Understanding Alcohol: How alcohol affects you.
It’s no secret that drinking too much alcohol can affect your motor skills and impair your judgment. But an alcohol dependency or alcohol abuse can do far worse, and leave lasting long-term effects that may be detrimental to your health and to your friends and loved ones.
There are two main types of alcoholism; alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependency. Technically, alcohol dependency is the actual medical term used to describe alcoholism, but alcohol abuse is often categorized as such as well. Continuous alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing a dependency significantly.
When an individual continually drinks excessively, to the point that his behaviour affects others adversely and causes him or her to develop problems socially and professionally, it is referred to as alcohol abuse. An individual suffers from this affliction when they make no change to their drinking habits, despite having problems at work, getting into legal trouble, destroying relationships with friends and family, etc.
When a person has a dependency on alcohol, they feel continuous cravings for drinking, and may suffer light to severe withdrawal symptoms if they stop. They also feel the need to drink ever-increasing amounts in order to get a “buzz” or get drunk. Even with the realization that drinking is affecting their health or their relationship with others, they will still drink, because stopping could cause them to experience anything from insomnia, nauseous feelings, break out in sweats, to seizures, and even hallucinating.
These withdrawal symptoms can be overcome with treatment, but the lasting health problems can be much worse if treatment is not sought and drinking is not stopped. Chronic drinking can cause problems with the heart, the liver, brain function, and increase the risks of cancer and nerve damage. It can also cause birth defects if someone pregnant drinks.
Determining How Much is Too Much
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has specific guidelines as too what constitutes moderate and excessive drinking. It does not matter if you are drinking beer, wine, or hard liquor. It isn’t the type of beverage that matters, it’s how much. A single drink is classified as a 12 oz. beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or 1 1/2 oz. of liquor.
While moderate drinking isn’t particularly life-threatening or risk conducive to bad behaviour and negative consequences, it still needs to be avoided if you are going to drive, operate machinery, or when you’re pregnant. Moderate drinking allows 2 drinks daily for men and 1 daily for a woman.
A step-up from moderate drinking is low-risk drinking, which equates to 4 drinks or fewer for men each day (or 14 weekly), and 3 per day at the most for women (7 weekly).
Heavy drinking can put your health and relationships with others at risk, and also cause you to use poor judgment, resulting in negative consequences. This equates to more than four drinks per day for men (more than 14 drinks each week) or more than three a day for women (7 drinks per week).
To assess a level of risk in regard to drinking habits, the NIAAA determines that the risk of developing an alcohol problem is increased for those who drink more than a single day or the limit indicated for a week; and at very high risk if they drink more than both limits.
Additionally, individuals over the age of 65, or those with certain medical conditions or taking medications, are also at an increased risk for health problems.