the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) and press 1, or use other emergency services. You can chat with a trained counselor online at

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 6/1/2017
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library