For many of us, drinking involves a glass of wine at the end of the day or a cool beer on a summer’s afternoon. Drinking in moderation doesn’t do any harm. But drinking to excess is a different ball game. One of the main dangers of alcohol is the progression from casual to continual drinking. Many people drink far more than they think, and a habit can quickly spiral into an addiction. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about alcohol. It will also provide some useful information if you’re worried about drinking too much.
About alcohol: what am I actually drinking and what happens when I drink?
Alcohol is an organic chemical compound. It is legal, but it can have very damaging consequences. You’ll find alcohol in a wide range of food products and drinks. This form of alcohol is known as ethanol. The most popular examples include wine, beer, and spirits. Spirits tend to have much higher alcohol content, and this is why they are served in small measures.
When you drink an alcoholic drink, it has far-reaching effects. Even a single drink will bring about changes in your body and mind. In the short-term, you’ll often find that you feel more confident, and your mood may be lifted. People often say that they feel happy when they’ve had a drink, and they tend to get giggly. You get distracted more easily, and you may be chattier than usual. When you’ve had a couple of drinks, your blood flow starts to increase and your ability to drive and react quickly may already be impaired. After 3-4 drinks, you might already be dehydrated, and your liver is already under pressure to process the alcohol. When you drink to excess, your judgement is affected, your reaction times are much slower, and you lose alertness. You may find it difficult to stay upright, your speech may be slurred, and you may vomit.
In the long-term, alcohol abuse is a very serious issue, which can prove fatal. The liver and kidneys, the body’s filters, bear the brunt of excessive consumption. Prolonged drinking increases your risk of liver failure and cirrhosis. It also puts you at greater risk of several forms of cancer, heart disease and strokes. Alcoholism has also been linked to brain damage, nervous system disorders, and depression.
How much is too much?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Sciences, moderate drinking constitutes one daily drink for women and two for men. Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than five drinks in a single day. Every country has slightly different recommendations. In the UK, for example, the maximum recommended weekly intake for men and women is 14 units. You may read this and think that figure is very low. The aim of guidelines is to inform you about safe drinking. If you exceed the recommended intake, this may be put you at risk of health problems.
Most of us enjoy a drink from time to time. But if you drink regularly, you may be consuming too much without even realizing. If you think you might be drinking too much, keep a diary for a few weeks or use an app to track your consumption. If the numbers are too high, you can then make an effort to drink less.
Why do people drink?
There are numerous reasons why people drink. For many, a cocktail on a Friday night is a means of relaxing after a hectic week and getting ready for the weekend. Drinking is part and parcel of social activities for many of us. We enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with friends at the pub. Problems arise when alcohol becomes a metaphorical shoulder to cry on or a coping mechanism. For some, it’s a means of getting through tough times and dealing with issues. For others, it’s an escape route and a way of blocking out the real world. There are all kinds of situations that can trigger alcohol abuse. Some of the most common triggers include relationship breakdown, bereavement, unemployment, and money worries.
How can I cut down?
If you’re drinking too much, but you don’t have a problem with alcohol, it should be relatively easy for you to cut down. You may simply have underestimated how much you drink. One effective way is changing your routine. Do you have a glass of wine with your evening meal every day? Do you go for a drink after work most days? Try and swap alcoholic drinks for soft drinks, and change your social activities. Swap going to the pub for a night at the movies. Go bowling or late night shopping instead of having cocktails with the girls. You can also reduce the number of drinks you order by avoiding shots, and sticking to single measures. Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks and glasses of water when you’re out. You’ll decrease your alcohol intake and reduce the risk of dehydration. You may not look like a party animal, but you’ll feel much fresher and healthier the morning after.
Tackling alcohol addiction
Sometimes, it’s not as simple as deciding to drink less. If you’ve become reliant and dependent on alcohol, you have a compulsion to drink. You think about drinking all the time, and alcohol becomes a solution, even though you know that it’s actually the problem. Addiction is characterized by an urge to do something, despite the knowledge that it is harmful to you. If you’re an alcoholic, you know that drinking is bad for you. But you still do it.
There are various therapies and treatments that are used to tackle alcohol addiction. Often, a combination of medical treatments and psychological therapies is recommended. The aim of treatment is not just to try and heal the body and prevent further damage. It’s also about finding out why you drink, and helping you to find other ways of coping. For many people battling addiction, rehabilitation is an effective solution. Some people may prefer to make use of day patient services. Others may benefit from more comprehensive programs like those offered by luxurious Beachside rehab. Whatever option you choose, you will receive help and support to help you recover. Alternatives include medication and frequent counseling and therapy sessions. Group support can also be hugely beneficial. Many people find it comforting and reassuring to be around people who know what they’re going through.
Most of us probably don’t even think about what’s going on in our bodies when we drink. In moderation, alcohol is fine. But it can quickly become a problem. Make sure you know how much you’re drinking, and follow recommendations. If you drink too much, try and cut down. If you’re struggling to do this, don’t hesitate to seek help.