Alcohol is available everywhere you look. It’s cheap. It comes in all colors and flavors, and it comes in packaging designed to appeal to every population group, gender, and age.
It’s a ubiquitous part of our society and history, and because it is so prevalent, many believe that they understand the substance or dismiss it as harmless.
Think you know all you need to know about alcohol? Here are five things that you probably weren’t aware of about alcohol and its effects.
One “Drink” Isn’t What You Think It Is
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) delineates one drink far differently than most people. “One drink” is not a glass of beer or wine. It’s not a single cocktail ordered at the bar. One drink is defined by the specific measure of alcohol, a measurement that varies dependent upon the alcohol content.
One drink equals:
- 12 ounces of beer that has no more than 5 percent alcohol by volume
- 8 or 9 ounces of malt liquor that is no more than 7 percent alcohol by volume
- 5 ounces of wine that is no more than 12 percent alcohol by volume
- 3 or 4 ounces of fortified wine (e.g., sherry, port, etc.) that is no more than 17 percent alcohol by volume
- 2 or 3 ounces of an aperitif, cordial, or liqueur that is no more than 24 percent alcohol by volume
- 1.5 ounces of brandy that is no more than 40 percent alcohol by volume
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor that is about 40 percent alcohol by volume
If you think you’ve had “just one” drink after ordering a Long Island Iced Tea at the bar, think again. According to one recipe, this beverage actually contains 4 ounces of liquor and a half-ounce of a liqueur, which means that one of these cocktails is the equivalent of drinking about three alcoholic beverages.
Drunk Driving Isn’t the Only Danger
Yes, driving after drinking alcohol is a dangerous choice, whether you are wasted or just a little buzzed, but there are a number of behaviors that many people choose while under the influence that can be just as life-altering – and in some cases, life-ending. The NIAAA reports that the following issues are increased risks for people under the influence:
- Falling victim to sexual abuse, including rape
- Falling victim to physical abuse, including assault and homicide
- Committing a violent attack, including rape or homicide
- Dying or harming oneself accidentally (e.g., accidental shooting, fall, drowning, burns, etc.)
- Contracting a sexually transmitted disease or getting pregnant unintentionally
Alcohol Poisoning Is Real and Deadly
People joke about alcohol poisoning as if it’s something to take lightly, no more harmful than a hangover and nothing to be concerned about or protect against. The fact is, however, that alcohol poisoning is deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol poisoning caused more than 2,200 deaths on average annually between 2010 and 2012 – and it wasn’t an issue common only to those too young to know any better. The CDC reported the following:
- The age group with the highest number of deaths caused by alcohol poisoning was the 45-54 age group with 747 deaths.
- The age group with the second highest number of alcohol poisoning deaths was the 35-44 age group with 476 deaths.
- Close behind them with 458 deaths was the 55-64 age group.
- The 25-34 age group had almost half as many alcohol poisoning deaths at 288, and the group with the lowest number of alcohol poisoning deaths was the 15-24 age group with 113.
Binge Drinking Can Be Heavy Drinking
Binge drinking is defined as four drinks in a single two-hour period for women and five drinks in that same period for men. Heavy drinking is defined as engaging in this practice on more than five days during a 30-day period. Many Americans binge drink regularly without realizing that they are heavy drinkers. In fact, one in six Americans reports binge drinking at least four times a month and having about eight alcoholic beverages during each binge. This can add up to the same health problems caused by heavy regular drinking, including an increased risk of:
- Cardiac problems, including heart disease
- Certain cancers
- Difficulty managing chronic disorders, like diabetes
- Unintentional and intentional injuries
- Liver disease and liver failure
- Sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, and harm to the unborn baby
- Neurological problems
It’s Not Difficult to Drink Responsibly
It may be easier than you think to learn how to drink responsibly and mitigate the risks you take due to alcohol. You can:
- Know how much alcohol is in each drink you have.
- Choose to limit the number of drinks you have in a sitting and in a 24-hour period.
- Use an app or ask a friend to help you remain accountable for the number of drinks you have when you go out.
- Stop drinking if you are pregnant or ill.
- Know if the medications you are taking do not mix well with alcohol and stop drinking if that is the case.
- Call someone to come pick you up if you have had a few drinks and need a ride home or feel that you are in an uncomfortable situation.
If you find that it is, in fact, difficult to moderate your drinking, and the negative effects are starting to piling up, treatment can help. Learn more about what treatment options are available and determine which ones will be most effective for you before you take another drink.