How much is too much? Does a little taste matter? What about a few sips or swigs? How about a sip or two? If you're like most people, you have no idea how many drinks it takes to put you in a dangerous position. And the sad reality is, if you drink a lot of alcohol regularly, you probably won't even be aware of how it's affecting your health.
When people talk about issues with alcohol, most assume that they are referring to alcoholism or alcohol dependence. However, there are other issues that people face with alcohol that can cause significant problems before it turns into an Alcohol Use Disorder.
Alcohol Use Disorder (more commonly known as alcoholism) – the inability to control drinking due to both a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol. Alcohol Use Disorders range from mild to severe and are considered a brain disorder. It is an all-encompassing term that includes conditions like alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse, and the vernacular term, alcoholism.
While Alcohol Use Disorder is an important health issue, excessive drinking is an epidemic that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Excessive drinking most commonly refers to binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or anyone under the age of 21.
The most common form of excessive drinking, binge drinking is defined as:
Consuming four or more drinks during a single occasion (for women)
Consuming five or more drinks during a single occasion (for men)
According to the CDC, one in six adults binge drinks with 25% doing so at least weekly and over 90% of US Adults who drink excessively report binge drinking.
Heavy drinking is not as common as binge drinking but still affects many people. Women who consume eight or more drinks per week and men who consume fifteen or more drinks per week are considered “heavy drinkers”.
“If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.” – Epictetus
Moderation is key when it comes to things we enjoy, such as sweets, fun activities, even alcohol consumption. Moderate drinking for legal adults is two or less in a day for men and one or less a day for women. This form of drinking is a safe way to enjoy alcohol but will only work for those who are able to easily control how many drinks they have.
Even so, there are still many people who shouldn’t drink ANY alcohol. Individuals who are:
Younger than 21
Pregnant or may be pregnant
Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination or alertness
Taking certain prescription or over the counter medications that can interact with alcohol
Suffering from certain medical conditions
Recovering from an alcohol use disorder or are unable to control the amount that they drink
Short Term Health Risks Associated with Excessive Drinking
Injuries, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, drownings and burns
Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault and intimate partner violence
Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels
Risky sexual behavior, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease including HIV
Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in some among pregnant women
Long Term Health Risks of Excessive Drinking
High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum
Weakening of the immune system, increased chance of getting sick
Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
Social problems, including family problems, job related problems & unemployment
Alcohol use disorders or alcohol dependence
It’s not easy to admit that you have a problem with alcohol. It takes courage and strength to face your addiction and take the steps necessary to get help.
You are not alone. If you struggle with overconsumption of alcohol, binge drinking, or heavy drinking, help is available! Call our office at (309) 867-2202 to speak with one of our Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselors or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for 24/7 assistance.