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

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It’s becoming a pattern. Come home from work and unwind with a glass of wine. Then another while making dinner, and so on through the night. By the time you’re getting ready for bed, you’ve drank a whole bottle. 

Routines like this are familiar and comforting. But give it some deep thought because it’s a matter of great concern: Are you an alcoholic if you drink a bottle of wine a day? 

The answer is not an uncomplicated Yes or No. Several issues come into play, such as your overall physical and mental health, lifestyle, diet, and medications you are currently taking. 

What’s clearly apparent is, drinking a bottle of wine a day is over the recommended limit set by the UK government’s National Health Service (NHS).

How much wine are you drinking in a day?

The NHS advises men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. In the UK, alcohol is measured in units. A unit is equivalent to 10 ml of pure alcohol. 

Since the types of drinks have different alcohol strengths, a lower strength wine will have less units than a higher strength variety, just as beer and lager do not have the same alcohol volume as whisky or vodka. 

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 you would be drinking 6 glasses of wine a 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. 

Although the usual bottle for wines is 750 ml, they also come in Magnum (1.5L), double Magnum (3L), and bigger bottles.

Is it true that drinking a bottle of wine a day is okay?

Here’s how the rumour started:

In 2014, Dr. Kari Poikolainen, a Finnish professor and former World Health Organization alcohol expert claimed that drinking a bottle of wine a night is not bad at all. A bottle has only 10 units and alcohol is harmful only after 13 units. Since he has no published studies that would lead to this conclusion, the statement was widely criticised. 

However, Professor Poikolainen had a previous study in 2002 on the link between the J-curve effect and mortality. According to him, moderate drinkers have lower death rates than teetotalers and heavy drinkers. 

How much drinking is too much?

How can you tell if you’re drinking too much? If you’re at a point where you’re asking yourself this question, then maybe you have that niggling sense of unease that your alcohol intake is more than just a nightcap.

On top of that, it’s usually presumed that you started out with only one or two glasses of wine and gradually drank more because a couple of glasses doesn’t give you the same effects it used to.

Are you an alcoholic?

A picture of a typical alcoholic is one who is usually incoherent, chugging a bottle of lager all day long, unkempt, and has lost their jobs. But closet alcoholics are the high functioning ones. They go to work every day, attend social events, and go home to a family every night. 

If you are aware that you drink too much but you can still go on your daily activities, check out these questions. You may be veering towards alcoholism. In this case, it’s always better to face the truth and seek appropriate help.

Think of the year just past when you answer these questions.

  1. How often have you drunk wine (or other type of alcoholic drink) more than you intended?
  2. Were there more times than less that you wanted, or tried to, stop drinking but couldn’t?
  3. How often have you had the urge to drink, or had a craving for alcohol? 
  4. Have you spent more time than you would have liked drinking, or getting over a hangover?
  5. Has your drinking interfered with your family life, or caused you to be less efficient at work, or miss your classes?
  6. Have you continued to drink even if you were aware of the problems it caused with family and friends, and at work?
  7. Have you abandoned activities that you once enjoyed doing because you would rather be drinking?
  8. Have you been behaving in a risky manner that you didn’t previously do, such as drunken driving, being in dangerous places or situations, becoming violent, or having unsafe sex?
  9. Are you still drinking even if it makes you depressed or anxious, or you know the risks it poses to your health? 
  10. Are you drinking more than you did before? Do you feel you need to drink more now to get the desired effects?

If you answered yes to most of them, you’re probably drinking too much wine and should seriously consider cutting back or quitting completely.

How alcohol consumption is measured

In a 2017 survey done by the Office for National Statistics on adult drinking habits for people 16 years and older, 57% of the respondents said they drank alcohol. That is 29.2 million people of its population.

Frequent drinkers (those who drank 5 days in a week) were 12% for men and 8% for women. Binge drinkers made up 27%. These are the men who drank 8 units or more and women who drank 6 units or more on their heaviest drinking day.

