Most people know that drinking too much alcohol can lead to injuries and deaths in car crashes. Still, many people don't realize that drinking too much alcohol can also increase the chances of cancer, suicide, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and other adverse health outcomes. Alcohol is one of the most commonly consumed substances in today's society, used by millions of people throughout the United States regularly.
Alcohol consumption can have an extensive impact on your health and well-being. The more alcohol one person consumes, the more of an effect it has on their system. Many people are unaware of what alcohol can do to the human body over time, let alone what constitutes a standard drink. A standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol—for example, one 12-ounce beer with 5 percent alcohol content or 5-ounces of wine. During Alcohol Awareness Month, take this time to reflect on your drinking habits and learn about the dangers of alcohol misuse and abuse.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Health Risks
Drinking too much alcohol can affect your body both inside and out. Even though you cannot see the damage drinking causes to your internal organs, it's important not to ignore the warning signs of alcoholism. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder, which is a chronic relapsing condition characterized by compulsive, uncontrollable, and debilitating alcohol use. Sometimes the harmful effects of alcohol aren't discovered until much later in life, making it more challenging to reverse health complications. The best way to prevent health issues now and in the future is to quit drinking.
There are various short- and long-term side effects associated with drinking excessively. The symptoms you may experience often depend on the amount of alcohol consumed. Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21. Moderate drinking, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the United States each year. It has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include:
- Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns
- Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence
- Alcohol poisoning
- Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners which can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases including HIV
- Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women
Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems, including:
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive issues
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment
- Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism
By not drinking too much, you can reduce the risk of these short- and long-term health risks.
Whether consuming too much alcohol on a single occasion or over time, both actions can take a severe toll on your health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises that adults who choose to drink should do so in moderation. However, the guidelines do not recommend that people start drinking for any reason. It's time to put an end to alcohol abuse and live a healthy and robust life.