April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol abuse is linked to many health and social problems. Yet millions of people are able to drink in moderation. So where is the line between abuse and moderation?

Experts define a moderate amount of alcohol as 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. The following counts as one drink:

  • 12 fluid ounces of regular beer
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine, or
  • 5 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquor (such as vodka, tequila, or whiskey)

Drinking in a moderate manner, if at all, may help you avoid issues with alcohol abuse. Not only that, but moderate drinking may even have some health benefits. Studies show that light to moderate amounts of alcohol may lower the risk of some health issues. These include heart disease and stroke. But, again, the key word is “moderate.” More is not better. The same studies show that those health benefits disappear when you drink more than a moderate amount.

If you drink more than a moderate amount on a regular basis, you may be engaging in high-risk drinking. For women, high-risk drinking is drinking more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it’s drinking more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week.

Binge drinking is another type of high-risk drinking. This term means drinking a lot in a short period of time. For women, binging is drinking 4 or more drinks in 2 hours. For men, it’s drinking 5 or more drinks in 2 hours. Binging can raise your blood alcohol level in a very short amount of time. This can lead to alcohol poisoning and serious health problems.

Do you tend to drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol? Do you ever engage in high-risk drinking? If so, you can improve your health by drinking less or not at all. Here are some steps you can take that may help you cut back or even stop drinking:

  • Keep track of your drinking. Note how often and how much you drink. You can use a notebook, an online tool, or a smartphone app.
  • When you drink, drink moderately. That means no more than one drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Go dry for 1 day a week. Pick one day every week to be an alcohol-free day. If that goes well, try adding another alcohol-free day each week.
  • Try not to drink when you are upset. Strong emotions, like sadness or anger, may lead you to drink too much. Try dealing with your emotions in other ways, like working out, talking to a friend, or writing down your thoughts in a journal.
  • Avoid places or situations where you might be tempted to drink. Instead of meeting a friend for happy hour, you could go for a hike or meet for coffee.
  • Consider the reasons you want to drink less. Why do you want to cut back? How do you think you might benefit if you drank less? Write down your reasons and use them as motivation.

Of course, you may find it hard to cut back or stop drinking on your own. If so, talk with your doctor. He or she can give you information and guidance and even refer you to a specialist. There are also a number of groups that can help with alcohol abuse and addiction. These include: