Excessive alcohol use contributes to the premature death of over 100,000 Americans each year, including 1700 college students. In the United States 1 in 12 adults abuse alcohol or suffer from alcoholism. Adults ages 19-29 are most at risk for alcohol-related problems!
Binge drinking is a term used to describe excessive alcohol intake by individuals that result in consequences to the self and others. Binge drinking is considered to be more than 4 drinks on a single occasion by a woman and more than 5 drinks on a single occasion for a man. Binge drinking puts a person at higher risk of injuring themselves (tripping off a curb, alcohol poisoning etc) and others (drunk driving, sexual assault etc).
The number of drinks considered to be excessive is determined by the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol. The body can metabolize 0.5 oz. of alcohol per hour. That number does not change with food intake or sleep. This is about ½ the alcohol in an average drink (12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, 1.5 oz of alcohol) so it takes the body about 2 hours to process one drink.
So how much alcohol is too much? As you drink alcohol the blood alcohol level rises. Use the chart to determine what your blood alcohol level would be if you drank 3 drinks in one hour. A blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is considered legally drunk.
Click here to see a chart on blood-alcohol levels.
The recommended limits for alcohol intake for healthy adults is one drink daily for women or no more than 7 in a week. Men are recommended 2 drinks or less a day or no more than 14 drinks in a week.
Long term excessive use of alcohol can cause permanent problems with memory, abstract thinking, problem solving, and the ability to concentrate. One day of heavy drinking can impair abstract thinking for up to 30 days.
The average college student spends $900 a year on alcohol and $450 a year on books! Consider keeping a diary of alcoholic drinks consumed along with the amount of money spent buying them to monitor how much you’re drinking and spending.
Some think that drinking alcohol will enhance the experience of physical intimacy when just the opposite is true. Alcohol decreases clitoral sensitivity and vaginal secretions in women and contributes to impotency in men. Dr Ruth used to say, “Every can of beer hangs on the penis.” Alcohol can also cause increases in the female hormone estrogen in males leading to loss of body hair, and decrease in muscle mass and testicular size.
Alcohol use is frequently associated with acquaintance rape. One study found that 70% of women and 80% of men had been drinking when a sexual assault occurred. Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions making it easier to force sex on an unwilling partner.
Another common belief about using alcohol is that it will enhance your mood so you’ll be more relaxed in social situations. While it is true that alcohol will decrease your inhibitions, it will not necessarily improve your mood. In fact, alcohol will intensify whatever mood you were in before you starting drinking. If you’re feeling sad or angry, alcohol may make things worse.
Alcoholism, also called alcohol dependence, is differentiated from alcohol abuse or binge drinking by the following characteristics:
1) Cravings—a strong need or urge to drink.
2) Loss of control—not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
3) Physical dependence—withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking.
4) Tolerance—the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effect.
Alcoholism is a disease. The cravings experienced by the alcoholic are as strong as the need for food and water. An alcoholic will keep drinking despite serious consequences to the individual including consequences to the person’s health, family and friends, and career. You are considered at higher risk for alcoholism if you have a family history of alcoholism, a history of addiction, a history of mental illness, or onset of drinking before the age of 14.
We recommend reviewing info about about First Step, a program run by the Office for Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.
For more info from the Centers for Disease Control click here.