Drinking alcohol is often associated with fun and enjoyment, but drinking sensibly is essential to maintaining good health.
Alcohol: a guilty pleasure… at the root of many woes!
Being able to rely on sound judgment to make good decisions is key in terms of alcohol consumption. However, in a society based on overconsumption such as ours, drinking alcohol is sometimes trivialized. Nonetheless, alcohol remains a possible threat to health and well-being.
The harmful effects of alcohol can be manifested in the short-term (acute alcohol ingestion) or in the long-term (chronic consumption). To stay healthy, it is important to question your drinking habits and to make the right choices.
Immediate effects of an overconsumption of alcohol
Who has not already felt the pleasures and inconveniences of intoxication? At first, the effects of alcohol can evoke pleasant sensations such as relaxation and euphoria. However, as the quantities ingested increase, this is followed by a loss of control that is manifested by various behaviours considered to be troublesome, or even risky.
A person who is intoxicated by alcohol can engage in dangerous behaviours (impaired driving, unprotected sexual relations, acts of violence, etc.), thus exposing themselves to situations that can have irreversible consequences.
In addition to robbing individuals of their judgment, an overconsumption of alcohol can lead to immediate symptoms of intoxication, such as:
- nausea and vomiting
- drowsiness and dizziness
- memory loss
- loss of balance
In the case of significant overconsumption, serious symptoms can occur, including loss of consciousness, respiratory depression, and coma. In the worst cases, intoxication can lead to death.
Effects of excessive alcohol consumption on physical health
Significant and chronic alcohol consumption can have serious and irreversible effects on the body. These effects may lead to the appearance of physical symptoms and promote certain diseases such as:
- cirrhosis of the liver
- digestive problems
- nervous system disorders
- high blood pressure
- vitamin deficiencies, and
- certain types of cancer
Effects of excessive alcohol consumption on mental health
Alcohol can have a momentary positive effect on mood or produce a feeling of well-being, but this is not the case when alcohol is abused. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not produce a stimulating effect on the nervous system, but rather, acts as a depressant. In the medium to long-term, alcohol can have harmful effects on mental health, such as:
- affect sleep quality
- decrease vitality
- lead to mood swings
- decrease mental abilities, and
- lead to behavioural changes
Alcohol can aggravate certain manifestations of mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between mental illness and problem drinking.
Alcohol and medication
The belief that mixing alcohol and medication is not a good idea is well known. It is true that it is necessary to be careful when combining them. Alcohol can increase the adverse effects of certain medications. Common side effects of alcohol such as drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea and vomiting can be combined to those of the medications.
If you take medication, it is important to ask your pharmacist if you can drink alcohol. Ask about the risks associated with it. If this is the case, they will tell you how much alcohol is reasonable.
Some advice about how to consume alcohol wisely
- If you are a woman, limit your alcohol consumption to 2 glasses a day and a maximum of 10 glasses a week.
- If you are a man, limit your alcohol consumption to 3 glasses a day and a maximum of 15 glasses a week.
- Try not to drink every day. Allow yourself some “alcohol-free days”, ideally at least once or twice a week.
- When you drink alcohol, drink small sips and take the time to savour it.
- Do not drink more than one drink per hour.
- Drink a non-alcoholic beverage (fruit juice, sparkling water, etc.) between each glass of alcohol.
- Stay alert for the first signs of intoxication. Slow down or stop drinking at the appropriate time.
- Speak to someone you trust if you feel you’ve lost control of your alcohol consumption.
For additional information about the principles of healthy alcohol consumption, visit Éduc’alcool at: http://educalcool.qc.ca.