Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

Alcohol Awareness Month: How Much Are You Drinking?

Editor’s Note: April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a good time to increase awareness of the public-health issue that is alcohol misuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2006 alcohol misuse problems cost the U.S. the staggering amount of $224 billion, primarily from los productivity but also from health care and property damage. Here, from the NIAAA, is what you need to know about how excessive drinking can affect your own health and the health of loved ones, and how to evaluate your own drinking habit.

Many adults drink moderately and responsibly without complications, and there are some indications that there are a few modest health benefits to be derived from alcohol. But, the NIAAA emphasizes, alcohol-related problems –drinking too much, too fast, or too often – are among the most significant public health concerns both here and abroad.

For example, the NIAAA says, an estimated 16.6 million Americans have alcohol use disorder – a medical term describing a range of alcohol problems that are mild, moderate, or severe. In addition, research shows that binge drinking is not uncommon among adults in the United States. Nearly one quarter of people age 18 and older report that they consumed five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past month, according to the NIAAA. About 6 percent of adolescents aged 12-17 reportdrinking in this way.

During Alcohol Awareness Month, NIAAA suggests that you take a hard look at your drinking habits.

For women, low-risk drinking can be defined as no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week, the NIAAA experts say. For men, it is defined as no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. According to the NIAAA, only about two in 100 people who stay within these limits have an alcohol use disorder.

The agency has a self-assessment tool to help you clarify the pattern of your drinking; click here.

The allure of drinking may be obvious: Initially, people who drink may feel upbeat and excited. However, the NIAAA cautions, alcohol quickly affects inhibition and judgment. That can lead to reckless decisions ranging from whether to drive to whether to have unsafe sex.

The more alcohol a person consumes, the experts say, the slower a person’s reaction times become. Additionally, people can become aggressive. High levels of alcohol cause a drinker to become sleepy and to even pass out or fall. One of the most serious signs of alcohol overconsumption is the blackout: a period of time when a person is conscious but has no memory of what happened. In the case of alcohol poisoning, a person can die because of the suppression of vital life functions, the NIAAA says.

Staying within recommended limits, or quitting altogether, can have substantive health benefits, the NIAAA says. The agency’s experts say that people who reduce drinking lower risks for injuries, liver and heart disease, depression, stroke, sexually transmitted diseases, and several types of cancers.

Learn more at Click here for the NIAA’s new publication, Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences.

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