Alcohol use takes on many different forms from college parties, to beers at the sports bar, to quiet nights at home with a glass of wine. Champagne at weddings, a glass of scotch to unwind, or a brown bag hiding a bottle of cheap vodka. Alcohol, like many other things, has the ability to be a problematic indulgence. Having a drink every once in awhile probably isn’t problematic, just like having a cheeseburger every once in awhile is probably okay. However, when drinking becomes a common occurrence or cheeseburgers start to be present in every meal, you run into health problems. Alcohol is connected to many health issues on a large scale from a hangover headache to liver damage and many issues in between.
The spectrum of alcohol use
Alcohol in itself does not carry huge health issues but just like many things, everything in moderation. In fact, there’s some truth to alcohol being healthy in certain circumstances. A drink every now and again is probably okay, but it really depends on each person and each circumstance. The exact line of moderate drinking and too much drinking is hard to find and varies by the person. Binge drinking is defined as bringing a person’s blood alcohol content to .08 or above, according to the CDC. Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S. although most people that binge drink are not alcohol dependent.
Just as the spectrum of alcohol abuse is varied, so are the health concerns associated with it. However, how each person is affected has a lot to do with preexisting conditions, age, health, family history, etc. so there’s no way to know for sure how seriously you’d be affected.
Short-term health concerns
Some of the short-term health concerns with drinking are dangerous no matter how much you drink, how often you drink, or if you are dependent on alcohol. Short-term issues with alcohol use includes suffering injuries from falling down, being involved in an accident if you drive while intoxicated, or suffering from alcohol poisoning. It’s a mistake to assume that the health concerns with alcohol come with dependency or time as not all of the most serious risks coincide with alcoholism. A person can get hurt in a number of different short-term ways even if it’s the first time drinking to excess, so being cautious about drinking and understanding the risks is absolutely necessary in order to drink responsibly.
Those that suffer with acid reflux may be triggered by the use of alcohol. Alcohol has the potential to affect other preexisting health problems as well like diabetes or anxiety. Many medications recommend patients to stay away from the use of alcohol, proving that alcohol’s effect on each person varies greatly. Other short-term effects of alcohol include the symptoms of drinking too much – also known as a hangover. Fatigue, thirst, headache, nausea, dizziness, light and sound sensitivity, and rapid heartbeat are all symptoms of a hangover caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Long-term health concerns
Long-term health concerns with drinking begin to get more severe than just a headache from a hangover. However, long-term effects aren’t only associated with those that are alcohol dependent. Like stated before, it’s different for everyone. Like many other things, when alcohol isn’t used in moderation it can become a health issue. The issue being that “moderation” might mean something different to everyone. An increased use of alcohol increases the risks of breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, and many other types of cancers. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, dementia, and depression are all risks associated with long-term alcohol use.
Alcohol dependent or not, using a lot of alcohol for a long time carries the risk of damaging your health over time. Risky behavior, family issues, and financial issues as a result of alcohol use are all red flags for alcohol dependency and can have a serious effect on mental health as well.
Reversing negative effects
The negative effects that alcohol can have on our health is not necessarily an issue that will be around forever. Short-term effects can be diminished by being cautious and knowledgeable about the risks. If you do drink, drink responsibly and know the negative effects that alcohol can have for you based on any other conditions you may have or medications you are taking. Long-term health concerns may be a different story, but there has been a study linking coffee intake to diminishing risk of cirrhosis of the liver. Leading a healthy life exercising, eating right, and abstaining from alcohol are all great ways to diminish any negative effects that alcohol can have, or is having on your health. Being realistic and knowledgeable about alcohol use is the best way to ensure you are using responsible if you choose to drink.
Just because you drink does not ensure you will experience the health concerns associated with alcohol use, but it’s also a mistake to assume you will only experience negative health effects with excessive binge drinking or alcohol dependence. Just like with many of life’s indulgences, it’s best to practice moderation and stay knowledgeable. Knowing the spectrums of alcohol use, the short-term effects, the long-term effects, and how to reverse some of the negative effects of alcohol use will all aid in understanding the realities of alcohol use and how to continue to drink responsibly and avoid the health concerns associated with it.