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Substance Abuse 101: Alcohol

Apicha Community Health Center Jan 07, 2019  

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Alcohol is one of the most popular, easily accessible, and dangerous substance people can abuse. And even though it's legal (for those of age), it continues to be one of the most leading causes of death in the United States.

The dilemma of alcohol

Alcohol is a huge part of many people's social lives. Often times, our social activities are rooted in things like meeting with friends at a bar, sharing a bottle of wine during a night in, or partying at a club. Drinking alcohol, for many folks, is part of their lifestyle, and something they enjoy doing. 

However, there is a fine line between moderation and excess. And unfortunately, many people cross over into excessively drinking alcohol. As a result, this can lead to binge drinking and alcoholism. Because alcohol is so commonly consumed, especially in excess, it is considered an abused substance. 

Why do people drink?

Many people drink alcohol as a social activity, but there are other reasons people drink alcohol, too. Some common reasons are:

  • Relives stress
  • Feel good
  • Cope with loss
  • Overcome anxiety
How much is too much alcohol?

As previously stated, drinking in moderation is best. It's a fine line between going out to a bar and celebrating with your friends, and drinking so much that you don't remember the next day. The recommended consumption of alcohol is one drink per day for women, and two per men. However, this doesn't mean that drinking alcohol won't have a negative effect on your health, which you can read about below.

The problem with binge drinking

Binge drinking, which is consuming an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time, is a huge issue in the United States. It is the most common, deadly, and costly pattern of excessive alcohol use. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.

According to the CDC, one in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge. This results in 17 billion total binge drinks consumed by adults annually, or 467 binge drinks per binge drinker.

Binge drinking also impacts your health and safety. It is associated with a number of health issues:

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning.
  • Violence including homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Unintended pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Memory and learning problems.
  • Alcohol dependence.
What is alcoholism and alcohol use disorder?

 Around 16 million people in the United States have alcohol abuse disorder.  Alcohol abuse can result in alcoholism and alcohol use disorder. Although these two terms have many things in common and are often used interchangeably, they are two different things. 

Alcoholism is a non-medical term, and is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits. Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition diagnosed by a professional  to describe someone with an alcohol problem, to varying degrees. Alcohol abuse disorder is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.

What are the health effects of drinking alcohol?

There are short- and long-term health effects in drinking alcohol. Short-term effects often happen when someone is inebriated (drunk), and may go away once someone is sober. Short-term effects are

  • Slow reaction time
  • Poor reflexes
  • Reduces brain activity
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Restlessness

Long-term effects have a lasting impact on your health, even after you stop drinking. Long-term effects are:

  • Brain defects, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes complications
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Vision damage
  • Bone loss
How Apicha CHC can help

If you struggle with substance abuse and addiction, Apicha CHC can help. Talking about substance abuse and, when necessary, working together to create an action plan is part of standard care at Apicha CHC. If you'd like to schedule an appointment, click the link below. 


Ready to take action about your health?
 request an appointment

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