Alcohol is an intoxicating drug, which has been taken since ancient times. Depending on
dosage, it can act variously as an anaesthetic, a tranquiliser or a depressant. It induces
mood changes, not by acting as a stimulant, as many people think, but by depressing that part of the brain which controls impulsive behaviour, judgement and memory. Alcohol, in small quantities, can lead to a subtle loss of inhibition; shyness is reduced and social skills can improve. However, in larger quantities, loss of inhibition can have less desirable effects, leading to inappropriate, embarrassing or offensive behaviour and risk taking. The liver has to convert the alcohol and when it is forced to cope with excessive amounts, even over a short period of time the liver will suffer. Liver disease is serious, and the end result is cirrhosis which is treatable only by a liver transplant.
Alcoholism is linked to serious social problems such as traffic offences, violence and
marital strain, even fatal disease. It is not only you that can suffer, drink driving can result in car crashes injuring or killing other innocent people. Large doses of alcohol can give a feeling of immortality and an exaggerated sense of ones own ability. All drugs, whether they are prescription or illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco or even coffee, when taken in excess can have disastrous effects upon body and mind.
How Much Is Too Much
It would be very simple to say that a person should just not consume any alcohol. In fact,
not consuming alcohol is perfectly healthy. However, in most countries, most people are
accustomed to consuming some alcohol socially, and it is perhaps more realistic to
consider healthy consumption limits. Unlike smoking, for example, which is just plain
unhealthy, small amounts of alcohol, on occasion, is not unhealthy, and there are some
studies suggesting that some forms of alcohol, such as red wine actually have healthy
components, such as antioxidants, that can, again, in limited amounts, contribute to good health. The other aspect of alcohol is that limited drinking in social settings can often provide a person a form of stress relief and well being. Stress over social situations, body image etc, are all diminished with alcohol.
So, how much is too much? There are several things to consider; firstly too little is always better than too much! You can’t harm yourself by not drinking, but you certainly can kill yourself with excessive alcohol intake! Some warning signs that you are drinking too much:
• Drinking quickly and treating others as if they are drinking too slowly.
• Frequent/repeat driving offences and accidents associated with high blood alcohol
• Drinking alone or in secret, lying about intake, hiding intake
• Drinking to combat stress, depression, relationship or work troubles etc
• Blackouts or periods of amnesia.
• Frequent expressions of jealousy, aggression or resentment.
• Frequent behaviour related problems with work or family.
• Inventing excuses to drink.
• Needing alcohol to have fun when socialising
• Increasing levels of consumption.
• Fatigue, insomnia or loss of appetite.
Of course many of these signs can, on their own, point to a variety of problems, but if
several exist, particularly if a person is using alcohol as a crutch, or feel they cant cope
without a drink, it is time to look into professional help. A lot of people simply do not
realize how much they drink. If you come home from work and drink 2-3 beers or glasses of wine each night try taking a night off.
If you find it hard to get through an evening without drinking, you need to assess your
dependence on alcohol and try to change it into a healthier after work habit (go for a jog,
munch on a healthy snack, do some meditation to unwind etc). If you are drinking more
than you can afford, if family members suggest you drink a lot, or you cannot stop drinking for even a short period you have a problem with dependence.