Levels of Drinking

Drinking in moderation
According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more.

Binge drinking
Binge drinking is the overconsumption of alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings the BAC to 0.08% or higher.” For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to a woman consuming four or more drinks or a man consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., in about two hours). When a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time, it can result in a dangerously high BAC, leading to alcohol poisoning. For more information about alcohol poisoning, see “Alcohol and Your Health.”

The rapid consumption of alcohol during drinking games, chugging drinks, and taking shots can rapidly increase a person’s BAC. It can become difficult to keep track of how many standard drinks are being consumed, putting a person at a higher risk of alcohol poisoning and other health-related risks.

Heavy alcohol use
The NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows:

  • For men, consuming five or more drinks on any day, or 15 or more drinks per week.
  • For women, consuming four or more on any day, or eight or more drinks per week.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use increase the risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative social, employment, or health consequences. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse make individuals vulnerable to relapse.  

The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, evidence-based treatment with behavioral therapies, mutual-support groups, and/or medications can help people with AUD achieve and maintain sobriety.

If you or someone you know is having problems with alcohol, please contact the WA Recovery Helpline:



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