When it comes to drug use, alcohol has a special place in our culture. For some, alcohol is a regular part of meals or evening rituals. Alcohol is also an important component of celebrations and milestones and plays a key role in many religious ceremonies. In the United States, the alcohol industry is responsible for more than $220 billion in sales annually. For all its popularity, however, alcohol is still a dangerous intoxicant linked to higher blood pressure, lapses in judgment, and a higher risk of injury. Here’s a breakdown of the health effects of alcohol.
The Negative Effects of Alcohol
Most people accept that drinking is not a healthy activity and that binge drinking is potentially life-threatening, but few people know about the links between alcohol use and severe health problems such as high blood pressure, the risk for cancer, and dementia. Here are the most common, evidence-based negative effects of alcohol consumption.
- Cirrhosis and liver failure
- Higher blood pressure
- Higher risk for certain cancers
- Higher risk of injury and fatality
- Alcohol poisoning
- Higher risk of depression, anxiety, and addiction
- Lapses in judgment and risky behavior
Excessive alcohol abuse causes physical problems, but it can also cause mental distress and problems for people close to the alcoholic. These include passing on addiction to children, physical and emotional violence against spouses or family members, and the development of codependent tendencies. For addiction support in the UK, visit Port of Call which provides addiction treatment and support through a network of clinics and professionals
The Positive Effects of Alcohol
While alcohol is overwhelmingly negative when consumed in excess, there are actually some minor health benefits associated with moderate drinking. Moderate drinking can also be beneficial for helping people loosen up in social situations, relieve stress, and promote well being. Having the occasional drink is not advised for anyone in recovery, but for those who can handle the occasional drink there could be some positive benefits. Multiple studies on alcohol have shown that moderate drinking is linked to lower risk for:
- Heart attacks
- Death from cardiovascular disease
Although studies have found a minor correlative link between consuming alcohol and these health benefits, they should not be taken as direct benefits. The links are entirely correlative, meaning there is no proof that alcohol is the causative factor at play. For this reason, doctors do recommend that anyone who doesn’t drink shouldn’t start now, and that moderate drinkers should not increase their intake of alcohol.
What are the Safe Limits of Alcohol?
Moderate alcohol consumption as outlined by the US Department of Health and Human Services is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. The lower recommendation for women is due to the fact that women are on average, smaller than men, and they produce less of the alcohol deconstructing enzyme ADH. Women also have more body fat, which retains more alcohol. The definition of a drink is roughly:
- 12 ounces of beer (One Can)
- 5 ounces of wine (One Glass)
- 1.5 ounces of hard liquor (One Shot)
So how much is too much? You might be hard pressed to find a moderate drinker who limits themselves to one drink per day. High risk drinking is defined by the Department of Health and Human services as the following behavior:
- 4 or more drinks in one day for women (more than 8 per week)
- 5 or more drinks in one day for men (more than 15 per week)
- Binge Drinking: 4 or more drinks over two hours (women) and 5 or more drinks over two hours (men)
Is Moderate Drinking Alright?
A new study out of the UK examined nearly 600,000 moderate drinkers and monitored their health condition over time. The results showed that regardless of gender, higher alcohol consumption was linked to higher risk of stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, and death. Compared to non-drinkers, people who drank 7 to 14 drinks per week experienced an average six month shorter life expectancy. Those who drank twice that amount had a 1 to 2 year shorter life expectancy while anyone who drank more than 25 drinks per week had a lowered expectancy of 4 to 5 years.
Another recent study on drinking and mortality found that light drinkers (1 to 3 drinks per week) had the lowest rates of cancer and death compared to non-drinkers but by an extremely small margin. The bottom line is that drinking has been shown to have a minor correlative relationship with positive health benefits and overwhelmingly direct evidence linking it to negative health effects. There is also the chance of getting addicted to alcohol which increases the possibility of negative health effects developing even more.
In conclusion, alcohol can have devastating effects on the human body and brain. Users should never go over the limits of moderate drinking unless they want to risk the potentially fatal effects and long-term detriments to their health.
Author Bio: Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery drug and alcohol rehab center and has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years now with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lies within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment and intervention.