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Standard drink less than many thought

by Suzanne Thomas, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Addiction Education and Outreach
Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs
Pouring a drink is harder than you think, as many found out during Wellness Wednesday Oct. 1.
During the Oct. 1 Health 1st Wellness Wednesday activity, MUSC employees were invited to play “Wheel of Pourtune,” a game sponsored by the Charleston Alcohol Research Center designed to teach adults about the standard alcoholic drink.
Each contestant spun the wheel to determine which alcoholic beverage—beer, wine or liquor—she or he was assigned to pour. A pitcher of water was used for the exercise, and the glasses used represented the alcoholic drink assigned, i.e., wine, martini and beer glasses. Participants were asked to pour a standard drink for their assigned beverage. Each player got one free try, then feedback; and then a second try. If a player was accurate on the second pour, he was eligible for a drawing for a $50 gift card to Target. (Congratulations to Tara Blizard, Respiratory Therapy Division, for pouring a standard drink and winning the gift card.)
A standard alcoholic drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. The health advice about drinking alcohol relies on the concept of the standard drink. For example, men ages 21 to 65 should drink no more than two standard drinks per day, and women should drink no more than one standard drink per day. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what a standard drink is, and even for those who do, accurately pouring one is more difficult than they realize.
On the first try, participants in the annual demonstration also sponsored by the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs were instructed to pour what they thought a standard drink would look like. The vast majority of players, nearly three out of every four people, poured too much, meaning they poured more than a standard single drink should contain. On the second pour, after receiving education and feedback about standard drink amounts, participants provided some interesting results. Only 20 percent of participants over-poured on their second try, and 65 percent of the participants still were inaccurate. (Most over-compensated and poured too little). Accuracy rates did not differ between people who reported being drinkers or nondrinkers.
The results also show that most of us probably are pouring too much of an alcoholic beverage when drinking at home. Pouring a standard drink is a skill that takes practice. This can be problematic if people think they’re drinking only one or two drinks, when in fact, they may be drinking the equivalent of three or four drinks a day.
he Office of Addiction Education and Outreach in the Charleston Alcohol Research Center encourages individuals who drink alcohol to educate themselves about the standard alcoholic drink and examine their own pouring practices using the glasses they have at home.

Friday, Oct. 10, 2008
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