Alcohol Res Health. 2011;34(2):144-56.
Defining risk drinking.
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
Many efforts to prevent alcohol-related harm are aimed at reducing risk drinking. This article outlines the many conceptual and methodological challenges to defining risk drinking. It summarizes recent evidence regarding associations of various aspects of alcohol consumption with chronic and acute alcohol-related harms, including mortality, morbidity, injury, and alcohol use disorders, and summarizes the study designs most appropriate to defining risk thresholds for these types of harm. In addition, it presents an international overview of low-risk drinking guidelines from more than 20 countries, illustrating the wide range of interpretations of the scientific evidence related to risk drinking. This article also explores the impact of drink size on defining risk drinking and describes variation in what is considered to be a standard drink across populations. Actual and standard drink sizes differ in the United States, and this discrepancy affects definitions of risk drinking and prevention efforts.