ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
If you have a glass of wine with dinner tonight, you're in good company. If that one drink turns into three or four, well, that's not unusual, but if this happens a few times a week, you fall into a category of drinking that may surprise you. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports on a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: A lot of us make the assumption that there are just two kinds of drinkers - those of us who have a glass of wine or beer with dinner and those who are alcoholics and need help, but CDC researcher Robert Brewer says, this is not an accurate picture. Most people fall into a different category.
ROBERT BREWER: The reality of the situation is that most people - most drinkers - most adults who drink - there are people who are drinking maybe a couple of times during the week and then typically drinking a large amount often on weekends.
AUBREY: And this means they're drinking too much.
BREWER: About one in three adults drink excessively.
AUBREY: And what is excessive drinking? Well, it's a lot less than you might think. Say, I have a glass of wine with dinner most nights of the week. Then on Saturday night, I go out, and I have a cocktail, a beer or maybe some more wine. By Sunday, I've had eight drinks for the week, and this is considered excessive.
BREWER: That's correct. If, as a woman, you were to consume eight or more drinks during the course of a week, yes, that would be included in the category of excessive drinking.
AUBREY: And a drink is defined as five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or an ounce-and-a-half - a shot - of liquor. Now, if you're a man, two drinks a day or more than 15 per week is considered excessive. And why these cutoffs? Well, Robert Brewer says, once people habituate to this level of drinking, their risks tend to start going up, including health risks that are attributable to alcohol use over time.
BREWER: That could include cancer - breast cancer, for example - liver disease, liver cancer, heart disease.
AUBREY: So if hearing this is a bit of a wake-up call, do not jump to the conclusion that you're an alcoholic.
BREWER: Nine out of 10 people who drink too much, in fact, are not alcohol-dependent or what's sometimes commonly referred to as alcoholics.
AUBREY: This means they're not missing work days or suffering from withdrawal when they don't drink or building up a tolerance that's typical of dependency. So the bottom line here? Most drinkers are not alcoholics, but lots of us are not the moderate drinkers we thought we were.
Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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