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Do you ever wonder how your level of alcohol consumption measures up to that of the rest of the U.S.? Would you be considered an abuser or even an alcoholic in our society? First of all, it’s helpful to define what exactly a standard drink is. According to the CDC, a standard drink is equal to 6 ounces of pure alcohol. This is generally equivalent to a 12 ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or a 1.5 ounce shot of 80 proof distilled spirits like vodka, gin or rum. Many people find this fact shocking because of the myth that drinking a glass of wine isn’t as strong as say, drinking a whiskey sour. So, if you are trying to stay somewhat sober, it’s not which beverage you choose, but instead the amount you consume.

When someone starts to drink, the body usually begins to feel the effects within a half hour. It is quickly absorbed from the stomach and small intestines into your bloodstream and proceeds to depress the central nervous system. It slows down your breathing, impairs judgment and relaxes the muscles causing lack of coordination and slurred speech. This is something to consider when out drinking so you don’t ruin your evening. Furthermore, everyone responds differently to alcohol depending on factors like your age, weight, use of other medications, gender and the amount of food you ate prior to drinking. Studies also show that women process alcohol more quickly than men because of their higher fat to muscle content. In other words, a larger man with lots of lean muscle can better metabolize alcohol than a small woman with average body fat, so women shouldn’t ever consider trying to keep up with their date.

Even a little bit of alcohol consumption comes with some risk. Many people think of themselves as low or moderate alcohol users and don’t think it plays a negative role in their lives, but instead enhances it. About 70% of adults in the U.S. who drink, consider themselves in this bracket. These users are able to limit the amount of alcohol they drink and control the spacing over a longer period of time so that their BAC levels never get too high.

According to the CDC, alcohol use is termed “heavy drinking” for men when they drink more than 2 drinks a day or more than 14 per week. For women, it’s more than 1 drink a day or more than 7 per week. The average alcohol abuser has trouble meeting his commitments, takes risks like drinking and driving, and the drinking negatively impacts his or her close relationships. This behavior becomes alcoholic when the individual no longer has control over the amount he drinks, craves a drink throughout the day, and can’t stop even though the usage is hurting his work, friends or family life.

Alcohol addiction can become an overpowering force in a person’s life. Don’t let it get too far. If you are interested in learning more about alcohol use, abuse and addiction, online alcohol awareness classes make it easy to gain new knowledge and learn specialized skills to overcome the behavior, while in the privacy of your own home. It’s never too late to educate yourself and redirect towards a healthier, safer and more peaceful lifestyle.