“Most people do abstain from alcohol or drink it responsibly and within recommended limits — social drinking — and that’s fine,” says Dr. Alicia Ann Kowalchuk, medical director, Harris County Hospital District’s InSight, an early alcohol and drug intervention program. “It’s the others who don’t follow the recommended levels whom we’re concerned about, and the ones who tend to pose the most danger to themselves and others in the community.”
For those who drink.
Here are some healthy drinking limit guidelines from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
• Men under the age of 65:
• Fewer than five drinks per occasion
• No more than 14 drinks per week
• Women of all ages, and men older than the age of 65:
• Fewer than four drinks per occasion
• No more than seven drinks per week
“Alcohol absorption and metabolism are different in men and women and change as we age,” Kowalchuk says. “Absorption is how alcohol gets into the bloodstream from the stomach, and metabolism is the way the body processes or breaks down alcohol. This means women get more alcohol in their bloodstream from each drink compared to men.”
But what constitutes a drink?
The NIAAA recommends the following guidelines for standard drink amounts:
• 12 ounces of regular beer, ale or malt liquor
• 1.5 ounces or one shot of 80-proof whiskey, gin or vodka
• 5 ounces of wine
• 12 ounces of wine cooler
• 4 ounces of sherry, liqueur or aperitif
For some people it’s not safe or healthy to drink at all.
You should not drink if you:
• are pregnant or may become pregnant
• have a history of alcohol abuse or dependence
• have health conditions that may be made worse by drinking, such as liver problems
• take medication that interacts with alcohol
• are going to be driving
• are under the legal drinking age
Unsure if you have a problem?
Kowalchuk has some warning signs. She recommends you seek immediate care if you are unable to drink within healthy limits or have any of the following, which may indicate a more severe problem, such as alcohol addiction:
• Difficulty completing routine tasks at work, school or home due to your drinking
• Hazardous use such as driving while intoxicated
• Legal problems related to drinking alcohol
• Social or relationship problems due to your drinking
• Needing to drink more now than before to get the same effect
• Feeling shaky, nervous, irritable, upset stomach or headache if you don’t drink for a time or when you drink less than usual
• Needing a drink first thing when you wake up to feel better or steady your nerves
• Drinking more than you intend or feel like your drinking is out of control.
In the United States, alcohol use is related to more than 105,000 deaths every year. It accounts for about $167 billion a year in lost productivity and costs associated with criminal justice and healthcare. In Texas alone, the cost is about $16.4 billion a year.
The Harris County Hospital District recommends people with alcohol problems seek immediate care from their primary care physician. For more information on the topic, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at www.niaaa.nih.gov/
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The Harris County Hospital District (hchdonline.com)