Most people who have consumed alcohol for a few years or more have at least one embarrassing story: the time they humiliated themselves at an office party, the hangover that ruined their weekend plans, the time they drove when they really shouldn’t have. The next day, they inevitably tell themselves, “I should really cut down on my drinking.”
Not everyone is willing to cut alcohol out of their lives, nor do they need to. Those with a history of addiction or mental illness, who suffer from diseases of the liver or pancreas, or who are pregnant or taking certain medications shouldn’t drink at all. For others, there is a sometimes elusive middle ground called moderation.
Most people recognize the dangers of drinking and driving. In the spirit of responsibility, some then decide to ride a bike home, or better yet, hoof it after a night of drinking. But is drinking and walking much safer?
Overall, the number of pedestrian deaths is on the rise. Whereas the number of deaths from traffic accidents has decreased since 2002, the percentage of pedestrian fatalities has grown by 3 percent. Part of this increase may be attributable to alcohol, as more than one-third of pedestrians killed in 2011 had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels above the legal driving limit (.08).
With the holidays come family traditions, decadent treats and, of course, holiday parties. And where there are holiday parties, there is usually a steady flow of alcohol. During this time of year, drinking becomes a socially acceptable, if not expected, part of the celebrations. Not surprisingly, both alcohol sales and drunk driving accidents skyrocket.
In these next few weeks, a lot of people will drink who would ordinarily abstain, and more serious problems arise for people who have spent the rest of the year struggling to keep their drinking under control. Here are five signs alcohol is detracting from the fun rather than making your holiday merry and bright:
When alcohol stops being a fun way to mingle at the holiday party and becomes the focus of every special occasion or the only way you can cope with the stress of the season, it’s time to reassess the role alcohol is playing in your holiday celebrations. Although alcohol may seem to relax you or help you forget your problems, the effects are short-lived. As a depressant, alcohol use actually amplifies stress in the long term.
Alcoholics aren’t the only ones who need to be concerned about their drinking habits. We all know someone who drinks more than they should, but justifies their habit by arguing, “At least I’m not an alcoholic” or “It’s just wine – wine is good for you!”
Even though they are not necessarily alcoholics, heavy drinkers risk a lot. Excessive alcohol consumption has been associated with a broad range of emotional, mental and physical health problems, including:
Impaired Physical Health – Research has linked habitual heavy drinking to more than 60 diseases, including:
• Liver disease (including cirrhosis)
• Brain shrinkage or dementia
• High blood pressure (which can increase the risk of stroke, kidney disease and heart failure)
• Cancer (including breast, colon, stomach, mouth, throat, esophagus and liver cancers)
• Heart disease and stroke
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Digestive problems such as gastritis and pancreatitis
• Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and suicide
• Alcoholic neuropathy (nerve damage)
• Seizures and epilepsy
It’s that time of year when tropical locations and the smell of alcohol beckon to teens and college kids looking to shed their inhibitions and bring home wild stories for their friends. Spring is also a great time to get real about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
Last year at this time, reports came in about the heartbreaking deaths of unsuspecting spring breakers, including a 19-year-old University of Florida freshman whose blood alcohol concentration was five times the legal limit. Her friends took her to bed because she was having a hard time walking, and she was found dead in a friend’s condominium the next morning.
Later that year, alcohol poisoning took the lives of 27-year-old Grammy-winning singer Amy Winehouse and Warrant singer Jani Lane.
We all-too-frequently hear about people dying from drug overdose. What a lot of people don’t realize, especially teens and college students, is that the drug responsible for these tragedies is often alcohol, either alone or in combination with prescription medications or other drugs.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone’s blood alcohol level is so high it becomes toxic, usually following a binge drinking episode. Alcohol is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and is filtered out by the liver at a rate of about one drink per hour (one drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of spirits or 5 ounces of wine). When someone drinks large amounts of alcohol in a short time period, their blood alcohol concentration can spike to hazardous levels.