In the UK, alcohol consumption is measured in units, and 1 unit equals 10 ml or 8 gm of pure alcohol, since this is the amount that the body can process in an hour. (1)

The NHS recommends men and women to limit their drinking to no more than 14 units a week and to spread the drinking over 3 or more days in a week. 

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

Cutting down on your alcohol intake

When your drinking is beyond the normal, it  creates problems that weren’t there before. Family relationships are strained, work efficiency decreases and absenteeism becomes more frequent. Your finances are affected, your health is endangered, and you might even have trouble with the authorities. 

But you don’t have withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink. Neither do you have uncontrollable cravings for alcohol. Your goal is only to cut back on the drinking. Cutting down can be successful if you know the right way to do it.

But don’t be complacent and think that you’ll never go down the road to becoming an alcoholic. Most alcoholics start out this way and the sooner you stop drinking, the better for your, your health, and everyone around you. 

If you can’t get a drink and you become anxious or depressed, or you’re sweating and having the shakes, or you’re hallucinating, cutting down is not the answer. You need professional treatment that will help you stop drinking.

Must you give up wine for good?

You may think you can’t give up wine for good. Although it may be true now, it’s good to remain open to the idea that a life without wine is possible and healthier than one with wine. In the meantime, if you can’t totally give it up, you can reduce the amount you’re drinking.

Here are the steps to cutting down on your drinking: (2) (3)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. Cut down by 10 percent every four days. 

Do you know how many calories a bottle of wine has?

The calories that a bottle of wine contains can make a difference in your health, especially if you’re watching your weight or your sugar intake. An excess of sugar in your body can lead to diabetes, impaired brain function and depression. 

Serving size in the UK is usually 175ml; a standard bottle is 750ml. So 1 bottle will yield a little more than 4 glasses of wine at 175ml.

Generally speaking, rose wines have lower calories than red and white wines because rose has lower alcohol and sugar content. A 175ml glass of rose wine is around 138 calories, and a bottle will have 580 calories.

For red wine:

Red wine with 11.5% to 13.5% ABV has 135 to 165 calories for a 175ml serving, or 570 to 700 calories a bottle at 750ml.

Red wine with 13.5% ABV or more has 165 to 195 calories per 175 ml serving, or 700 to 850 calories a bottle at 750ml.

Lower alcohol sweet white wine like Moscato d’Asti has 5.5% ABV but high sugar content. It has 111 to 147 calories per 175ml serving but this type of wine is usually served at 75ml to 125ml. 

Lower alcohol dry white wine below 13.5% ABV has 107 to 143 calories in a 175ml serving. A 750ml bottle has 450 to 600 calories. These are the Pinot Grigio and wines from the Loire valley.

Higher alcohol sweet white wine has 177 to 213 calories in a 175ml serving, or 750 to 900 calories in a 750 ml bottle. Examples are Gewurztraminer and Sauternes. Again, sweet wines are usually served in smaller sizes, around 75ml to 125 ml.

Higher alcohol dry white wine has 153 to 173 calories per 175ml serving. A bottle contains 650 to 730 calories. Wines like New World Chardonnays and Sauvignons are in this category. (4)

What steps should you take to overcome alcohol use disorder?

Drinking a bottle of wine a night may seem normal to you especially if your friends are doing it too. But the habit can imperceptibly lead to alcoholism. Tolerance develops with regular drinking and you’ll need more and more of wine to feel its effects. 

Even if you don’t have an alcohol use disorder, you’re endangering your body and your mind. Eventually, your drinking will damage your brain, heart, liver and pancreas and you’ll have mental health issues like depression, anxiety and even psychosis. 

If you want to overcome alcoholism, the process of recovery begins with the right steps. First of all, seek professional help from qualified people. They are the doctors, nurses, psychologists and counsellors in recovery centers who have the skills and knowledge for a scientific approach.

Alcohol detox and rehab done in certified facilities give you a high rate of success because there is constant support, supervision and follow up. Give them a call to learn more about their programmes.

