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New NIAAA Web Site Offers Self-assessment for Risky Drinking Patterns

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Brief Description:

A new Web site and booklet from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) could help many people reduce their risk for alcohol problems. Called Rethinking Drinking, the new materials present evidence-based information about risky drinking patterns, the alcohol content of drinks, and the signs of an alcohol problem, along with resources to help people who choose to cut back or quit drinking.


Hightower: About 3 in 10 U.S. adults drink at levels that raise their risk for alcoholism, liver disease, and other problems. A new Web site and booklet called Rethinking Drinking can help evaluate drinking habits and find out how they may affect health.

Willenbring: This is really a wellness product.

Hightower: Dr. Mark Willenbring of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that the site offers valuable, research-based information as well as a convenient and anonymous way to find out about the alcohol content of drinks, the signs of an alcohol problem, along with information about medications and other resources to help people who choose to cut back or quit drinking.

Willenbring: I think people will be surprised at how user-friendly it is and how it doesn’t have a judgmental quality to it. It’s not about "you’re doing a bad thing, you should be better, you shouldn’t drink at all," it’s not like that—it’s really about informing people and giving them the tools and the information they need to manage their health better.

Hightower: Rethinking Drinking includes single-day and weekly low-risk limits for men and women. For men, these limits are no more than four drinks on any single day and 14 drinks per week, and for women, no more than three drinks on any day and seven per week.

Willenbring: There’s a place where they can get information about what a standard drink is—for example, most people don’t know what a drink is. A drink is the amount of alcohol in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a 1½ ounce shot of spirits—80 proof spirits like vodka. They all contain the same amount of alcohol, so it doesn’t really matter what kind of beverage you are drinking, it’s the amount of alcohol inside that’s really important to understand.

Hightower: Mixed cocktails like martinis or Long Island iced tea, might even contain the equivalent of several servings of alcohol. The Web site features a cocktail calculator that lets you enter the amounts of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to find out how your recipe compares to a standard drink.

Willenbring: So this is really for people who want to evaluate their drinking, it’s for people who have some concern about their drinking, it’s for people who want to change how much they’re drinking in order to be healthier, and if people need more than that then they may need to get some professional help, but we think that a large number of people who drink more than is advisable can benefit from this kind of a product.

Hightower: Dr. Willenbring recommends visiting—booklets are available by calling NIAAA at: 301-443-3860. This is Dorie Hightower, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Date: 4/15/2009

Reporter: Dorie Hightower

Sound Bite: Dr. Mark Willenbring

Topic: alcohol, drinking


This page was last reviewed on April 29, 2009 .
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