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Drinking Limits for Health
man drinking glass of whisky

Drinking Limits for Health

In Boulder County, more than 15 percent of residents regularly exceed the recommended alcohol limits. Drinking limits to maintain health (low-risk drinking limits) are:

  • Women: No more than 3 drinks on any day, and no more than 7 drinks in a week.
  • Men: No more than 4 drinks on any day, and no more than 14 drinks in a week.

To stay low risk, keep within both the daily and weekly limits. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, or who are breastfeeding should not drink. Both men and women over the age of 65 should have no more than 3 drinks on any day and no more than 7 per week.

Health Risks

While there is some evidence that regular light to moderate drinking can be good for the heart, exceeding these limits outweighs any benefit, and increases risks, including:

  • Health problems. Heavy drinkers have a greater risk of liver disease, heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, stroke, bleeding from the stomach, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, and several types of cancer. They may have problems managing diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
  • Drinking too much increases the chance of being injured or even killed. Alcohol is a factor, for example, in about 60% of fatal burn injuries, drownings, and homicides; 50% of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults; and 40% of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides, and fatal falls.
  • Birth defects. Drinking during pregnancy can cause brain damage and other serious problems in the baby. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not drink.
  • Alcohol use disorders. Generally known as alcoholism and alcohol abuse, alcohol use disorders are medical conditions that doctors can diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm. In the United States, about 18 million people have an alcohol use disorder.

Beyond these physical and mental health risks, frequent heavy drinking is also linked with personal problems, including losing a driver’s license and having relationship troubles.

Even within these limits, drinkers can have problems if they drink too quickly, have health problems, or are older (both men and women over 65 are generally advised to have no more than 3 drinks on any day and 7 per week). Some may need to drink less or not at all.

Alcohol & Health

Substance Abuse Intervention Program

Main: 303-413-7546
Submit a question


3482 Broadway
Map & Directions
Hours: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F

Check Your Drinking Pattern

The best way to avoid health risks associated with drinking alcohol is to have a good idea of your drinking pattern. Take this quiz to check your drinking levels.

If you or someone you know is regularly drinking above the recommended levels, help is available. Start by talking with your healthcare provider or search for a provider near you.

When to Avoid Alcohol Altogether

Low-risk drinking can still be too much depending on circumstances and health conditions. It’s safest to avoid alcohol altogether when:

  • taking medications that interact with alcohol
  • managing a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking
  • underage
  • planning to drive a vehicle or operate machinery
  • pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Drink Levels: Men vs. Women

Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men do. One reason is that, on average, women weigh less than men. In addition, alcohol disperses in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men do. So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm. Other factors that influence the impact of alcohol on women include:

  • The levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, a stomach enzyme that aids in the metabolism of alcohol before it enters the bloodstream are 70-80% higher in men than in women; making women more vulnerable to developing liver cirrhosis and cognitive impairment over time.
  • Hormonal changes in women impact intoxication- women are likely to stay intoxicated for longer periods of time 1 week before and 1 week after menstruating.
  • Oral contraceptives may also maintain the peak degree of intoxication for longer periods.

For Healthcare Providers

Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is an evidence-based approach to identifying patients who use alcohol and other drugs at risky levels, with the goal of reducing and preventing related health consequences, disease, accidents and injuries.

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Contact Us

Community Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)

Main: 303-413-7017
Submit a question


3482 Broadway
Map & Directions
Hours: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F