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Is Moderate Drinking Possible?

February 1, 2021
Reviewed by: Lisa Misquith
Is Moderate Drinking Possible?

The following blog has been reviewed by a Psychologist. If you are reading the blog on a mobile phone, you can see the reviewer’s profile at the end of the blog. Please see our editorial policy here.

It happens that whenever you are exhausted with a long week, you crave for alcohol. The next time you think of indulging in the same routine act, simply try this — whenever you think of drinking one more peg or glass of alcohol, do try to restrict the habit. Yes, you heard it correctly! You need to moderate your drinking habits. You must be wondering if there is something called drinking in moderation as in general terms, either there is no consumption or heavy consumption of alcohol.  Believe me, even research studies in various countries have proven that drinking in moderation is practically possible for an individual.

What is Moderate Drinking?

So let us first see what moderate drinking or standard drinking for you is:

Standard drinking varies from country to country depending upon the characteristics of the population and cultural milieu of that country. In a country like India, its government bodies such as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and others have not defined what a standard drink is. But, India follows the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) in this regard.

[Read more: Binge Drinking]

The standard drink according to WHO is equal to 10 grams of ethanol. Moreover, the WHO defines moderate drinking or standard drinking for both men and women as two drinks on average per day. However, as per the US (NIAAA) and UK (NHS) agencies, men should drink less than 20 standard drinks in a week and women should drink less than 10 standard drinks in a week. Besides, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have defined moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. (A standard drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol).

[Read more: [Alcohol Overdose or Alcohol Poisoning]

This is because the heavy consumption of alcohol is extremely detrimental to health and can even prove fatal in some cases. In September 2018, a WHO report stated that approximately three million people die every year due to alcohol consumption. Moreover, a study published in the journal stated that people who consumed alcohol had a 30 per cent higher risk of death than those who were not.

Risks of Heavy Drinking

As per the WHO report, a number of diseases associated with alcohol drinking are roughly 200. Moreover, heavy drinking is associated with rising social cost and economic cost — in terms of violence against women and dependency on family members. The number of risks associated with consumption of alcohol is numerous such as liver disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, shorter life expectancy and so forth. To put it in simple words, heavy consumption of alcohol affects every part of the human body leading to fatal consequences.

Some of the common risks associated with alcohol consumption are the following:

  1. Continuous heavy drinking over the years can lead to liver cirrhosis.
  2. Not only this, but overconsumption of alcohol can also lead to pancreatitis. It is a painful inflammation of the pancreas that often requires hospitalisation.
  3. Heavy consumption of alcohol worldwide has been linked with the development of various kinds of cancers such as cancer of mouth, liver, breast, colon and other parts of the body.
  4. The gastrointestinal tract also tends to suffer heavy damage from continuous drinking over the years.
  5. One of the most common causes of brain damage is the continuous drinking of alcohol in large quantities. Now the symptoms of this problem occur in the form of blurred vision, difficulty in walking and memory lapse.
  6. When you tend to drink heavily then you tend to neglect your health by ignoring proper intake of meals. This, in turn, leads to malnutrition and deficiency in the body which leads to the weakening of the immune system of the body.
  7. Research has confirmed that heavy drinking at a young age leads to osteoporosis later in life.
  8. Since heavy drinking leads to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, it causes severe damage to your heart leading to several cardiovascular complications.
  9. Now this one you must have heard: Do not drink and drive. Fatal injuries have been reported several times which were mainly due to drunk driving.

Benefits of Moderate Drinking

Having come up with the complications associated with heavy drinking do you really think that drinking in moderation can be beneficial for your health? Well, A number of studies have been conducted in this reference in various parts of the world and have come up with the following conclusions.

Various studies conducted in the 1990s came up with the notion that moderate drinking is linked with a healthy life. One such study conducted on French people asserted that the French people drank lots of wine and enjoyed food rich in saturated fat, and yet witnessed relatively less number of cardiovascular diseases.

Moreover, observational studies conducted over a long period compared non-drinkers with drinkers and light to moderate drinkers. These studies arrived at the outcome that moderate drinkers enjoyed better health compared to heavy and non-drinkers. They not only lived longer but also suffered from lower heart disease and a lower rate of diabetes. But these studies were flawed as they compared drinkers to non-drinkers instead of comparing only light drinkers to heavy drinkers. Hence, we can conclude that if there are any benefits of moderate drinking then they are less and certainly it varies from person to person.

I will once again refer to the study published in the journal Alcohol which showed that light to moderate drinking might be associated with some health benefits. The study states that those who consumed more than three pegs of alcohol a day had a lower survival state. A study also highlighted a close association between alcohol consumption and tobacco consumption. 

