Do You Drink Too Much? Don't Ask the CDC.



Does your doctor nag you about your drinking? The federal government wishes he would. Yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted with alarm that "only one in six adults [says] a health professional has ever discussed alcohol use with them." Physicians' reluctance to broach the subject is especially worrisome, the CDC says, because "at least 38 million adults in the United States drink too much."

How does the CDC know at least 38 million Americans drink too much? Because survey data indicate that "approximately one in six (38 million) U.S. adults binge drink." And what counts as binge drinking, as far as the CDC is concerned? Five or more drinks "on an occasion" for men and four or more drinks for women. Why were those cutoffs chosen? According to the National Insitute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, because those are the amounts that typically raise a person's blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent, which corresponds to the per se legal standard for driving while intoxicated.

What if you don't plan to drive? It doesn't matter. The federal government says you should never drink that amount, period. If you do, you are drinking too much by definition (the government's definition, that is). As I have noted several times, the government's notion of a binge encompasses common patterns of social drinking that cause no measurable harm to anyone or anything, except for the CDC's sensibilities—e.g., an after-work cocktail, followed by wine during dinner with friends and an after-dinner drink. I confess I have been known to binge in this manner from time to time. Once a month is all it takes to be counted among the 38 million, the vast majority of whom would not qualify for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence or even alcohol abuse but who nevertheless need to change their ways, according to the CDC.

Why does the CDC say "at least 38 million" Americans drink too much? Because it maintains that "drinking too much" includes not just so-called binge drinking but several other categories as well. If you are a man who consumes 15 or more drinks in a week or a woman who consumes eight or more, you drink too much. Ditto if you are pregnant or younger than 21 and drink any amount at all. If you are a woman, the CDC does not want to hear about how you limit yourself to one drink every day except Saturday, when you have two, thereby exceeding the government's arbitrary limit. Nor does the CDC care that you think 18-to-20-year-olds, who are legally adults in every other respect, should be allowed to drink beer. And don't even try to point out the lack of evidence that light to moderate drinking during pregancy harms fetuses. The CDC has decreed that all these patterns of drinking are excessive, and its only challenge now is convincing the rest of us.

That may be a tough sell. All together, the CDC says, "29% of U.S. adults drink too much." Based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, that means nearly half of all Americans who drink at all, and most (about 60 percent) of those who drink at least once a month, drink too much. Among past-month drinkers, according to the CDC, excessive consumption is the norm.

NEXT: Utah Quietly Rolls Back Asset Forfeiture Reform

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted with alarm that “only one in six adults [says] a health professional has ever discussed alcohol use with them.”

    The only time I’ve ever talked about alcohol use with a physician is when I’ve tried to pick them up in a bar.

    1. I discussed it with a physician yesterday, we had four candidates for the house red for 2014 and were sampling them with a nice antipasto platter.

    2. After a DUI in the 1990s, I had to discuss drinking for every freaking Army flight physical and every security clearance renewal through 2010. If they had not brought it up, I would have not said a word about it.

      Now the government wants all of you people to pay for the interrogation out of your Obamacare.

      1. I got a minor-in-possession before entering the military and had the same issue – required alcohol counseling for clearances and such.

        Additionally – I wasn’t allowed to work on aircraft – not that I necessarily wanted to, but they made it a point of saying that any alcohol related charge is assumed to be abuse, and anyone who has abused alcohol cannot even gas up aircraft (apparently there is an MOS for just that).

        The funny part – is through various changes to my selected MOS – I ended up working on electronics of the Apahace Long Bow (radar, fire control, targeting, etc).

        So much for alcohol abuse != aircraft work; though I think I was better off being denied the fuel engineer job 🙂

        1. ROFL, I was an Aviator and never removed from flight status. I later met a guy who had more experience details, he was not removed from flight status until his second DUI.

  2. Sort of OT:
    Stewart blasts those old white guys at FOX News about dope! Somehow misses the NYT on the same subject; wonder why?…..alization/

    1. wonder why?

      I give up. Why?

      1. “I give up. Why?”

        Fox is right wing haters, NYT is left wing wonnnerful people!

