Drinking alcohol while socializing with others is something many of us do. It’s fun and we enjoy it at dinners, parties and special events. It’s woven so intricately into the fabric of our society, we often don’t remember how alcohol can poison our bodies.
If used moderately, alcohol doesn’t cause a great deal of harm. When a person abuses alcohol by drinking too much and too often, bigger health problems can develop.
There are definite guidelines for how much alcohol can be consumed before it becomes a problem for the body. Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Anything over that is considered heavy drinking and is toxic for the body.
What constitutes “a drink”? One 12-ounce beer is considered one drink. For wine, it’s 5 ounces. For whiskey, gin or other hard liquors, one drink is a shot glass, or 1.5 oz. Your body can only metabolize one drink in one hour, so try to remember that when consuming alcohol.
How the Body Reacts to Alcohol
Alcohol blocks messengers in all aspects of the body. It affects your thinking. It can cause sleepiness, confusion, problems with coordination, talking too much or slurring of words.
When you’re drinking one drink, it only takes 20 seconds for alcohol to reach the brain and only 90 seconds for alcohol to bathe every cell in your body. The body spends a lot of time trying to metabolize alcohol, because the body sees it as a foreign substance.
Some people drink a glass of wine because they believe it reduces stress. It may make them sleepy at first, but it adversely affects sleep in the long run, so it’s not as good for stress as they think.
What is Heavy Drinking or Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking happens when you consume more than four or five drinks in one setting, like when attending parties or tailgating. Anything more than two drinks is toxic for the body, which can’t metabolize the excess, so the alcohol goes right into the bloodstream. This is when it becomes dangerous.
At some point during a bout of excessive drinking, the body gives up on trying to metabolize it. That can lead to coma and even death. It’s something you should talk to your children about as they reach drinking age and start to experiment with alcohol.
If you are concerned you might be a heavy drinker, there are screening tests you can take to find out. Heavy drinking can cause scar tissue in the liver and stomach ulcers. If you crave alcohol, it’s probably an addiction. A dependence on alcohol can sneak up on you, so take the screening tests to determine your drinking level.
The risks of drinking too much alcohol far outweigh the benefits. Don’t drink alcohol to improve your health, and if you do drink, do it moderately. If you want to learn more about how to use alcohol and stay healthy, call or email me at Westfield Premier Physicians,