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Vol. LXI, No. 7
April 3, 2009

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‘Rethinking Drinking’ Offers Tools to Assess, Change Risky Habits

Photo of a man sitting at a bar with a drink in hand

How many drinks have you had while enjoying a bottle of wine with a friend? How strong is your mixed drink? Do you wonder whether your drinking pattern might be considered risky?

Just released, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s web site and booklet, Rethinking Drinking, answer these questions and more to help people reduce their risk for alcohol problems. The new products offer evidence-based information about risky drinking patterns, the signs of an alcohol problem and strategies for cutting down or quitting. The web site ( also provides interactive tools, including calculators that estimate the alcohol content in common cocktails and beverage containers.

According to an NIAAA survey of 43,000 U.S. adults, about 3 in 10 adults drink at levels that elevate their risk for alcoholism, liver disease and many other physical, mental health and social problems. Some of these people already have alcohol-related problems and it’s safest for them to quit. But most of these “at-risk” drinkers can reduce their chances for harm by cutting down to within the low-risk drinking limits presented in Rethinking Drinking. For men, these limits are no more than 4 drinks on any single day and 14 drinks per week, and for women, no more than 3 drinks on any day and 7 per week.

“People can still have trouble drinking within these limits, especially if they drink too quickly, have certain medical conditions, or are older,” says NIAAA acting director Dr. Kenneth Warren. Among people who exceed the low-risk limits, about 1 in 4 already has an alcohol use disorder—alcoholism or alcohol abuse—and the rest are at increased risk for these and other problems.

“We know that many heavy drinkers are able to change on their own,” notes Dr. Mark Willenbring, director of NIAAA’s Division of Treatment and Recovery Research. “Rethinking Drinking is a convenient way to provide information and tools, especially for those who want to make a change before they develop symptoms.”

The Rethinking Drinking booklet can be downloaded from the web site or ordered by telephone: (301) 443-3860.NIHRecord Icon

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