What is a Standard Drink?

In this week’s edition of Alcohol Awareness Month, Jacalynn Romeyn explains what is really defined as “one drink” for all the various types of alcohol.

Many people are unaware of what counts as a drink.  Different types of beer, wine, or malt liquor have varying types of alcohol levels and therefore have a different fluid ounce level to count as “one drink.”

This is why it’s important to know how much alcohol your drink contains.  In the United States, one “standard” drink equals:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, which is about 7% alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol

Often times, the “standard” drink amounts are not the customary serving sizes we may be served in a restaurant or pour into a standard cup.

How do you know how much alcohol is in your drink?

Even though they come in different sizes, the drinks below are each examples of one standard drink:



** The alcohol concentrations listed are “typical,” there is considerable variability in alcohol content within each type of beverage

(e.g., beer, wine, distilled spirits).

How Much is Too Much?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.

If alcohol use interferes with other important activities (work, school, home life, relationships, etc.) this is usually an indication that there may be a problem with alcohol use.

If you are concerned about your alcohol intake, FACTS Outpatient Substance Use Treatment Services offers:

  • Comprehensive Assessments
  • Individual and Family Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Substance Use Education
  • Post Discharge Continuing Care
  • Integrated Care Coordination
  • Medication Assisted Treatment

If you have a tendency to binge drink and are unable to control it, call our FACTS program at 465-9345 so you can receive treatment today.