What is your level of risk?

Alcohol use can have a range of risks, from abstinence and low-risk drinking, through risky and harmful use. These levels of risk increase as frequency and amounts of alcohol increases.

Alcohol continuum

Abstinence (not drinking) is the only way to completely eliminate the risks related to alcohol use. Low-risk drinking consists of staying within the daily and monthly limits for alcohol use. Approximately 70% of the U.S. population fits into this level of alcohol use. Risky and harmful drinking is when a person exceeds daily or weekly limits (even once). As a result, individuals may experience “small” problems such as:
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Minor injuries (bruises, scrapes)
  • Tardiness/absenteeism
  • Loss of disposable income
Level of risk can be lowered by reducing the number of drinks or the number of days drinking per week. Approximately 20-25% of the U.S. population drinks at risky or harmful levels.
High risk level of use is when an individual frequently exceeds both daily and weekly limits. Many individuals at this level would be diagnosed with alcohol dependence. It is recommended that individuals with high-risk drinking patterns or dependence be referred to specialized treatment. Approximately 5% of the U.S. population fits into this level of alcohol use. High risk drinking and dependence are likely to cause alcohol-related illnesses or serious injuries. For more information on the effects of alcohol use, click here.

Drugs continuum

Every level of drug use carries risks. Moderate risk use is the proper use of over-the-counter medications and/or medications that are prescribed to you. To lower the risks when using an over-the-counter or prescription medication, take as directed and/or prescribed. High risk drug use includes the improper use of over-the-counter and/or prescription medication, the use of medication not prescribed to you, the use of alcohol while taking certain medications, and all illicit drug use. High risk use increases the likelihood of addiction or dependence. Click here to learn more about the effects of high-risk drug use.
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