Do You Drink Too Much?

It’s Alcohol Awareness Month. Before you pour that next glass of wine, here are some need-to-know consequences that could just change your drinking habits.

Not everyone drinks, but a lot of us do. It’s at the heart of many social interactions: We join coworkers for happy hour, toast good news with champagne and bring beer to barbeques.

But a few too many, a little too often, can have a negative—and lasting—impact on your health. Read on to learn the laundry list of health hazards associated with excessive drinking and then click the link to determine if it’s time to rethink your drink.

Are You Drinking Too Much?
About 50 percent of Americans are moderate drinkers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That equals one drink per day for women and two drinks for men, according to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And that’s just fine. It may even have health benefits.

But if you turn into Good Time Charlie and have four drinks within a few hours (five for men), you’ve crossed the line into binge drinking, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). And that’s not good. It’s also not uncommon, reports the organization: Nearly one quarter of people age 18 and older admit to drinking five or more alcoholic drinks at a time, at least once in the past month.

A single drink is:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Alcohol’s Short-Term Effects on Your Health
Binge drinking itself can be hazardous to your health, cautions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and can have immediate health risks in just one night, including:

  • Unintentional injuries, like car crashes, falls, burns or drowning
  • Intentional injuries, like firearm injuries, sexual assault, and domestic violence (alcohol is involved in 2 of 3 cases)
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Neurological damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Poor control of diabetes

Your Health Over the Long Haul
It’s not just binge drinking that can you put your health in danger. Heavy drinking, meaning eight drinks in one week for women, 15 for men, over an extended period of time can lead to serious diseases, according to the CDC. These chronic conditions include:

  • Neurological problems such as dementia, stroke and neuropathy.
  • Cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension.
  • Depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Liver diseases, including alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Hepatitis C patients can
  • experience a worsening of liver function and interference with medications used to treat this condition.
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as pancreatitis and gastritis.
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.
  • Women may experience a disruption in their menstrual cycles, increased risk of infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature delivery.
  • Men consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women, and are more likely than women to commit suicide while drinking.

Alcohol and Cancer
The link between drinking and cancer has been studied extensively and the scientific conclusion is this: If you drink a lot over time, you’re raising your risk of developing the potentially deadly disease. The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists “alcoholic beverages” as a known human carcinogen in its Report on Carcinogens, and the National Cancer Institute reports that “Clear patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of the following types of cancer”:

  • Head and neck cancers: People consuming 3.5 or more drinks per day showed at least a two to three time greater risk of developing these cancers than nondrinkers.
  • Esophageal cancer: Excessive drinking raises the risk of this cancer, particularly esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Colorectal cancer: People who regularly consumed about 3.5 drinks per day had 1.5 times the risk of developing colorectal cancer as nondrinkers or occasional drinkers.
  • Breast cancer: Studies have consistently found that increased alcohol intake increased breast cancer risk. A massive analysis of 53 studies (58,000 women) showed about three daily drinks raised a woman’s risk for breast cancer by 1.5 times as that of a nondrinker.
  • Liver cancer: This risk is independent of an excessive drinker’s risk for cirrhosis or hepatitis C.

Do you need to rethink your drinking? Take this quiz, offered by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Originally published on


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s