Alcohol Misuse and Why it Matters

Drinking too much alcohol can have a number of negative impacts on your health and quality of life, including increased risk of injuries, violence, legal issues, risky sexual activity, liver disease, some types of cancer and more. April is Alcohol Awareness Month and is a great time to learn ways to reduce alcohol consumption and prevent alcohol abuse and misuse.

Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Those that die from  it have a shortened lifespan by an average of 26 years. So, what is excessive alcohol use? This can come in several forms, including:

  • Binge drinking: Defined by consuming four or more drinks on one occasion for a woman, or five or more drinks on one occasion for a man.
  • Heavy drinking: Defined as eight or more drinks per week for a woman, or 15 or more drinks per week for a man.
  • Consumption of alcohol by pregnant women or anyone younger than 21.

 How Alcohol Impacts your Health

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic diseases and other serious problems. In addition to alcohol use disorder (AUD), cognitive problems can develop affecting memory, learning and mental health. There are also several physical chronic health conditions linked to excessive alcohol use.

 Cancer

According to the CDC, drinking any kind of alcoholic beverage can contribute to cancers of the mouth and throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus, colon, liver and breasts (in women). Increased risk for some cancers can occur with less than one drink per day. The less alcohol a person drinks, the lower the risk for these types of cancer.

Unintended Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections

People who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners. These activities can result in unplanned pregnancies and increase the risk of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

 How to Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Reduce Health Risks

The safest way to reduce all alcohol-related health issues is to abstain. However, adults of legal drinking age can choose to drink in moderation. Moderation is considered limiting intake to two drinks or less in a day for men, and one drink or less in a day for women. Additionally, there are several more steps that individuals can take to reduce alcohol-related problems and consumption. The CDC suggests the following:

  • Set limits: Decide how many days or how many drinks you plan to have beforehand. This could include only drinking on weekends or setting a limit of two drinks in one sitting.
  • Count your drinks: Keep track of how many drinks you are consuming. There are a variety of mobile apps available that can help with this. Additionally, learn how much alcohol counts as a “standard” drink.