Most people who drink too much don’t think there is anything wrong with how much they drink. But how do you define moderate drinking and is it as healthy as people say it is? We breakdown the myths, the actual facts and how to stay in control.

What is considered a moderate drinker?

The answer to this question all depends on who you ask! The book Alcoholics Anonymous, the basic text which contains the A.A. 12 Step programme, says there are three types of drinkers;


  1. The moderate drinker: “Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone.”
  2. The “hard drinker” who suffers physically and mentally but with sufficient reason, such as a warning from a doctor or threats from family or friends, can stop or moderate.
  3. The alcoholic, which is neatly summed up in the following statement, “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.”

How many drinks per week are healthy?

If you’re after exact numbers on how to drink safely or moderately or to reduce your long-term health risks, Te Whata Ora recommends no more than two standard drinks a day for women and three standard drinks for men, with no more than 10 drinks a week for women and 15 for men. They also recommend two alcohol-free days per week. And just to be clear, a standard drink is equal to a 330ml can of 4% beer, a 100ml glass of 12.5% wine, or a 30ml shot of 37% spirits. Source


What are the benefits of moderate drinking?

If you’re looking for confirmation that drinking red wine is good for your heart, or that a shot of whiskey can help ward off an infection, you’re looking in the wrong place! In fact, there is more and more research which states that drinking alcohol is not beneficial at all.


The Mayo Clinic has the following to say, “Research on alcohol suggests a sobering conclusion: Drinking alcohol in any amount carries a health risk. While the risk is low for moderate intake, the risk goes up as the amount you drink goes up.” Source


The Cancer Society Aotearoa sates that there is no safe level of drinking alcohol in relation to cancer, “Drinking any regular alcohol can increase your chance of developing some cancers.  To protect against alcohol-related cancer, The World Cancer Research Fund, recommends, ‘it is best, not to drink alcohol’. Source


While we are definitely not anti-alcohol for people who can drink moderately, one thing we can be sure of, is that for an alcoholic, there is no such thing as moderate or safe drinking.

How binge drinking is different from moderate drinking

While moderate drinkers can enjoy minimal amounts of alcohol and at any given time can choose whether or not they start or stop drinking, binge drinkers consume a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.


Pumping excessive amounts of alcohol into you can lead to poor decision making, alcohol poisoning, blackouts and memory loss. Not to mention the long-term effects on the body and the mental and emotional consequences.


Binge drinkers can go for prolonged periods without drinking alcohol which gives the illusion that they, like moderate drinkers, have control over the choice to drink or not. However, this is not always the case and many alcoholics fall into the binge drinking category.


The effects of excessive alcohol consumption

At The Retreat NZ we see firsthand some of the devastating consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking puts an enormous strain on the body as it tries to process and expel the alcohol, and is attributed to numerous health implications including liver disease, heart disease, cancer, immune system dysfunction and digestive issues – not to mention the injuries caused through impaired cognitive function.


But it’s not just the physical impacts of excessive drinking  which causes problems. For those in the grips of alcoholism or heavy drinking, they may not be able to hold down a job, their relationships can become fractured, they may have lost custody of their kids or been arrested and locked up as a result of actions taken while drinking.


Once someone has decided to put alcohol down for good and sought help, there is often a long road of recovery ahead. While it is heartbreaking seeing people in a rock bottom around their drinking, we also get to experience the miracle of recovery and witness firsthand as people rebuild their lives and repair the wreckage of their past.