Myths about drinking alcohol


We know much more about the effects of alcohol today than in the past. Yet, myths remain about drinking and drinking problems. Learn the facts about alcohol use so you can make healthy decisions.

Myth #1: I do not Have a Problem Because I can Hold my Liquor

Being able to have a few drinks without feeling any effects may seem like a good thing. In fact, if you need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol to feel an effect, it could be a sign you have a problem with alcohol.

Myth #2: I Only Drink on Weekends

You do not need to drink every day to have a problem with alcohol. Heavy drinking is defined by how much alcohol you have in a day or in a week.

You may be at risk if you:

  • Are a man and have more than 4 drinks a day or more than 14 drinks in a week
  • Are a woman and have more than 3 drinks a day or more than 7 drinks in a week

Drinking this amount or more is considered heavy drinking. This is true even if you only do it on weekends. Heavy drinking can put you at risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease, sleep problems, and some types of cancer.

Myth #3: I Am Too Old to Have a Drinking Problem

You may think that drinking problems have to start early in life. In fact, some people develop problems with drinking at a later age.

One reason is that people become more sensitive to alcohol as they get older. Or they may take medicines that make the effects of alcohol stronger. Some older adults may start to drink more because they are bored or feel lonely or depressed.

Even if you never drank that much when you were young, you can have problems with drinking as you get older.

What is a healthy range of drinking for men and women over age 65? Experts recommend no more than 3 drinks a day or no more than a total of 7 drinks a week.

Myth #4: I do not Have a Problem Because I Only Drink Wine and Beer

Problem drinking is not about what you drink, but how it affects your life. For example, if you can answer "yes" to any of the following statements, drinking may be causing you problems.

  • I often drink more than I intend to.
  • I often have a strong craving for alcohol.
  • I have tried to cut back on drinking and have not been able to.
  • I spend a lot of time getting alcohol, drinking alcohol, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • I have had trouble at work, home, or school because of alcohol use.
  • I have had trouble with my relationships because of drinking.
  • I have missed important work, school, or social activities because of alcohol.
  • I continue to drink despite any problems I’ve had because of it.

Myth #5: Drinking a Good Way to Take the Edge Off my Chronic Pain

People with chronic pain sometimes use alcohol to help manage pain. There are several reasons why this may not be a good choice.

  • Alcohol and pain relievers do not mix. Drinking while taking pain relievers may increase your risk of liver problems, stomach bleeding, or other problems.
  • It increases your risk for alcohol problems. Most people need to drink more than a moderate amount to relieve pain. Also, as you develop a tolerance for alcohol, you will need to drink more to get the same pain relief. Drinking at that level increases your risk for alcohol problems.
  • Chronic alcohol use can increase pain. If you have withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, you may feel more sensitive to pain. Also, heavy drinking over a long time can actually cause a certain type of nerve pain.

Myth #6: If I Drink Too Much, Coffee will Sober me Up

If you are drunk, nothing will help make you sober except time. Your body needs time to break down the alcohol in your system. The caffeine in coffee may help you stay awake. However, it will not improve your coordination or decision-making skills. These can be impaired for several hours after you stop drinking. This is why it is never safe to drive after you have been drinking, no matter how many cups of coffee you have.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM-IV and DSM-5. July 2015. Accessed September 18, 2015.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Overview of Alcohol Consumption. Accessed September 18, 2015.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Rethinking Drinking. 2010. Accessed September 18, 2015.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Using Alcohol to Relieve Your Pain: What Are the Risks? July 2013. Accessed September 18, 2015.

NIH: Senior Health. Alcohol Use and Older Adults. Accessed September 18, 2015.

Review date:
December 07, 2016
Reviewed by:
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, medical director and director of didactic curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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