      2. Because you’re an abject moron, Mary.

        1. Still humping Mary’s leg, Silly Dog?

    1. Pants: shit.

      OMG loopholes! People can sell things to each other without asking permission!

      1. Agreed – though for firearms there are shipping restrictions, where the sender or the receiver (possibly both) must be licensed firearm dealers, who are unlikely to allow a transaction to go through without background checks, transfer of ownership, etc.

        Of course if one party drives the shipment themselves….

      2. Agreed – though for firearms there are shipping restrictions, where the sender or the receiver (possibly both) must be licensed firearm dealers, who are unlikely to allow a transaction to go through without background checks, transfer of ownership, etc.

        Of course if one party drives the shipment themselves….

    2. It gets worse. It’s not just the fact that people are selling guns on Reddit that’s disturbing. It’s how they’re doing it. For one, there’s reason to believe that guns are being sold illegally and without background checks.

      It’s not just the fact that people are hunting wild boar in Alabama that’s disturbing. It’s how they’re doing it: with weapons purchased without the permission of their political betters, for whom everyone is a potential criminal until he’s cleared by the angels who run the show.

      How is it that progressives have never realized that they’re just a socon variant?

      1. because they’re just as convinced of their own moral superiority.

        1. This. The greatest reason to despise progressives.

          1. Doesn’t that make libertarians like 10 times as despicable? No other secular group unholsters the moral finger like you guys.

            1. Yeah, because libertarians are All About telling other people how to live their lives.

              Were you born this stupid, or did you have to have training?

      2. Because then their heads would explode.

    3. “and the numbers are disturbing.” 159 total gun sales is disturbing? Jesus.

      1. Also, who in the fuck would buy a gun from Reddit?

        Rhetorical, I already know…

    4. You can’t legally sell guns on the internet, but you can meet up with people who want to sell them in person that way. Or you can strike a deal where the gun is shipped to a licensed gun dealer to complete the transaction if you are from different States. Are they having a fit about classified ads in newspapers for the same thing?

      1. And gun sales between private parties do not require background checks. These people are morons.

  3. “If you are a man who consumes 15 or more drinks in a week”

    That’s baseline consumption. That’s where drinking starts – at least at my age. In grad school a six pack was baseline. ; (

    1. And that six-pack theory gets even more interesting if one is predisposed to high-gravity beer. I’m admitting nothing.

      1. Or if you brew your own… and enjoy the act of brewing too much. Then you run into the issue of trying to figure out where to put 15 gallons of beer in a month.

    2. A six pack each night was baseline. To be clear

    3. If you are a man who consumes 15 or more drinks in a week

      I’ve consumed that much in the past 8 hours. And I can still do HTML. Fuck you, CDC.

      1. True story: a friend of mine once found the following comment in his C code:

        /* drunk, fix later */

    1. It doesn’t work as well with your new handle.

      1. Yeah, the new handle is LAME!

        1. Bah. Wanted something to give plausible deniability if wife looks over my shoulder.


          1. I can’t keep up with the handle hoppers. What was you old one?

          2. It’s okay, we’ll still love you even though you have a pathetic handle AND you are pussy whipped.

            1. Ouch!

              JW: SweatingGin was my usual handle for a while. Tried for something less blatant.

              1. I gots a tear in my eye, man.

                I need a moment.

  4. This kind of shit from the CDC is right on par with the BMI crap. Not only does it not take into account the differences among individuals, it sets the limits at ridiculously low levels. Why? Because, as always, it sets the groundwork for CONTROL. On top of that, this is a nanny-statist/technocrat way of making everyone a “criminal”, it’s just that you’re a “health criminal”, meaning that you’re being unhealthy and you should stop and while they can’t force you for now (though note how this ties in beautifully with nationalized health care; maybe one day drinking “too much” will be a crime because you might cost the taxpayers more money), they’ll still try and guilt/shame you into compliance.

    1. It’s just the slow and steady slide to Brazil‘s distopia.

      1. Or Demolition Man‘s.

    2. And some people actually wonder why so many other stupid people doubt the consensus opinions of science.

      It’s settled science, you denialist drunk.

      For over a century, clear-headed progressives have looked forward to the day when the masses would be dissuaded from falling prey to the demon rum. With ObamaCare, progressives can take cheer that day will come.

