Alcohol Awareness, Part 2: What is the Problem?
While drinking alcohol itself is not necessarily a problem, drinking too much can cause a range of consequences and increase your risk for a variety of problems. Drinking too much alcohol – on a single occasion or over time – can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. Here’s some ways how alcohol can affect your body:
Alcohol can affect your body in other ways as well. Consumption of alcohol is a major risk factor for certain types of cancer, including esophageal cancer, colorectal cancer, and liver cancer. Drinking alcohol can also cause stomach bleeding and problems with your pancreas and immune system, which can make your body a much easier target for diseases and slow your body’s ability to fight off infections. For more information on alcohol’s effects on the body, please see the related web pages from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
In addition to causing or contributing to health problems, there are other problems and risks associated with alcohol use. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Mis-managing Medical Conditions
People who misuse or abuse alcohol can experience problems managing medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, pain, and sleep disorders.
Engaging in Risky Behaviors
People who consume alcohol, especially excessive amounts, are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual behaviors, putting themselves and others at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (or infections) and unintentional pregnancies.
Alcohol use increases your chances of being injured, for example from falls and motor vehicle crashes, or even killed.
Experiencing Personal Problems
Drinking is associated with hangovers, which can affect your ability to focus on or perform your daily tasks; and frequent, heavy drinking also is linked with personal problems, including losing a driver’s license and having relationship troubles.
Last, but certainly not least, mixing alcohol with medicines can be dangerous and potentially life threatening. Alcohol, like some medicines, can make you drowsy, lightheaded, or sleepy. Drinking alcohol while taking certain medicines can intensify these effects, putting you at risk for serious harm. In addition to these dangers, alcohol can make a medicine less effective or even useless, or it may make the medicine harmful or toxic to your body. Even some medicines that you might never have suspected, including those that can be purchased “over-the-counter” without a prescription and some herbal remedies, can react with alcohol. For a list of medications that can cause harm when taken with alcohol and a description of the effects that can result, visit Harmful Interactions from the NIAAA. Additionally, your pharmacist or other healthcare provider can help you determine which medicines interact harmfully with alcohol.
In sum, drinking alcohol can cause or contribute to a number of problems in your life. And remember, mixing alcohol and medicines puts you at risk for dangerous reactions. Protect yourself by knowing the risks associated with alcohol use and by avoiding alcohol if you have certain medical conditions or are taking medicines that interact harmfully.
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