Are you aware of how harmful and dangerous drinking too much alcohol is to your health? According to studies, alcohol abuse is the cause of 1 in 10 deaths among adults between the ages of 20 years and 64 years, and it can shorten your life by approximately 30 years. From 2006 to 2010, it led to the deaths of about 88,000 people in the United States each year. And, in 2016, it caused the deaths of more than 7,200 people in the United Kingdom.
What does “drinking too much” or “excessive drinking” mean?
“Drinking too much” or “excessive drinking” is synonymous to heavy drinking or binge drinking. It also is the term used to refer to drinking by people under the age of 21 years old or pregnant women.
You are considered to be a heavy drinker if:
- you drink 15 or more drinks per week (if you are a man)
- you drink 8 or more drinks per week (if you are a woman)
You are binge drinking if:
- you drink at least 5 drinks in one sitting (if you are a man)
- you drink at least 4 drinks in one sitting (if you are a woman)
How much should you drink to not be considered a heavy drinker or a binge drinker?
If you tick the boxes of guidelines set by the Dietary Guidelines of Americans for the definition of moderate drinking, then you are good. You are a moderate drinker, and neither a heavy drinker nor a binge drinker, if you drink a maximum of 2 drinks per day (if you are a man) or a maximum of 1 drink per day (if you are a woman).
In the United States, a single drink refers to 0.6 ounces (or 1.2 tablespoons or 14 grams) of pure alcohol, which is an amount that is generally found in a 12-ounce can of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 8 ounces of malt liquor, and 1.5 ounces of whiskey, vodka, rum, or gin.
What are the immediate effects of excessive alcohol drinking?
There are several immediate health risks that occur as a result of alcohol abuse. Usually, they happen soon after a session of binge drinking. Some examples are:
- A significant increase in the alcohol levels in your blood, which can lead to alcohol poisoning and requires emergency medical attention
- Impaired judgment, which can increase your likelihood of participating in risky and reckless sexual acts, such as neglecting to use condoms and other protections when having sex, or having sex with multiple partners
- Higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases as a result of unprotected sex
- Impaired senses, focus, concentration, and alertness, which can cause car accidents, falls, and other injuries
- More aggressive behavior, which can lead to violence, assault, and others
What are the common long-term health risks associated with alcohol abuse?
Subjecting your body to too much alcohol can cause the development of various severe health problems. Below are some examples:
Did you know that it is the job of the liver to break down the alcohol that you drink? While the intake of small amounts of alcohol is not damaging, too much of it can hurt your liver in the long run. If you are a long-time, chronic, heavy drinker, your risk of developing liver disease is very high.
There are different types of alcohol- related liver disease caused that can weaken your liver functions.
One is the alcoholic fatty liver, which is a condition that serves as the first warning sign of a liver problem. If you have been diagnosed with it, you should stop drinking alcohol right away, so that in 2 weeks, your liver can be back to normal.
There is also the alcoholic hepatitis, which is a type of hepatitis brought about by excessive alcohol consumption. It is characterized by the yellowing of the eyes and the skin, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, brain dysfunction, and fatigue. If not treated right away, it can progress to fibrosis, and then to cirrhosis.
Having too much alcohol in your body also increases your odds of developing cancer, not just of the liver, but also of the rectum, stomach, larynx, breast, colon, mouth, and esophagus. The substances present in alcohol contribute to this risk, and can lead to serious complications that can have major negative effects on your overall health.
Once alcohol spreads in your blood, it hampers the abilities of your cells, tissues, organs, and systems to fix any damage efficiently. As a result, your body becomes unable to carry out its different functions and unsuccessful in fighting off the growth of cancer cells.
Being an alcoholic makes you prone to pancreatitis, a medical condition that is characterized by the inflammation of the pancreas, which is an important bodily organ in charge of the production of digestive enzymes and hormones and is located behind the stomach.
There are two types of pancreatitis that you can be in danger of because of alcohol abuse. They are acute pancreatitis, which is the sudden in inflammation of your pancreas, and chronic pancreatitis, which is more of a long-standing inflammation of your pancreas. Both require medical attention and treatment solutions as soon as possible to minimize damage to your pancreas.
Do you notice how you have slower reflexes, difficulty standing up or walking, blurry vision, slurred speech, and memory problems every time you drink too much? The reason for these is that alcohol can affect the brain after even just a couple of drinks. It can interfere with the neurotransmitters and receptors in your brain, and alter your mood, emotions, and cognitive functions.
Moreover, it has a depressant effect on your central nervous system, resulting to slow and difficult information processing and problem solving. It can also mess up your balance, coordination, and other physical abilities, which frequently leads to inability to walk straight, blackouts, falls, and other injuries.