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Excessive Drinking - What You Need To Know

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.

Binge Drinking

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

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.

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