Is drinking 'straight' spirits more or less dangerous than drinking 'mixed' spirits?

I was wondering if it is better off to drink straight spirits or mixed drinks? For example, in the long-term is drinking vodka more dangerous or damaging on the liver than drinking mixed alcohol? I'm aware that vodka can be consumed faster making it more dangerous but say I was to have the same number of standard drinks over the same amount of time, would straight or mixed alcohol be better health wise?

Is drinking 'straight' spirits more or less dangerous than drinking 'mixed' spirits? Well, it depends ... 

To help drinkers understand the relative strengths of alcoholic products, a 'standard drink' is used as measure of alcohol. In Australia, one standard drink contains roughly 10 grams of pure alcohol. This means that one standard 30ml serving of vodka (a 'shot') is roughly equivalent to a 285ml serving of full-strength beer and a 100ml serving of wine. Therefore, one standard drink of vodka is exactly the same as the equivalent standard drink of beer and wine.

Spirits aren't necessarily any more harmful than other types of alcohol if you drink them at 'safe levels'. Unfortunately, as you have stated in your question, you are able to consume a lot more alcohol by drinking a smaller amount when you drink products like vodka, whiskey or rum. For example, two shots of vodka (60mls) could be consumed in under a minute, whereas for most people it would usually take much longer to drink the equivalent amount of beer (two 285ml glasses). Shots are particularly problematic as they are designed to be drunk in one go.

The speed and ease of drinking spirits increases the risk of a range of acute problems including alcohol poisoning or overdose and, potentially, long-term health problems including liver damage.

Recent studies in Australia have shown that the risk of young people being admitted to hospital with alcohol-related liver disease has risen more than tenfold over five years. The most worrying increase in alcoholic cirrhosis has occurred in those aged 20 to 29, many of whom would have begun drinking in their early teens. Researchers have suggested that this increase could be due to the increase in the consumption of products with high alcohol content, such as spirits. Young women could potentially be at greater risk due to their livers developing at a later age.

So, would it be better to drink 'straight' or 'mixed' spirits? If you were to drink the same number of 'standard drinks' over the same period of time, as you have stated, it should not make a great deal of difference. Drinking spirits 'straight' is not necessarily more dangerous than mixing them with other drinks. But realistically, many people (but certainly not all) would be likely to drink a mixed drink faster than they would a straight spirit, increasing the risk to some degree …

First published: April 2018