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Alcohol Equivalence

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Definition - What does Alcohol Equivalence mean?

Understanding alcohol equivalence allows drinkers to make wise choices for alcohol consumption and prevents the misuse of alcohol by eliminating the danger of consuming too much alcohol and driving drunk. The American Dietetic Association states that, "knowing the facts of beverage alcohol equivalence is a crucial aspect of responsible drinking". Understanding alcohol equivalence can also eliminate mistakes made by the common misconception that "hard" liquor is more likely to lead to intoxication than beer because beer is a low potency alcoholic beverage.

What is the bottom line? It is not the type of alcohol but the amount of alcohol consumed which is important. All alcoholic beverages contain alcohol, and a breathalyzer machine treats them the same.

Standard servings of liquor, wine and beer contain the same amount of alcohol, which is 0.6 ounces each. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's official nutrition policy of the United States, a drink is defined as:

  • A 5-ounce glass of wine
  • A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
  • A one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink)

The standard drink size and the amount of alcohol which is contained in each drink, while standard in the United States, may vary significantly in other countries.

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