HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol

What Is Moderate Drinking and What Is Risk-Free Drinking?

The USDA, the CDC, and the NIAAA all define moderate drinking as no more than 2 drinks per day and 14 per week for men, and no more than one per day and 7 per week for women (or people over 65). Additionally the NIAAA states that men who drink more than four drinks per occasion, or 14 per week, and women who drink more than 3 drinks per occasion or more than 7 per week are at risk for drinking problems: this implies that there is a no risk (or "risk-free") drinking category for men who drink 4 or fewer drinks per day and 14 or fewer drinks per week, and for women who drink 3 or fewer drinks per day or 7 or fewer per week. The limits for men over the age of 65 are the same as the limits for women because tolerance generally goes down in men with age but not in women.

The reason for having these definitions is as follows: Because alcohol is beneficial to the heart, people who drink at the USDA moderate drinking limits are healthier than both abstainers and no-risk drinkers. Abstainers and no-risk drinkers are equally unhealthy. People who exceed the no-risk drinking guidelines are more at risk for health related consequences than people who do not drink at all.

Therefore, HAMS uses the terms "moderate drinking" and "no-risk drinking" (or "risk-free drinking") as follows:

Moderate drinking and risk-free drinking

HAMS refers to people who have made improvements in their drinking patterns but who are drinking above the risk-free limits as practicing a Harm Reduction Program, or doing HR for short.


CDC. Alcohol and Public Health - FAQs

NIAAA. (2005). Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much. A CLINICIAN'S GUIDE. Updated 2005 Edition.

NIAAA. Alcohol: what you don't know can harm you.


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