Thus, it is to be concluded that even though some people might benefit from drinking in moderation but simultaneously it increases the risk of brain damage, dementia, liver disease, mental and other health problems.

Hence, one can summarise that the risks and benefits of moderate drinking change over a period of time. As you advance with age, risks increase and surpass the benefits leading to fatal consequences.

Is It Possible for Alcoholics to Practice Moderate Drinking?

The above discussion has clearly stated the risks and benefits of heavy consumption of alcohol. Now, the question which comes up is whether is it possible for alcoholics to practice moderate drinking? The answer to this question requires discussion and deliberation. If you have experienced alcohol dependence, then counsellors and psychologists will recommend you complete abstinence of alcohol instead of drinking in moderation. However, this decision of choosing between moderate drinking and total abstinence has to be taken entirely by you without any coercion.

In case, you have exhibited symptoms of alcoholism, then you should practice controlled drinking as a first step. Nonetheless, this step has to be taken only after consultation with your family, friends, and counsellors.

Moderate Vs No Drinking

Always remember that the decision either to quit drinking or reduce its intake is entirely your decision. You have to make your decision after contemplating about your health and the well-being of your family members and friends. Remember that alcohol addiction takes away not just one life but the life of an entire family. Also, you must not hesitate to consult psychiatrists and psychologists who after consulting you will be able to guide you in your decision.

Complete abstinence is a difficult decision and you might even relapse. But this must not deter you from attempting again to quit drinking.   

Steps Which Help in Drinking Moderately

These two steps which we will discuss subsequently have been recommended by psychologists and counsellors over a period of time.

The first major step is that you must restrict the amount of your alcohol intake in the way which best suits you, and then observe the impact it has on your body and functioning.. You must be aware of the fact that when you restrict the amount of your usual alcohol intake, you tend to experience the feeling of numbness, nausea and at times vomiting as well. So when this happens, immediately inform your family friends and consult your doctor as to how to handle this situation.

Moreover, an overdose of alcohol damages brain activity as well as leading to various mental health problems. It leads to various hormonal changes as well. So, when you start drinking in small quantities, you might experience undue anger, pain, hunger, and sorrow. Not only this, but you might also even feel extremely inefficient to handle all these emotions. Here, do not forget to involve your family members in extending a helping hand to you. If you do not do so, then there are chances that you might relapse to your earlier condition! So do not hesitate but be vocal and confident that you succeed in restricting your amount of alcohol intake. 

The second basic step in this direction is that you must decide that you will not take more than two-three drinks in a week and then restrict yourself. I know it is easier said than done! What you need to do is to basically count your number of drinks and then stop. When you begin drinking, it gives you a feeling of joy and happiness. As if everything is complete and perfect and as a result, you continue to drink more and more. The harm it causes is experienced years later! So when you limit your drink, you might experience depressing feelings instead of happy ones. Do not lose the motivation to keep trying.

Other Steps

In addition to the above methods, there are other steps as well which facilitate moderate drinking. One easy method is to keep moving back and forth from alcoholic drinks to non-alcoholic drinks and so forth. This will certainly help you to slow down your drinking habits.

Another method is that instead of drinking hard alcohol opt for beer. In terms of alcohol content, 12 ounces of beer is about equivalent to 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of liquor (the amount in a shot glass). Drinking beer makes you feel full and hence, you tend to drink less and slowly.

Can Heavy Drinkers Manage Drinking in Moderation?

You must always remember the fact that drinking is injurious to health. So never drink to overcome feelings of sorrow, pain or guilt. The more you do so the more you tend to become alcohol dependent on your life. Hence, heavy drinkers can manage to drink in moderation by following the steps mentioned above.

Is No Drinking the Only Option?

Believe me, the decision is entirely yours but do consider the well-being of not only yourself but your family members as well. It is entirely the degree of dependence on alcohol which helps to decide whether complete abstinence is the ultimate option or not.


The temptation to consume alcohol for persons suffering from alcohol addiction is difficult to resist this temptation. Governments over the world have tried imposing prohibitions on the sale of liquor but without much success. It is entirely up to you to completely abstain from drinking and even if you drink, then drink in moderation.

The new PLOS Medicine Study has reported that having one or two drinks per day is not harmful and even restricting it to three drinks per week is quite healthy. Even doctors have recommended that drinking in moderation has some benefits but this does not imply that you must simply start drinking just to avail those benefits. You can even avail of those benefits by following a healthy lifestyle and a disciplined life. So the next time you prepare your glass of drink –count, measure and fill.