Are You Drinking Too Much Alcohol?

The abuse of alcohol is a major worldwide health threat, resulting in an estimated 3.3 million deaths each year, which represent almost 6 percent of all deaths. In the United States, approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol abuse the third leading cause of preventable death, preceded only by tobacco use and the combination of poor diet and physical inactivity. Because alcohol is so readily available, it may be easy to forget that alcohol is a drug, and, for many people, alcohol is clearly the drug of choice.

Alcohol abuse is a serious health threat.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a great time to get educated about the dangers of alcohol abuse and to assess how much you are drinking. The dangers of alcohol abuse are endless: Alcohol abuse contributes to more than 200 diseases and injury-related conditions, resulting in negative physical, behavioral, social, legal, and financial consequences.

Just a few of the many damaging effects of alcohol abuse include:

  • Cancer
    Drinking alcohol increases the risk for developing cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, and colon and rectum. In women, it is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Research suggests that the more alcohol a person consumes regularly over time, the greater the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. Combining alcohol consumption with tobacco use additionally increases the risk for developing cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus.

  • Liver Diseases
    Heavy drinking can cause several types of alcoholic liver disease. Fatty liver occurs when the liver enlarges as a result of fat depositing on the liver. Fatty liver can progress into alcoholic hepatitis, the chronic inflammation of the liver. Alcohol abuse also can cause cirrhosis, the progressive scarring of the liver. Cirrhosis can lead to serious complications, including fluid retention in the abdomen, vomiting blood, liver cancer, and death.

Our Alcohol Abuse Consequences 3-D Display examines eight
devastating health consequences of alcohol abuse.

  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
    Particularly among young adults, heavy consumption of alcohol is linked to higher rates of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Being impaired by alcohol can influence people to make poor sexual choices, such as having sex when they would not if they were sober. Alcohol use also can lead to having sex without a condom or using a condom incorrectly, potentially resulting in an unplanned pregnancy, as well as the transmission of STDs.

    The Sex Under the Influence Awareness Kit is a great way to teach
    about the dangers mixing alcohol and sexual activity.

    • Motor-Vehicle Crashes
      Alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes are a leading cause of disability and death worldwide. Drivers who have been drinking alcohol are at much higher risk of being involved in a motor-vehicle crash than drivers who do not have any alcohol in their blood. Even with a relatively low blood alcohol concentration (BAC), a driver’s judgment and ability to drive decreases. As BAC increases, judgment and reaction time decrease along with the deterioration of vision.

Our D.W.Eyes Game Kit is perfect for showing
young people the dangers of drinking and driving.

So, how much alcohol is too much? Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: It is not recommended for any reason that nondrinkers start drinking alcohol. For people who choose to consume alcohol, they should do so in moderation, which means consuming up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

How much is a drink? A standard drink contains 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol, such as:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces—a shot—of 80 proof (40% alcohol) distilled spirits or liquor

The DrinkAware Display uses models
to raise awareness of standard drink sizes.

Women who are or who may be pregnant and people under the age of 21 should not drink alcohol.

If you are consuming too much alcohol, cut back or quit now to improve your health and decrease the likelihood you will develop alcohol-related problems. Tips to help you limit your drinking include:

  • Understand the definition of a standard drink. Learn how much alcohol is in a standard drink, and make your goal to follow the guidelines for drinking in moderation (up to one standard drink per day for women and up to two standard drinks per day for men).

  • Keep track of how much you are drinking. Being aware of just how much you are drinking can help you stay within the recommended limits.

  • Space out your drinks. Sip slowly, and have no more than one standard drink per hour. Have non-alcoholic drinks, such as water, between alcoholic drinks. Avoid eating on an empty stomach, and enjoy snacks between drinks to help you absorb the alcohol more slowly.

  • Set aside some days to be alcohol-free. Plan family time or other fun activities, such as going for a walk, on your alcohol-free days.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home. You won’t be as tempted to have a drink if alcohol isn’t readily available.

  • Avoid the triggers that make you want to drink. If certain people, places, or situations make you want to drink, try to avoid them. Distract yourself with exercise, hobbies, or other activities that don’t involve drinking to help you handle urges to drink.

Remember: Alcohol abuse can have serious and potentially deadly consequences. If you have a problem with alcohol, seek help and talk with your healthcare professional. To learn more about our alcohol education products, visit our Alcohol Section.

©2018 Health Edco®