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At-Risk Alcohol Use


At-risk alcohol use means you drink more than recommended daily or weekly limits. For men 21 to 64 years, the limit is 4 drinks in a day or 14 in a week. For women and for men 65 or older, it is 3 drinks in a day or 7 in a week. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor. Your healthcare provider may recommend lower limits for you if you have a health condition. No amount is safe for a woman who is pregnant.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Intake and output

may be measured. Healthcare providers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask healthcare providers if they need to measure or collect your urine.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Healthcare providers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. Vital signs give information about your current health.


  • Glucose may be given to increase the amount of sugar in your blood.
  • Vitamin supplements such as B1 may be needed. Alcohol can make it hard for your body to absorb enough vitamin B1. You may be given vitamin B1 if you have low levels. It is also given to prevent brain damage from alcohol use.


  • Blood and urine samples are tested for alcohol. Tests can also show signs of liver, kidney, or heart damage caused by alcohol. You may need to have these tests more than one time.
  • Neurologic exam: This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. A provider will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. He or she may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
  • An ECG records the electrical activity of your heart. It will be used to check for damage or problems caused by alcohol.
  • CT scan pictures of your brain may show damage caused by alcohol abuse. You may be given contrast liquids before the pictures are taken. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.


  • Brief intervention therapy means a healthcare provider helps you set goals to decrease the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Detoxification may be recommended by your healthcare provider. This is a program used to flush alcohol from your body. During detox, medicines are given to help prevent withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol. As you improve, your healthcare provider may slowly change how much detox medicine you are given.
  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.


At-risk alcohol use may lead to alcohol use disorder (alcohol abuse and dependence) if left untreated. You may have high blood pressure or liver and heart disease. You may also have problems with your mood or with relationships. You also increase your risk of injuries from accidents or harming others.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about At-Risk Alcohol Use (Inpatient Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.