Is it safe to drink alcohol?  If so, how much is safe, and how often? Many studies have been done to answer these questions. The studies show that drinking ½-1 alcoholic drink/day for women, or 1-2 drinks/day for men, is not harmful, and may even help to lower cholesterol, and reduce one's risk of heart attack, heart failure, and senility.  However, drinking more than 1-3 drinks/day causes more harm than good.  Also, these numbers are maximums, not averages. That is, drinking 0 drinks for 6 days, then 7 drinks on day 7, is not the same as drinking 1 drink/day for 7 days.  Women who are pregnant should not drink any alcohol.

Studies have shown that drinking >1 drink/day for women, or >3 drinks/day for men, can increase the risk of serious health conditions. The greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the greater the increase in risk. Alcohol can cause or contribute to all of the following conditions:
  • Cancer of the Mouth, Throat, Esophagus (food tube), and Stomach.
  • Inflammation and Ulcers of the Stomach, which can bleed, sometimes causing death.
  • Liver Failure and Cirrhosis, leading to a buildup of ammonia in the blood and fluid (swelling) in the body.
  • Heart Failure (known as Cardiomyopathy).
  • Pancreatitis (Painful inflammation of the Pancreas, an organ in the abdomen).
  • Brain Damage, leading to permanent memory loss and slowed thinking.
  • Peripheral Neuropathy (damage to nerves in the hands, legs, and feet).
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents and other Trauma.
  • Birth Defects in babies whose mothers drank while pregnant (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).
  • Breast Cancer (Increased risk of Breast Cancer with just 1 drink/day for women).
  • Dehydration.
  • Fatal Overdose.
  • Depression.
  • Poor work performance.
  • Poor Relationships with family and others.
  • Absence of Spirituality.
  • Seizures and Delirium if heavy alcohol drinking is abruptly stopped without medical supervision.
Approximately 85% of the U.S. population can safely drink one alcoholic beverage per day without increasing their usage over time. These people are not alcoholics or addicts. However, due to genetic and environmental factors, approximately 15% of Americans either have, or are at risk for developing, problems with drugs or alcohol. This means that if they start to drink, they will eventually escalate the amount that they drink, and ultimately lose control over their drinking. They are simply unable to control the amount they drink. If you suspect that you have a drinking problem, but aren't sure, try taking this Alcohol Quiz .

Those who are in the 15% with a drinking problem need not be ashamed. The American Medical Association, the U.S. Government, and most enlightened people consider Alcoholism to be a disease, just like Asthma and Diabetes are diseases. The disease of Alcoholism is not caused by a lack of morals or willpower. It is simply a disease. Untreated, it can be a devastating disease. As a disease, it requires effective treatment, and fortunately effective treatments are available.

Those who become aware that they have the disease of Alcoholism must always try to avoid taking the first drink. If they take that first drink, they will be unable to control what happens afterward, so they must abstain completely. The most effective form of treatment for Alcoholism is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous .  Studies of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) show that 90-98% of those who regularly attend AA meetings stay sober.

People who attend AA meetings learn how to have fun without drinking.  Gradually, they improve their relationships with self, others, and their Higher Power, while staying sober.  These changes ultimately lead to happiness, and many recovering Alcoholics are willing to talk about the joy they have found with the help of AA.  In contrast, Alcoholics who try to quit drinking on their own (without AA) are usually unsuccessful.  Those who are able to stop drinking on their own seem to retain their alcoholic thinking (eg fear, guilt, regret, loneliness) and their alcoholic traits (eg irritability and erratic moods).  That type of thinking, and those traits, prevent the improvements in fun, relationships, and spirituality that AA members enjoy.
AA Big Book

Some Alcoholics are more affected by their disease than others. While AA is an important part of any Recovery from Alcoholism, some Alcoholics need other treatments in addition to AA. If you find that you are unable to stop drinking, and you have attended AA meetings, then you may need to combine some of the following treatments:
  • Inpatient Drug & Alcohol Treatment at a Rehabilitation Facility such as Livengrin or The Caron Foundation . (Rehab - not just Detox.)
  • Daily Attendance at AA meetings (90 meetings in 90 days).
  • Individual Counseling with a Therapist who understands Addiction, such as a Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC).
  • Read a Recovery book.  The AA Big Book is available at most AA meetings and at (See link on right and comments below.)
  • Medication (such as Antabuse, or an antidepressant) if needed. (See your doctor.)

To recover from Alcoholism, you will need Honesty, Openness, and Willingness, but you do not need any special ability or talent. With the right combination of treatments, I strongly believe that you can Recover from the disease of Alcoholism.

Brad Paddock, MD


  Read What Others Have Said About the AA Big Book:

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism    (From & its affiliates, ©1996-2003.)

Editorial Reviews
Book Description
It's more than a book. It's a way of life.

Alcoholics Anonymous-the Big Book-has served as a lifeline to millions worldwide. First published in 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous sets forth cornerstone concepts of recovery from alcoholism and tells the stories of men and women who have overcome the disease. With publication of the second edition in 1955, the third edition in 1976, and now the fourth edition in 2001, the essential recovery text has remained unchanged while personal stories have been added to reflect the growing and diverse fellowship. The long-awaited fourth edition features 24 new personal stories of recovery.

Key features and benefits
· the most widely used resource for millions of individuals in recovery
· contains full, original text describing AA program
· updated with 24 new personal stories

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars If you're looking at this book..., July 29, 2002
Reviewer: A reader
Chances are you need it. No one ever comes to AA by acident. That said AA is not for everyone, only for people who can be honest with themselves, who are willing to do the work required, and are accepting of new ideas. AA is not what you think it is, and after all, YOUR BEST THINKING GOT YOU HERE.  By the way, go to a meeting and someone will give you a free copy.

5 out of 5 stars Yes this is THE Big Book of AA., April 2, 2002
Reviewer: a-northern-gardener from An Anonymous city

This is the new fourth edition of the AA "bible" otherwise known as the book book. The first three editions sold over 22 million copies (since 1937). The fourth edition is changed from the previous edition only by the addition of 24 new personal stories in the second half of the book. Sixteen "classic" stories are retained. The first half is unchanged.

It is a must read for anyone in recovery, thinking about recovery, trying to help someone in recovery, or just wondering about the disease of Alcoholism.

This book was authored by Bill W., one of the founders of AA. Bill W. was probably one of the greatest men to ever put pen to paper. His wisdom, experience, and love are on every page. Since AA belives in attraction rather than promotion of its ideas you will not see press releases or editorial reviews of this book. But go to any treatment center and they will probably give you a copy of this book.

With this and previous editions combined it is one of the best selling books of all time. It would show up higher on ... sales ranking[s] if it were a "normal" book. But since its distribution is normally through places like treatment centers and local AA groups it is a closet best seller.