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Standard drinks

The standard drink calculator is a simple and handy tool that estimates the number of actual drinks someone has consumed within a certain period. Each standard size drink always contains the same amount of alcohol - 14g or 0.6 fl oz (and 10g or 12.5ml if you're in Australia) - but how much you have to drink to consume this amount will vary depending on the volume and form of your beverage. Keeping track of how much you've drank can protect you from the harmful effects of alcohol, and may reduce your risk of developing a drinking problem in the future.
Let's get started and find out what is a standard drink, and what it looks like!

What is a standard drink?

A standard drink is any amount of liquid that contains exactly 0.6 fl oz (14g) of pure alcohol (and 10g or 12.5ml in Australia). It can be spread over two physical drinks, e.g., two beers, or there could be 2 standard drinks contained within one glass, e.g., a strong cocktail. It is a measure used widely by dieticians and other medical staff to help define alcohol consumption guidelines, either for a particular patient or a group of people. The popularity of this term has been growing recently due to the increased number of alcohol beverages that differ in size and proof. "One beer" could mean anything these days (especially if you're brewing your own ale). The drawback of this unit is that is can be hard-to-imagine and non-intuitive, and therefore difficult to use in everyday life.

New Zealand's HPA made an interactive tool to help you visualize what is a standard drink. Note that while each standard size drink always contains the same amount (10g) of pure alcohol, the actual look of it differs from beverage to beverage and from vessel to vessel!

Are you still feeling confused? If so, now you know why we designed this standard drink calculator!

How to use the standard drink calculator?

  1. The panel on your left contains a list of common alcoholic beverages.
  2. All you have to do is fill in the number of drinks that you've had. You don't need to know what is a standard drink, so just be honest! :)
  3. If you would like to add some cocktails, like a Margarita, click on the Advanced mode button. Please keep in mind that the amount of alcohol in the same cocktail may differ from bar to bar or even from barman to barman.
  4. Made your own drink? Use the custom drink panel in advanced mode.
  5. How many standard drinks you've had will be computed!

If you are curious how much of what you drink ends up in your blood, check out our blood alcohol calculator. And if you are planning a party, and want to know how many standard drinks you should prepare for each of your guests, take a look at our wedding alcohol calculator (not exclusively for weddings).

Alcohol consumption recommendations in the US

The dietary guidelines for healthy alcohol consumption in the United States differ between sexes:

  • Women should consume no more than 1 standard drink per day and a maximum of 7 drinks per week
  • Men should consume no more than 2 standard drinks per day and a maximum of 14 drinks per week

You shouldn't save up the drinks and then have them all at once, e.g., on the weekend. Binge drinking like this, even when alternating with periods of abstinence, presents a much greater risk to your health and safety than consuming small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis does.

If you choose to drink, you should remember to incorporate the calories from your drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – juice, syrups, fruit, etc) into your daily calorie intake in order not to exceed your recommended calorie intake.

Although some believe that "alcohol is good for your heart/kidneys/other organs", there is no evidence to support such a statement right now. If you don't drink at all, you shouldn't begin "for health reasons". And, if you decide to drink, please do it in a reasonable and responsible manner.

Alcohol consumption recommendations for Australia and NZ

In Australia and New Zealand, the guidelines are that:

  • A woman should have no more than 2 standard drinks daily, no more than 10 per week, and no more than 4 at once
  • A man should have no more than 3 standard drinks daily, no more than 15 per week, no more than 5 at once

They also emphasize the need to keep at least two days of total abstinence per week.

The recommendations are for a healthy person of drinking age. For people who are underage, pregnant, trying to be pregnant, or have certain medical conditions, the consumption of alcohol is not recommended by doctors, due to the risk of death. If you are not sure if or how much you can drink, consult your GP.

How do I recognize if I have a drinking problem?

There are a few signs that you have a drinking problem. These include:

  1. Searching for an occasion or excuse to drink alcohol (woo-hoo end of the week or an argument with your loved ones).
  2. Often experiencing blackouts after drinking alcohol.
  3. Neglecting some responsibilities because of, or for, drinking.
  4. Received a result greater than that recommended for you by our standard drink calculator.
  5. The inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed at an event.
  6. Receiving comments from your close ones or from your doctor to pay attention to your drinking.

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, you may have a drinking problem. It is strongly recommended to reach out for professional help. You can also complete the Audit-C (alcohol use disorder identification test - consumption) for additional evaluation.

Effects of excessive alcohol consumption

Ethyl alcohol is a psychoactive substance, but that doesn't mean it only affects the brain. Here are just a few reminders of what could happen to you after too many drinks.

Short-term effects of alcohol

  • Slurred speech, comprehension difficulties.
  • Distorted vision and hearing.
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting.
  • Impaired judgment - don't make any important decisions after a drink!
  • Hangover.
  • Memory loss, blackout.

Long-term effects of alcohol

  • Liver damage and failure.
  • Nerve damage - paraesthesia, spinal cord damage, permanent brain damage.
  • Ulcers, gastritis, esophageal varicose.
  • Malnutrition, anemia.
  • Increased risk of getting cancer.

Remember that overusing anything may seriously shorten your life.

Aleksandra Zając, MD

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Standard Drink Calculator. What is a Standard Drink?