      1. If ObamaCare survives more than a few years. Its collapse seems pretty inevitable…

  5. So maybe I just didn’t notice it, but what physiological changes does a person undergo when they turn 21? Is that when the human liver actually grows in, or is that just when it start working? And does it happen instantly on day 7,670, or does it start earlier and happen gradually?

    I mean there’s obviously some reason that no amount of alcohol is safe before a person’s 21st birthday, but after it’s safe to consume in moderate amounts, right?

    1. Why are people smart enough to vote at 18 but too dumb to drink until they’re 21?

      1. Ask Epi. He’s too dumb to vote, but smart enough to drink.

        1. Damn, Hugh, I thought I was too dumb to vote and too dumb to drink. I mean, do you really want a hammered me around?

      2. Because voting doesn’t really matter that much anyway.

    2. It’s pretty significant, actually. I remember being 19 when my state reverted from 18 back to 21. I was midway through a beer when the clock struck midnight, and it was like night and day. This cloud just descended over me and all of a sudden I had an alcohol problem. It was another eighteen months until I felt comfortable again, although I still get that creeping feeling round about beer 15 at 11:30 pm on a Saturday night. I just remind myself “Not worth it man, play a quick 3v3 LoL, regroup, and start fresh at #1”.

      A similar thing happened hotboxing the other day from Fort Collins to Cheyenne. We were just cruising with some indica, and as we crossed that state border the driver just was like “I WANT TO RAPE!” and then I was like “STEVE SMITH ME TOO!” and then we saw some sheep and you could just feel the devil within you. Scary stuff.

      1. Oh, and just in case you guys are like “That would never happen to me!”, here’s a story for you: Aunt Nancy, Christmas of 2011. We just get done opening presents, and she goes into the bathroom and sets her prescription for percocet down on the counter…right next to my uncle’s prescription for percocet. You see where this is going. She drops a deuce, washes her hands for ten seconds which includes scrubbing her fingernails (obvi), and pops one of his percocets without looking.

        She’s on the krokodil now.

        1. The same thing happened to me when Illinois changed their drinking age from 19 to 21. I was 19 at the time. I bought a drink at 11:50 on New Year’s Eve, and they weren’t allowed to serve me after midnight (at least they didn’t take away the drink I had at 12:01). Then I had to go through a year-and-a-half of not being allowed into bars when I had already been doing it legally for half a year.

          I know some states grandfathered people, but not Obama’s state of record.

    3. getting roughed up by cops and thrown into a cage can be hazardous to your health.

  6. I love the trend of “journalists” saying someone “was over three times the legal limit” (or similar) when they ran into the law for their particular misadventure, with no driving involved at all.

    What’s the legal limit or being alive? Oh, right, FYTW.

  7. OH FOR THE LOVE OF SWEET FLYING FUCKNUGGETS! Not only do we have to fit the mold of “Dachau Chic” or be deemed fat bastards and have Mobama dictating mandatory avocados but now some proggie shithustlers are gonna start with “THERE’S A MASS EPIDEMIC OF DRINKING THE GOVERNMENT SAYS SO! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”

    It’s a judgement of the American people that we’ve fallen for this shit all along.

    1. Is your other name Jennifer?

      1. Is your other name Mary, Mary?

        1. What, still stalking me? OK, now you’re forcing me to give you a nickname. But should it be “Silly Dog” or “Stupid Chicken”? Let’s let the viewers decide.

          A) Silly Dog
          B) Stupid Chicken

          Vote now and often!

          1. I just can’t get over how much you project, Mary. It’s like, TOTAL PROJECTION. It’s like you’re not even a person.

            1. Silly Dog!

    2. … and have Mobama dictating mandatory avocados…

      Now, now Susan. I loves me some avocados. Especially deep fried!

  8. Please explain to me the epidemiological nature of the claim that “Any alcohol use by those 21 and under” is excessive. Because we all know the CDC sticks to its mandate of protecting the public from disease.

  9. Five or more drinks “on an occasion” for men … typically raise a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent

    Is this another Chris Christie post?

    1. No, I think it would take 10 drinks to faze that guy.

      1. Nah, his organs aren’t bigger, just his fat load and the musculature to carry it. With all the dieting he’s done, it’s possible they have shrunk. And don’t I recall him getting a lap band?

