Alcohol: How much is too much?

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Drinking to excess puts individuals at significant risk. Heavy drinking risks their health and can bring on illness and difficulties for family and friends. The “Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test” (AUDIT) was developed by the World Health Organization’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence. It provides health care providers a valid method of conducting a quick screening to identify people at risk. A large number of studies were conducted around the world to validate the AUDIT. To find out more and to review the AUDIT for yourself, go to the article below and click on the AUDIT link to review the test.


The total score received as a result of taking the AUDIT places the individual’s score within a zone. Providers locate the zone in which the score falls. Instructions for intervention are provided within each zone. The Zone I intervention for a score between 0 and 7 is alcohol education where a Zone II score between 16 and 19 suggests simple advice plus brief counseling and continued monitoring. Click on this link if you wish to take the AUDIT for yourself.


Males are often surprised to find that five standard drinks in a day (e.g., a 12 oz. beer is a standard drink) or as many as fifteen in a week is considered heavy drinking. Females don’t process alcohol as easily as males and heavy drinking is four standard drinks in a day or eight in a week. Drinking at these levels puts people at risk for alcoholism and other health problems. In the clinic we often find depressed and anxious individuals drinking to feel better or to fall asleep. Unfortunately, alcohol increases anxiety and depression and reduces the quality of sleep.


The culture surrounding high school and college age drinking teaches young people they can drink at much higher levels than the World Health Organization considered heavy and at risk. I have seen numerous male high school students who regularly drink eight or nine standard drinks in a night. As they develop tolerance for alcohol, by the time they reach college some are drinking a dozen or more at a football weekend party. They will put away the equivalent of case of beer on a weekend. At many colleges, drinking starts on Thursday nights; a perfect scenario for developing alcoholics.


David L. Barnhart, EdD

Licensed Counselor

Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor





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