’Tis the season when the risks of drinking alcohol to excess are greatest.
For many, it is a battle faced every single day.
So what are the safe limits?
Current guidelines recommend no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four on any one day.
Depending on your circumstances, it could be less.
Women who are breastfeeding should not drink alcohol.
And there is no known safe amount of alcohol that pregnant women can drink.
Remember too, the impact of alcohol on young people is important to appreciate.
That’s because the human brain continues to mature until the mid to late 20s and may be impacted by alcohol abuse.
The risks of drinking alcohol
The risks of drinking alcohol to excess are everywhere to be seen.
The social cost is the heaviest with a 2017-18 report in Australia estimating that cost at $66.8 billion.
It included workplace costs of $4b with an estimated $3.6b of that in absenteeism.
Add to that the cost of crime at $3.1b, healthcare $2.8b and road traffic crashes $2.4b.
The intangible cost was even more shocking – $25.9b in premature death and $20.7b in loss of quality of life.
Failing health is the primary reason people suffer a lower quality of life.
Alcohol abuse is often the cause.
It can trigger chronic diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a raft of cancers including liver, mouth, throat, oesophagus, breast and bowel cancer.
Drinking alcohol may give you a short-term high but it is a long-term depressant.
It contributes to a range of mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
Continued abuse may also affect cognitive function and exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions.
Addiction and dependence
Alcohol is a drug and it can lead to addiction.
Regularly consuming large amounts puts you at risk of addiction and dependence.
Try to recognise these early signs and seek health advice and support as soon as possible.
Relationship and social consequences
Alcohol abuse could ultimately leave you alone and miserable.
The risk of depression, moodiness, aggressive behaviour, violence and the financial impact has destroyed countless relationships.
It may also leave you viewed as a social outcast when behavioural changes lead to social challenges that impact your personal and professional connections.
Accidents and injuries
Alcohol impairs your coordination and reaction time, significantly increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
This is especially true when driving or operating other heavy machinery but extends to the simple act of walking in public.
Alcohol interacts negatively with many medications, especially prescriptions.
They may not work at all or they may combine to create a potentially toxic cocktail resulting in vomiting, drowsiness and sometimes even death.
Whenever you are prescribed medication, always talk to your GP about the implications of taking them with alcohol.
How to avoid risks related to drinking alcohol
The risks of drinking alcohol rise sharply when celebrating with friends.
But by following these tips, you can safeguard your health and avoid falling into some dangerous habits.
Set limits and stick to them
Know your own personal tolerance levels, set a sensible limit on your alcohol intake before drinking and stick to it.
Don’t be coerced by peer group pressure.
That alcohol limit should also apply over the course of a week.
Try to have at least two alcohol free days in any given week.
It gives you liver the best chance to recharge.
Alcohol has a dehydrating affect on your body.
Hence consuming water before and while drinking alcohol helps replace those lost fluids.
Try drinking a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach
It’s an age old adage but also a truth.
Food in your stomach helps slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.
Look for foods rich in protein, fibres and healthy fats to help mitigate the effects of alcohol on the body.
Know your triggers
Identify situations or emotions that have triggered you into excessive drinking in the past.
Learn from those mistakes and try to find different coping mechanisms going forward.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional support.
Also know when you’re about to have that ‘one too many’.
You’ve been there before. You should know the feeling.
Plan alternative activities
Alcohol tends to find itself at the centre of most group activities or celebrations.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Think about planning a different kind of group activity such as an outdoor sport or attending a cultural event.
Consider coffee outings as an alternative to a boozy lunch or dinner.
Understand standard drink sizes
A standard drink size is roughly one 285ml glass of full-strength beer or one shot of spirits.
It’s important to understand a restaurant serve of 150ml of wine or champagne is approximately 1.5 standard drinks, as is a pint of full-strength beer in SA (425ml).
All bottled and canned alcoholic drinks are labelled with the precise number of standard drinks they carry.
Book an appointment
Australian culture has been largely built on a foundation of drinking – often to excess.
Nearly everyone likes to blow off some steam every now and then.
But it’s vitally important to understand the risks of drinking alcohol beyond safe limits.
Moderation is the key to savouring life’s pleasures while minimising the potential pitfalls of excessive alcohol consumption.
If you are concerned about your alcohol intake or that of someone close to you, you should not hesitate to seek support.
That may include enlisting the advice of family, friends or other professional counsellors.
And if it is your own health you are worried about, you should definitely book an appointment with your GP.
It’s a good opportunity for your GP to run a full check-up including a general screening to monitor the health of your vital organs.
Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to drink alcohol, given your health, age and medications you may be taking.
Your GP will also offer you advice about changing or adapting your lifestyle.
It will hopefully encourage you to reduce your alcohol intake and allow you to look forward to a longer and healthier future.
Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.