    2. I heard a doc ask someone if they *ever* had five drinks in one day.
      My doc doesn’t bother asking.

  10. Any more of this and I might start ignoring anything the CDC has to say about any topic. Oh, wait.

  11. I had no idea that this parody existed until two minutes ago. I can’t stop laughing.

    1. How can you parody a parody?

      1. Austin Powers parodies James Bond movies, which are themselves parodies of serious John Le Carre-type spy yarns.

  12. Wait a minute… Has anyone told Jezebel about this blatant sexism yet? Men get more drinks at a time?!? And more per week?!?

    So triggering.

    1. Or that they only show the limits for two gender categories. What about Ts and Is and Qs?

      1. Obviously if you’re a man and you’re crossdressed as a woman, then your alcohol tolerance immediately becomes lower. #liberallogic

  13. Let’s face it, the CDC is just another power mad bureaucracy that loves to tell other people what to do. They get more power out of strict limits that effect a lot of people versus realistic limits that effect fewer people.

    1. It’s just like 24hrNews. Not enough real shit happens to take up their time fulfilling their stated mission, so they just make shit up.

      1. Plenty of stuff happens to fill up the time. It’s just easier to fill up space with people shouting nonsense at each other. They missed a real chance to use that time in the months leading up to the Iraq war to educate the country on the complicated history of that region. Instead we got 24 hours worth of warboners yelling.

    2. I know! Let’s have them study crimes with guns! It’s just like a communicable disease!

      See, the anti gunners would have so much more valid info, if those dastardly rethuglicans hadn’t stopped CDC from doing studies on them.

      1. How about: “Binge shooting is squeezing off five or more rounds on an occasion for men and four or more rounds for women. According to the CDC, many American gun owners shoot too much.”

      2. The CDC already considers firearms ownership a public health epidemic, and wants your medical professional to ask if you have a firearm in your home. At least that’s what I remember reading on Reason a few years ago, though the binge-drinking alcoholic haze may have played havoc with my facts.

        1. The CDC already considers firearms ownership a public health epidemic, and wants your medical professional to ask if you have a firearm in your home.

          Yep. My kid’s pediatrician asked her in front of me about “firearms in the home,” I think it was in 2007. I told him right then he was fired and we walked out.
          She told me she wouldn’t have told him anything, not even that she knew how to shoot and clean a gun.

          1. Jesus. Good kid.

            That scares the crap out of me, just had the older of my kids to the doctor a few weeks ago, and was not at all prepared if that had come up.

            All that said, mine are still young enough that they don’t know about daddy’s arsenal.

            1. Your oldest kid is three years? That’s about when mine noticed my firearms.
              “Daddy, are you a policeman?”
              “No, real people own guns too.”

              1. Real people. Lol.

          2. When I was 10 years old, my family physician pressured me at every visit to tell him about my father’s drinking. My father’s drinking was virtually nil, he just had a big gut. I could tell the doc didn’t believe me. I sure hated that guy.

          3. When I was 10 years old, my family physician pressured me at every visit to tell him about my father’s drinking. My father’s drinking was virtually nil, he just had a big gut. I could tell the doc didn’t believe me. I sure hated that guy.

  14. *Finishes reading*


    *sucks last vodka from bottom of glass with straw making a long gurgling noise. Goes to kitchen to make another one*

  15. Only 38 million people have had 4/5+ drinks in a sitting in the past month? What the fuck people?

    1. Some of us got old. I usually fall asleep before I get to that 5th beer. Also, a bottle of wine only yields 4 glasses. 15 years ago, I’d have 4 or 5 drinks before I was ready to go to the bar.

  16. I wish they’d spend more time on the persistent problem of eternal nothingness that consumes every single human being at some point. The mommy farm called the federal government reminds me of rapture believers. Living so distinctly in the moment to be correct and superior that the far more relevant reality of general mortality becomes something of a nuisance.

  17. Will I be under the CDC definition of a binge drinker if I make a mixed drink in a double big gulp cup. It’s only one drink.

