7 Common Questions about Alcohol Health Answered

Alcohol is a part of most people’s lives every week.  There are many ways that alcohol can influence our health.

Excessive consumption of alcohol causes different reactions in different people, but the overwhelming reality is that heavy drinking or binge drinking is not good for anyone.

Any action you take to change drinking habits can help avoid these alcohol health problems.

Why are some people’s reactions different?

Every organ in the body is affected by alcohol.  Alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream, and then the enzymes in your liver metabolize a small portion of the alcohol at a time, leaving the remainder to circulate in your system.

How alcohol affects you is relative to the amount consumed and your body weight.  Women face greater risks from alcohol consumption as, in general, they have a lower body weight than men.  In your body, the alcohol you have drunk is stored in your body water. Men are generally physically bigger and have more water in their bodies.

The risks of alcohol-related problems tend to be greater in women, and the risks start at a lower level of drinking.

Will binge drinking lead to blackouts?

Once you have consumed more than five standard drinks for men and four for women over 2 hours, your blood alcohol content will likely be more than twice the legal driving limit.

This level of alcohol consumption would be referred to as binge drinking, and you would be experiencing impairment of your cognitive abilities like decision-making, judgment, and impulse control.

At this stage, you are at risk of a blackout.  Blackouts can be mild or severe, vary from person to person, and are proportionate to the amount of alcohol consumed.

A blackout occurs when you have a missing segment of memories during the period of your drinking, which occurs when the alcohol in the brain prevents the memory consolidation process. In severe cases, these memories will never come back, so you will forget you were there as the part of your brain that transfers your memories has been impaired.

Do drinking and pregnancy go together?

No.  Drinking while pregnant will likely cause damage to your unborn child as their brain develops in the womb.  The first three months of pregnancy are particularly important in your baby’s development.

If you are planning to start a family, a quit drinking app can assist you to be mindful of alcohol and assist you down the path to giving birth to a healthy baby.

Fetal alcohol-related child disorders can lead to delayed development of growth, emotions, and speech in young people who have been exposed to alcohol during their mothers’ pregnancy.

Will drinking encourage Cancer?

The evidence is strong that drinking more than one drink per day for women and 2 for men increases the likelihood of cancer, including liver, mouth, throat, and colon cancer.

It has also been shown to increase women’s chance of breast cancer.

The Alcohol you consume breaks down in the body into compounds that affect the instruction set of our body’s cells, which can lead to cell irregularities.  In some cases, these irregularities can lead to the formation of tumors.

Does alcohol help me sleep?

While drinking alcohol can make us feel better, it is a depressant and a sedative that increases our heart rate and prevents us from entering the deep sleep patterns required for a good night’s sleep.

As alcohol disrupts our normal sleep patterns, people who drink regularly find that they fall asleep quicker but wake up feeling more tired the next day, leading to more alcohol consumption the next night to get to sleep – a pattern forms of continually poor sleep that only leads to more alcohol consumption.

Sometimes the drowsiness induced will lead to the drinking of stimulants, like coffee, to get through the day, and then more alcohol at night to counter the number of cups of coffee during the day fighting to keep you awake.

If you change your drinking habits and stop drinking in the 4-5 hours before going to bed, you will improve the quality of your sleep.

Can alcohol affect my mental health?

Yes.  Your inability to stop heavy or binge drinking alcohol can be medically diagnosed as Alcohol Use Disorder.

Alcohol Use Disorder is a blanket term that covers conditions traditionally called alcoholism or alcohol abuse, addiction, or dependence.

And if you already have other mental health conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or depression, then your chances of developing an Alcohol Use Disorder increase.

Alcohol Use Disorder can be treated with medication, behavioral therapies, and involvement with support groups.

Can I overdose on alcohol?

Yes.  When your bloodstream contains too much for your body to process, your brain may shut down basic controls like breathing or heart rate.

Alcohol overdose symptoms include seizures, vomiting, and confusion.  In extreme cases, this may lead to loss of consciousness.

Passing out from too much alcohol can also lead to the risk of death from symptoms like vomiting while unconscious and having no conscious reflex to clear your airways.

You can have permanent brain damage or die from an alcohol overdose.

Alcohol and your health

If you can keep your drinking to one standard drink for women and two standard drinks for men, or less, per day, you reduce your risk of many health problems associated with excessive drinking.

A standard drink is a can of regular 5% beer, a glass of wine, or about two-thirds of a shot glass of malt liquor.

You also need to be mindful of drinking alcohol with certain medications or when you have a medical condition.  Your physician can advise you on how your medications and alcohol interact.

A quit-drinking app like Sunnyside can help you by looking mindfully at your and alcohol’s relationship and working towards forming a mutually beneficial relationship.

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