The excessive consumption of alcohol is known to be associated with health-related and psychosocial problems. Only, what exactly is excessive? The World Health Organization defines the amount in excess of which health problems may develop as an average daily dose of 20 g of pure alcohol (women) up to 30 g (men) or more. This corresponds to one to two drinks (depending on the beverage) in women or two drinks in men (1 drink contains about 12 g of alcohol).

The average Swiss alcohol consumer drinks about 11 g per day. 60% of the population drinks below the risk threshold (“moderate”), but 20% consumes a problematic amount; 5% are seen as alcohol-dependent. The consumption patterns are age-dependent.

“Problematic” consumption can be drinking too much on a continual basis, sporadic binge drinking (intoxication), or consumption in inappropriate situations (traffic, workplace). Often, problematic consumption is kept quiet or made taboo. Psychological comorbidities are often one of the reasons for drinking (“to unburden oneself”, “to calm down”). The consequences of excess drinking are as stressful for the family and environment as they are for consumers themselves.

The solution to problem drinking is not an “all or nothing” strategy—that is, abstinence. Successful approaches exist that work via reduced (“defined”) drinking (see links below).

Once awareness is there that one’s drinking is problematic—often it is relatives who react—seeking help is crucial. IF this is the situation in which you find yourself, do ask your doctor, whether he/she is a qualified health coach or not.