April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to learn about alcohol and the health and social problems caused by drinking too much. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) encourages the public to dedicate this month to understanding how excessive drinking can affect health and to evaluating their own drinking habits.
Consequences of drinking too much
Excessive drinking affects all Americans, whether or not they drink. Alcohol problems cost the United States $224 billion in 2006, primarily from lost productivity, but also from health care and property damage costs.
Evaluate drinking patterns
NIAAA encourages people to evaluate their drinking habits during Alcohol Awareness Month.
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. For men, it is defined as no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. NIAAA research shows that only about 2 in 100 people who drink within these limits have an alcohol use disorder.
The NIAAA website can help you with the following informational and self-assessment tools:
- Information on recommended drinking limits
- An interactive tool for individuals to self-assess their drinking patterns and determine whether they could benefit from a change
Understanding how alcohol affects the body
Initially, people who drink may feel upbeat and excited. Soon alcohol affects inhibitions and judgment, and can lead to reckless decisions. As more alcohol is consumed, reaction time suffers and behavior becomes poorly controlled and sometimes even aggressive—possibly leading to fights and other types of violence. Continued drinking causes the slurred speech and loss of balance typically associated with a person being drunk. At higher levels, alcohol causes the drinker to become sleepy and in some cases pass out. At these levels, alcohol can also cause blackouts or periods of amnesia where a person may have been conscious, but does not remember what happened while he or she was intoxicated. In the most extreme cases, drinkers face the danger of life-threatening alcohol poisoning due to the suppression of vital life functions.
Reduce drinking to lower risk for problems
For those who find that their drinking patterns are above the recommended limits, cutting back or quitting can have significant health benefits. People who reduce their drinking decrease their risks for injuries, liver and heart disease, depression, stroke, sexually transmitted diseases, and several types of cancers.