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Various bottles of alcohol laid down on a grey background
A male and female service member enjoying a glass of wine responsibly

Alcohol is an intoxicating substance found in beer, wine, and liquor. It is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches.

A standard drink in the United States is equal to 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. This amount of pure alcohol is found in the following quantities of the four types of alcohol:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% content)
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof liquor (40% alcohol content)

Generally, there is no type of alcohol that is considered ‘safer’ than another. The amount of alcohol consumed is what typically affects a person the most. If you are an adult of legal drinking age, drinking in moderation is considered limiting intake to two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women. Regardless, drinking less is better for your health than drinking more.

When drinking, it is important to remain hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to have eight ounces of water or a non-alcoholic drink for every alcoholic drink you consume. It is also advised you consume no more than one alcoholic drink per hour. You should not drink alcohol on an empty stomach.

Check Your Drinking -

Four beer glasses at an angle from above, clinking in a cheers movement

Alcohol affects nearly all of your body’s processes including your heart, liver and immune system, especially when consumed heavily and frequently. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 15 or more drinks per week for men and 8 or more drinks per week for women. There are many short- and long-term health risks to consider when consuming alcohol.

Short-term health risks:
  • Motor vehicle accidents, falls, drownings, burns violence and firearm injuries
  • Violence (homicide, suicide, sexual assault and intimate partner violence)
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women
Long-term health risks:
  • Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and liver disease
  • Cancers including breast, oral, throat, esophageal, liver, colon and rectal
  • Weakened immune system
  • Learning and memory issues
  • New or worsened mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
  • Social issues such as family, friends and employment
  • Alcohol use disorder

Underage drinking is considered consuming alcohol before 21 years of age. Individuals who drink before they are legally able are at increased risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), engaging in risky sexual behaviors, poor work and school performance, and suicide and homicide.

Beer Bottles in the foreground, shadowed teenage male in the background drinking

There is no safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy. Women who are planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant should avoid drinking alcohol in any quantity. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy could lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Avoiding consuming alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. Though, moderate consumption, which is no more than one standard a drink per day) is known to be harmful to a breastfed child, especially with at least two hours between consumption and feeding. If you wish to consume alcohol while breastfeeding, it is best to talk to your health care professional for guidance.

Four beer glasses at an angle from above, clinking in a cheers movement

Drinking and driving can negatively impact your military career, as well. Though the legal limit is a BAC of 0.08%, you should not operate a vehicle after drinking. Alcohol slows your reaction time and impairs your judgment and coordination. The more alcohol you consume, the greater these skills are impaired.

The front ends of two cars smashed together with alcoholic beverages in the foreground

Alcohol overdose, also referred to as alcohol poisoning, occurs when the brain’s basic life-support functions (e.g., breathing, heart rate, and temperature control) begin to shut down from excessive alcohol use.

A recent DoD Health Related Behaviors Survey of Active Duty Military Personnel:
  • 34% of service members reported binge drinking
  • 9.8% of service members reported heavy drinking
  • 6.2% of service members reported one or more serious consequences as a result of drinking
The front ends of two cars smashed together with alcoholic beverages in the foreground

Negative physical feelings hours after or the day after drinking are typically called ‘hangovers’. If you are experiencing a hangover you may feel:

  • Tired
  • Weak
  • Thirsty
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vertigo
  • Light and/or sound sensitivity
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Increased blood pressure

These symptoms are typically caused by mild dehydration, disrupted sleep, gastrointestinal irritation, inflammation, exposure to toxins in the liver, and mini-withdrawal from alcohol. Though many people experience symptoms similarly, everyone is different. Symptoms peak when the BAC returns to 0.0% and can last a day or more.

Own Your Limits text logo. There is an orange beer bottle as part of the logo.

Own Your Limits is a Defense Department (DOD) educational campaign to help Service members learn how to drink responsibly, if they choose to drink alcohol. The site supports the DOD’s efforts to build and sustain a ready and resilient force by providing resources and information to Service members so they can serve honorably and drink responsibly.


Own Your Limits Drinking Habits Quiz

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Rethink Drinking Tools

Military Crisis Line at 988, press 1 (also the Veterans Crisis Line)

Military Crisis Line online chat, text 838255

Veterans Affairs Services: Substance Abuse Programs

SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator

SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-4357

Marine Corps Substance Abuse Program

Navy Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program (SARP)

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