How much is too much? Advising patients about safe levels of alcohol consumption

Arch Intern Med. 1993 Dec 27;153(24):2734-40. doi: 10.1001/archinte.153.24.2734.


United States physicians are increasingly encouraged to advise patients about health-related behaviors, such as smoking, but there is minimal discussion in the US medical literature about the need to advise patients about safe levels of alcohol consumption. Several factors likely contribute to this lack of focus on safe drinking practices. These include the complex relationship between drinking and health, limitations in the available epidemiologic data, misinterpretation of the disease model of alcoholism, and physician attitudes. Nevertheless, epidemiologic evidence clearly relates increasing levels of alcohol consumption to increased morbidity and mortality, and research has shown that physician advice can reduce both alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. We propose that physicians thoroughly assess patients' alcohol consumption and advise patients who drink about safe levels of consumption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking* / adverse effects
  • Australia
  • Counseling
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role
  • United Kingdom
  • United States