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Whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day, the 4th of July, a friend’s wedding or a family get-together, parties and celebrations often involve adult beverages. But, have you ever considered whether you have a healthy relationship with alcohol?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate alcohol consumption as “up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.” This is not intended to be an average across several days; it’s a daily recommendation for moderation.
So, what if you have more than that? How big of a problem is it? The answer is: it depends.
Reactions to alcohol can vary by factors beyond your control – such as age, gender, ethnicity and family history – as well as aspects you can control, such as your physical condition, how much food you eat before drinking, how quickly you drink, and any medications you take regularly. Therefore, it’s difficult to apply firm, universal definitions and rules around drinking.
You may have also heard about “health benefits” of alcohol. Unfortunately, any benefits gained from drinking certai
n types of alcohol are quite small and would not apply to all individuals. Diet, exercise and medication are safer, more reliable ways to achieve the same results.
Still, if you like to imbibe now and then, let’s take a look at what that might mean.
Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration level to .08% or more. This usually means five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women, generally within about two hours.
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week for men, and eight drinks or more per week for women.
If either of these rings true for you, keep reading.
Many people would not meet the clinical diagnostic criteria for a severe alcohol use disorder, even in some of the circumstances described above. Celebrating every now and then is probably ok.
However, signs of a severe problem may include:
The signs listed above are clear instances in which a drinker should seek help. Drinking problems often affect relationships, school or work, social activities and other aspects of a person’s health.
“One drink” in the U.S. is equal to:
Speaking with your primary care provider or scheduling an EAP visit are good options for a starting point. The more honest you are, the more appropriately they can help.
Whether you drink a little, a lot or not at all, it’s important to understand what alcohol can do to a person – and be able to recognize it in yourself and others. Have fun – but be safe and stay healthy.