Are You An Alcoholic If You Drink A Bottle Of Wine A Day

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

Drinking a bottle of wine a day may rapidly increase the likelihood of physical and chemical alcohol addiction developing.

Drinking a bottle per day equates to approximately 9 units per day or 63 units per week, far in excess of UK NHS recommended guidelines (14 units per week)[1].

However, volume of alcohol consumed, does not solely define anyone as an alcoholic, since there are also behavioural, emotional and physical components to alcohol addiction.

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How Much Wine Are You Drinking Per Day?

To calculate this, understand first how alcohol is measured. 

In the UK, alcohol is measured in units. One unit is equivalent to 10 milligrams of pure alcohol.

Different types of wine have different alcohol strengths. A wine with low alcohol strength has fewer alcohol units, than a drink with high alcohol strength.

If you’re drinking a bottle of wine a day, here’s the math:

A standard bottle contains 750 ml, and a glass is 125 ml; so drinking an entire bottle of wine is equivalent to six glasses per day.

A glass of wine with an 11% ABV is 1.4 units. At 14% ABV, the glass would be 1.8 units. Hence, a 750 ml bottle is about 8.4 - 10.8 units. 

Multiply a bottle by the number of days in a week, and you’ve exceeded the allowable limit many times over. 

All the above measurements are for standard-sized (750ml) bottles of wine. However, there are magnum and double magnum bottles available containing 1.5 and 3 litres of wine, respectively.

Are You An Alcoholic?

Alcoholism does not pick between sufferers, and can manifest even in those who appear high functioning in daily life. 

These individuals go to work every day, attend social events, go home to a family, then unwind with a bottle of wine.

To them, using alcohol in this way, as a means to cope, has become normal.

The body has become used to a sustained level of alcohol over time, and physical addiction has begun.

Later, the same individual will begin to rationalise their use of alcohol in social situations, make excuses, behave aggressively, and deny their addiction exists.

At this point, the individual is now physically, behaviourally, and emotionally addicted to alcohol.

It is the presence of these multiple factors, that is more indicative of alcohol addiction, than purely the volume of alcohol consumed alone.

How Alcohol Consumption Is Measured

Units in a drink differ, depending on the quantity and the alcohol strength.

For example:

750 ml bottle of vodka = 26 units

750 ml bottle of 13.5% red wine = 10 units; 750 bottle of 12% wine = 9 units

440 ml of 4.5% lager = 2 units

To compute the units in a drink, here’s the formula: 

(ABV x ml) / 1000 = unit

How Much Is Too Much?

How do you know if the wine you’re drinking is already too much? 

Although current guidelines suggest not to exceed 14 units a week, newer studies demonstrate that even moderate drinking can increase the risk of stroke and dementia, as a result of decreased brain volume[2][3].

Another study refutes the long-held belief that the resveratrol in red wine prevents cardiovascular diseases and cancer[4].

Comprehensive global studies from The Lancet and World Health Organisation on the benefits of alcohol , concluded that there is no level of alcohol consumption that improves health[5] [6].

What Are The Long Term Effects Of Drinking A Bottle Of Wine Every Day?

The long term effects of chronic alcohol use are more concerning, as they shorten expected life span, and reduce quality of life:

  • Liver diseases – fatty liver, cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic hepatitis
  • Heart disease – high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke
  • Gastrointestinal illnesses – ulcers and gastritis
  • Sexual problems – erectile dysfunction
  • Kidney damage – acute kidney failure
  • Behavioural changes – depression, anxiety, psychosis, antisocial behaviour

The Effects Of Drinking A Bottle Of Wine A Day For 10 Or 20 Years

Chronic alcohol abuse affects almost every part of the human body. It can cause liver damage, cardiovascular disease, sexual dysfunction and much more.

But when a person drinks wine continuously for 10 to 20 years, the major health concern is damage to the brain[7].

Long term alcohol abuse kills neurons incrementally over time, leading to brain damage, and memory blackouts.

This alcohol-induced damage to the brain is insidious, and may go unnoticed.

By the time a person becomes aware of symptoms, it can be too late to reverse the damage that has been done.

Blurring of vision, slurred speech, difficulty walking, decreased reflexes, and vague memory, are some of the prominent symptoms indicative of brain damage caused by continuously drinking alcohol for ten years.

Dementia and cognitive impairment are more pronounced when drinking wine regularly for twenty years.

At this level of usage there is a marked increase in risk of liver cirrhosis, in our experience.

Can Drinking A Bottle Of Wine Per Day Cause Cirrhosis?

Drinking a bottle of wine every day for a few weeks or months, may not result in liver cirrhosis, however, the same amount for ten to twenty years increases the risk of developing cirrhosis, many fold[8].

What Is Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is end-stage liver disease. It is the most severe form of liver damage. It is a condition in which the healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. This scarring of the liver parenchyma is irreversible and can even lead to liver cancer if not managed in a timely manner.

Early Signs And Symptoms Of Cirrhosis

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Late Signs And Symptoms Of Cirrhosis

  1. Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice)
  2. Fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
  3. Swelling of hands and feet
  4. Easy bruising and bleeding
  5. Itchy skin
  6. Light coloured stools or blood in stools
  7. Memory loss and cognitive impairment
  8. Personality changes

Gender-Specific Signs And Symptoms Of Cirrhosis

  • Men: decreased libido, shrunken testicles and enlarged breasts (gynecomastia)
  • Women: premature menopause

Treatment Of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is an irreversible condition, and medications can only slow down its progression or provide symptomatic relief. The only possible treatment is liver transplantation.

Difference Between Alcohol Abuse And Drinking In Moderation

Moderate drinking, means following the guidelines of a national institute like the NHS to drink within the recommended limit.

The current dietary guidelines recommend that men and women must not consume more than 14 units of alcohol within a single week[1].

Excessive drinking. refers to alcohol intake of more than the recommended level.

If a person drinks too much wine regularly or often indulges in binge drinking, then it can be considered alcohol abuse, especially if it affects the individual's overall health.

Warning Signs Of Drinking Too Much Wine

Drinking one to two glasses of any alcoholic drink may not be thought of as harmful to health. 

But regular wine consumption can lead to increasing tolerance, and ultimately, alcoholism.

The warning signs of drinking too much wine are divided into three categories:

Physical Signs

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Altered appetite
  • Insomnia

Psychological Signs

  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Gradual loss of memory
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Intense alcohol cravings

Behavioural Signs

  • Drinking heavily when alone
  • Drinking until passing out
  • Social isolation
  • Withdrawal from responsibilities

Must You Give Up Wine For Good?

A life without wine is possible, and has more health benefits than life with alcohol.

If unable to abstain completely, it's possible to reduce intake.

Here are the steps to cutting down on drinking[9] [10]:

  • Know how much you’re drinking. To get a clear picture, keep a diary for the next few weeks. Include the following date: day, time, place, activity, companions, and number of standard drinks. Your diary will show you the pattern of your drinking habit, the events, and the triggers.
  • Make a list, in writing, of the reasons for your cutting down. They will serve to motivate you. Then choose a starting date and tell the people you are close to, to enlist their support.
  • Set a goal of cutting down your alcohol intake by 10 percent a day. How many units are you drinking in a day? Divide that by 10, and the answer is the amount you will take off.

Go more slowly when cutting down on alcohol if you are drinking more than 25 units a day, are over 65 years old, or your health is not at its peak.

In all cases, always consult your GP or qualified health professional before reducing intake. 

Abbeycare suggest a supervised detoxification protocol in a residential addiction clinic.

Last Updated: January 18, 2023

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.