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Alcohol Awareness Month: What Is One Drink?

There are many myths about drinking alcohol. Beer before liquor, never been sicker, and so on along those lines. For the record, that one is bunk. Too much to drink, means quite simply you’ll get drunk. In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month, however, let’s bust one of the more common myths. Many people still labor under the illusion that beer and wine won’t get you as sloshed as hard liquor. If you go by standard drinks, they all contain the same amount of alcohol across the board. In the United States, a standard drink has about 14 grams of alcohol. All of the following have approximately the same amount of alcohol:
  • Regular beer: 12 ounces, about 5% alcohol
  • Malt liquor: 8-9 ounces, about 7% alcohol
  • Table wine: 5 ounces, about 12% alcohol
  • Fortified wine (sherry, port): 3-4 ounces, about 17% alcohol
  • Cordials, liqueurs or aperitif: 2-3 ounces, about 24% alcohol
  • Brandy or cognac: 1.5 ounces, about 40% alcohol
  • Distilled 80-proof spirits (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, etc.): 1.5 ounces (1 shot): about 40% alcohol
There are slight variations, of course. Light beer may have a slightly lower alcohol content. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests these examples be used only as “a starting point for comparison.” To be really sure of a drink’s content, some extra detective work may be needed, either by reading labels or searching online. It’s also worth noting many bars and restaurants serve much larger drinks. (Those gigantic beers Thor, aka Chris Hemsworth, loves to quaff in the Marvel movie universe? Way beyond standard size.) Then, if you order mixed drinks or craft cocktails, with combinations of distilled spirits and liqueurs, the amount of alcohol may make that one lonely cocktail as strong as two. A good way to research the potency of a particular drink is to use NIAAA’s drink calculators. If you drank a 25-ounce bottle of wine, for an extreme example, that amounts to five standard drinks. With bars, pubs, and eateries having their own drink sizes, it can be easy to go in with good intentions and quickly lose track, either at home or on the roam. If social drinking has become binge drinking, and people engage in this practice often, it could be the sign of a problem. Too much alcohol can cloud judgment, wreck one’s health, and damage personal and professional relationships. There are many ways to find help, however, from 12-steps and their alternatives, to counseling and in-house treatment facilities. Sources healthline.com – Wine Before Beer? Beer Before Wine? You’ll Be Hung Over Either Way rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov – What’s a “Standard” Drink? rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov – Calculators sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Knowing When It Is Time sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Alcohol Addiction Can Kill You

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