    1. Probably not. A “drink” is a technical term, like a “serving”.

      1. By their definitions, I had 4 servings of protein with dinner tonight, and a week worth of fat.

    2. I remember years ago reading a thing about alcoholism that included ‘pattern drinking’ – even if you didn’t drink heavily or often, you were still an alcoholic if you drink on a regular schedule. Under that definition, an erstwhile teetotaler who drinks a single glass of champagne without fail every New Years Eve is an alcoholic.

      1. That’s what they told me in high school. As you can tell from my handle, it really sank in.

  18. FTFS: binge drinking [is] defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion during the past 30 days

    Emphasis added. WTF?

    1. “binge drinking [is] defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion during the past 30 days”

      If it was not on an occasion, like maybe just a typical Tuesday night, then it’s not counted as binge drinking.

    2. Yeah, but the past 30 days included New Year’s Eve. And several good playoff and bowl games.

  19. A buddy and have pretty much stuck to the groove of “just one beer” when we hang out. For the first drink we decide which beer we will drink and just drink the one beer. Usually seven or eight of them.

  20. 15?




    *Deep breath and a shot*


    You can’t make this shit up!

  21. Dear CDC,

    I hope that you fuck off so hard, that you create a new spatial dimension.


  22. I remember laughing my ass off in college at their definition of binge drinking. As a spry 19 year old, 10-12 beers in a night was a common occurrence, especially a weeknight. I’ve since stopped “binging” but one football Sunday or Friday night out will bump me over the weekly limit. I needs my wines at the end of the day.

    1. Especially weekends, sorry. Although there were plenty of Thursdays. And “all-U-kin” Wednesdays too…

  23. This makes a lot of sense dude.

  24. Hasn’t there been a British study that showed that light to moderate drinking during pregnancy was actually healthier for mother and baby than abstaining? CDC NEVER gets anything right. Their motto must be “if it’s fun, it’s bad for you.”

    1. If you enjoy it, it must be dangerous and evil, and needs to be prohibited and/or controlled by wiser beings. Their entire philosophy in one sentence.

  25. The real problem is the CDC doesn’t really have a job any more. The days of devastating outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, small pox etc have ended. So they have to come up with some new shit to justify their paychecks. Never ever set up a bureaucracy to solve a problem as the incentive structure is to always grow and expand even when their raison d’etre is gone.

    1. Bingo.

      The only legitimate purpose of the CDC was (and still is) preventing the spread of dangerous communicable diseases.

      Instead it has tried to turn all sorts of purely political issues into a “health” issue – like gun control and drinking.

      It is a perfect example of a perpetual self inflating government bureauocracy.

      1. How is it legitimate for the CDC to steal my hard-earned money to prevent other people from getting sick?

  26. Also the ‘5 drinks’ thing reeks with public relations stint. As any well rounded drinker can attest to ‘5 drinks’ can be anything from a super mild almost-nothing buzz to being somewhat hammered. What are these idiots speak of? Five low-cal beers at 3.5% ABV, 4.9% Buds, 7% Torpedos, 9% Stormkings, 10% Dragons’ Milk, or 5 shots of Walmart-diluted Long Island Ice Tea, 5 shots of any solid bourbon, or for wrap-up 5 shots of 160 proof Devil’s Spring?

  27. Alcohol abuse is not a communicable disease and therefore should be none of the CDC’s goddamned business.

  28. This is actually another reason we should remove Obamacare. If person X’s money is being spent for person Y’s healthcare then X will feel they should have a say in how Y chooses to live their life. Of course Y will laugh this off until they are forced to live their life by X’s standards.

  29. As a recovering alcoholic, the simple answer to the question “Do I have a drinking problem?” is simple, ask yourself and be honest “Does drinking cause me more problems than i can handle?” if yes, you just said there’s a problem. These arbitrary standards are the single most harmful thing to real alcoholics, it confuses real alcoholics with everyone else so much so that they keep continuing their practice thinking that if the norm is excess then they must be normal and therefore not alcoholic regardless of the consequences of their drinking. I used to drink once a month back before I quit, it was the result of every time I drank I woke up with more and worse problems than the night before and I continued because I didn’t think drinking so little was a drinking problem since it was clearly under the federally approved standards- Still got violent as hell with even just 2 or 3 drinks. One size logic does not fit all, fucking idiots.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.