Alcohol: risks vs benefits?

Several studies have been made on the health benefits of moderate drinking, especially for the heart. But this should not be taken as a blanket endorsement since there are too many variables involved. (5)

Moderate drinking has many interpretations, from the number of glasses or units to what a “standard drink” is. Alcoholic drinks have different alcohol strengths. A bottle of beer is not equal to a glass of wine. 

The age, general health and family history of the drinkers matter, too. Alcohol interacts with the maintenance medications for chronic illnesses and genetics play a role in the risk for alcoholism. (6)

On the other hand, newer studies also found contrary evidence. Light to moderate drinking  can increase the risks for total cancer, brain damage and cognitive decline. 

In conclusion, weighing the risks vs the benefits of moderate drinking should be considered carefully. Your doctor is in a better position to advise you on this. But if you’re not currently drinking, then you don’t need to start now or ever.

What are the long term effects of having a bottle of wine everyday?

What you should be worrying about if you’re drinking a bottle of wine a day are not the headaches or drowsiness. The long term effects of chronic heavy alcohol use are more frightening because they can shorten your life span and adversely affect your quality of life. 

Here are some of the long term effects of continuous heavy drinking:

  • Liver damage - fatty liver, liver cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis
  • Heart illnesses - heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke
  • Sexual problems - erectile dysfunction
  • Gastrointestinal disorders - gastritis, ulcers
  • Lowered immunity leading to pneumonia or tuberculosis
  • Pancreas inflammation
  • Kidney failure
  • Motor impairment leading to car accidents, drowning, burns
  • Behavioral problems leading to violent behavior

You can prevent these from happening if you seek early treatment to quit drinking.

How much wine is too much?

At what point is wine too much?

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

Although the recommended limit is not to exceed 14 units a week to keep health risks low, and to space it out over three or more days if you drink regularly, newer studies show that even moderate drinking can increase the risk for strokes and dementia as a result of decreased brain volume. (7) (8)

Another study refutes the long-held belief that the resveratrol in red wine prevents cardiovascular diseases and cancer. (9)

Yet the most telling statements come from highly regarded and reputable sources, The Lancet and the World Health Organization. Their comprehensive and global studies on the benefits of alcohol led them to conclude that no level of alcohol consumption improves health. (10) (11)

Hence, there cannot be a minimum and safe level for drinking wine.

Even light drinking heightens death risk  

Light drinking increases the risk of dying

Light drinking, which is 1 to 7 units of alcohol a week, or 1.2 glasses a day, is not as harmless as it was once thought. Studies published in The Lancet challenge the generally accepted notion that an occasional glass or two of alcohol provides protection for the heart against diseases.

The new findings show that even light drinking raises the risk of premature deaths and disabilities, ranging from cancers, heart diseases, diabetes, road injuries and self-harm. The study further concluded that the safest level of alcohol consumption that would minimise health risks is NONE. 

The authors of the study are cognizant of the fact that these findings are in conflict with almost all alcohol drinking guidelines that support the theory that light drinking provides health benefits. (12)

Will drinking a bottle of wine a day make you fat?

Will you get fat if you drink a bottle of wine a day?

Getting fat comes from taking in more calories than you burn. But with wine, it’s not actually as simple as that. 

First, it’s important to note that a 750ml bottle of wine usually contains upwards of 600 calories. These are empty calories, devoid of any nutritive value. Alcohol metabolism is such that the body uses it first, before it burns the carbs and fats. (13)

Hence, these carbs and fats are stored in the body and contribute to your getting fat.

The NHS’ general recommended daily calorie intake for adult men and women is 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women. The 600 calories that you get from drinking a bottle of wine a day is already a surplus that makes you gain excess weight.

Can drinking a bottle of wine a day cause liver damage?

Can you get liver damage from drinking a bottle of wine a day?

Liver damage from alcohol abuse has long been recognised as a very common consequence of chronic drinking, loosely defined as several years of drinking over the recommended 14 units of alcohol a week. 

