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CISA does not intend to define in details and with absolute security the terms, measurements and concepts, which are intensively debated by the scientific community. Our purpose is to present the different concepts so that the reader can calmly and maturely choose the one that best fits one’s needs.
Responsible alcohol consumption is not an easy term to be defined, since it can give rise to different understanding according to the level of information, context and individual needs. According to the Aurélio Buarque de Holanda Portuguese Dictionary1, a responsible individual is one that: a) answers for one’s own actions or for other people’s actions; b) answers legally or morally for the someone else’s life and well-being; c) has exact notion of responsibility, takes responsibility for one’s actions, who is not irresponsible; d) gives rise to, gives cause to something and e) faulty, guilty individual. Responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages is associated to the idea that the individual is aware of the negative consequences that may occur with the use of alcohol and takes actions to reduce them or minimize the gravity of them, assuming a risk “in a responsible way”. This understanding is, among other aspects, connected to the quantity of alcohol doses considered to be acceptable so that the person does not cause damage to him/herself or others. Thus, we can relate the idea of responsible consumption to the concept of acceptable consumption defended by the World Health Organization and moderate consumption defended by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture.
The World Health Organization (WHO) established that, in order to avoid problems with alcohol, the acceptable consumption is equal to 15 doses/week for men and 10 doses/week for women, considering 1 dose* to contain 8 to 13 grams of etanol2. Men must not surpass the consumption of 3 daily doses of alcohol and 2 daily doses for women, and both men and women should not drink more than two days a week. WHO also adds that in certain situations, the use of alcohol is not recommended even in small quantities. Among them are the following:
Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant
People who plan to drive or are performing tasks that require state of alertness and attention like machine operation
People under medication
People whose clinical condition may get worse with the use of alcohol like hypertension and diabetes
Alcoholics in recovery
Minors under 18
The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture have issue a guide on health and food3 where they explain that alcoholic beverages are a source of calories, but a poor source of nutrients. Besides that, the guide emphasizes that the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages may produce harmful effects as high blood pressure, strokes, and cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer, accidents, violence, suicide, congenital defects, liver cirrhosis and pancreatic inflammation. The guide suggests that people who want to drink should do it with moderation, and one of the beneficial effects of moderate consumption is the decrease in the risk of coronaries problems. The guide defines moderation as no more than one daily dose of alcoholic beverage for women and no more than two doses for men. According to the guide, the following people should not drink:
Children and adolescents
People of any age who cannot make moderate use of alcohol. Special attention must be taken to recovery alcoholics and people whose family members have problems related to alcohol.
People planning to drive or be involved in activities in which it is required to be attentive and alert
People under medication
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) uses the term "moderate drinking" to refer to limited consumption when there is no harm to the individual or to society4. The NIAAA explains that the term “moderate drinking” is generally used to describe the quantity and frequency of alcohol usage when compared to the lack of use (abstinence) or abuse of alcohol, but emphasizes that such definitions may cause problems because they do not take into account possible personal harmful and beneficial consequences resulting of the long term use of alcohol. According to the NIAAA, the definition of moderate consumption may vary according to the individual and the context, and it is possible to find studies that consider one daily dose to five daily doses as moderate consumption. The NIAAA appoints that difficulties related to the definition of moderate use of alcohol is, to certain point, a result of individual differences, that is, the quantity of alcohol that one person is able to consume without getting intoxicated varies according to experience, tolerance, metabolism, genetical vulnerability, life style and time in which the alcohol is consumed (three doses in one hour produces a blood alcohol concentration much higher than three doses in three hours).
*One dose is equivalent to approximately 285 ml of beer, 120 ml of wine and approximately 30 ml of spirits (whisky, vodka, pinga). 2