The first stage of alcoholic liver damage is fatty liver. This happens when excess fat builds up in the liver. Most cases are asymptomatic except for an extended abdomen. A fatty liver condition is diagnosed by medical tests. Only cessation of drinking can reverse this damage. Supportive management includes losing weight, having a low fat diet, and exercise.

Untreated fatty liver and continued drinking of a bottle of wine a day will lead to alcoholic hepatitis, the swelling and inflammation of the liver. Treatment is possible depending on severity. In all cases of alcoholic hepatitis, drinking must stop permanently to allow healing. (14)

Can a bottle of wine a day cause cirrhosis?

Can you get cirrhosis if you drink a bottle of wine a day?

The most severe form of alcoholic liver damage is liver cirrhosis. Scar tissues replace the healthy liver tissues and the damage is irreversible. Liver cirrhosis is life-threatening and increases the risk for liver cancer. 

Liver cirrhosis develops in people who are chronic drinkers, consuming more than the recommended limit of alcohol and continuous drinking for ten or more years. Cirrhosis shortens your lifespan and greatly diminishes your quality of life. 

Liver transplant is the only possible treatment for liver cirrhosis. The medications you may be given are for the treatment of its complications. Therefore, prolonging your life by preventing further damage is the only option. (15)

To prevent more damage, you have to stop drinking. This is very difficult for most people to do alone and a  professional alcohol rehab is necessary for a successful abstinence if you want to prolong your life.

Drinking a bottle of wine a day for 10 years

What happens if you drink a bottle of wine for 10 years?

If you’ve been drinking a bottle of wine a day for the past 10 years, you must be in the 40 to 60 age range and suffering from brain damage. Alcohol-induced brain damage is insidious, so you won’t notice it immediately. 

You’ll get blurred vision, unclear memory, slurred speech, walking difficulties, and decreased reflexes. Alcohol abuse causes long term brain damage by killing the brain cells and causing memory blackouts. (16)

Another effect of chronic drinking is the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a disorder characterised by confusion, ataxia, and eye abnormalities, along with memory loss that is disproportionate to other mental aspects. 

Aside from brain damage, drinking wine for 10 years may cause pancreatitis, cancers, heart disease, and malnourishment from an unhealthy or poor diet.

Drinking a bottle of wine a day for 20 years

What if you’ve been drinking a bottle of wine a day for 20 years?

Twenty years of drinking a bottle of wine a day has serious consequences on the physical and mental health. The risk for alcohol-related dementia in older adults with mild cognitive impairment is higher even with infrequent binge drinking. The most severe risk for dementia or cognitive decline was seen in older adults who drank more than 14 units of alcohol per week. (17)

Drinking a bottle of wine a day for 20 years goes beyond the recommended NHS guidelines and puts the chronic drinker at risk for brain impairment. 

Alcohol-related liver disease is a common adverse effect of chronic alcohol abuse. Drinking a bottle of wine a day for 20 years increases the risk for liver cirrhosis, an irreversible disease that shortens the lifespan and for which there is no cure. 

Only a successful alcohol detox and permanent abstinence may slow down the progressive damage to the liver.

Are you ready to change your relationship with alcohol?

You might have realised that you need to change your relationship with alcohol but you’ve been uncommitted to doing it. How do you decide that the time has come to face the reality that you should do something about your connection with alcohol?

  • If the effects of your drinking are creating problems at home or at work
  • If you’re gaining weight, or a medical checkup shows a high risk for fatty liver, diabetes or even cancer
  • If you’re having anxiety or depression when you abstain from drinking
  • If you’re having financial problems caused by drinking

Changing your relationship with alcohol requires commitment and discipline. Make a goal of complete abstinence and not merely cutting down. If you have developed a tolerance to alcohol, you’ll need to drink more of the stuff to get the same effects. 

Cutting down may only be a temporary change before you go back to the old ways. An alcohol rehab gives you the best chances for a successful parting of ways with alcohol.

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. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.