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In many countries, including the United States, drinking can compose a significant part of daily and social interactions. However, moderation is important when dealing with anything, including substances like alcohol. As a result, it is vital to learn and understand alcohol intake recommendations and the anatomy of drinking safely.
For alcohol intake, one drink goes beyond one serving. “One drink” can mean a single serving for one type of alcohol while it can mean less or more for a different type. In the United States, one drink is defined as 14 grams of raw alcohol. The amount of alcohol present is determined by the alcohol content, which is represented as a percentage (1).
As a result, “one drink” can vary based on the medium of alcohol depending on their alcohol content.
In most societies throughout the world, drinking is an accepted part of day-to-day life. From casual drinking at home to social drinking, moderate drinking can be found in many different ways.
By definition, moderate drinking consists of no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men a day. When moderate drinking strays away from this definition, it often becomes excessive drinking. Over drinking can increase the risk for alcohol use disorder and addiction. As a result, it is important to learn how much alcohol is too much.
Excessive drinking can come in many different forms. By broad definition, it includes any type of drinking that exceeds the recommended daily alcohol intake. Specifically, though, excessive drinking can include:
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a form of excessive drinking defined by exceeding the guidelines for daily alcohol intake. For excessive drinking to be considered binge drinking, women must consume four or more drinks on a single occasion while men must consume five or more.
Binge drinking can turn into heavy drinking once a woman consumes 8 or more drinks per week and a man consumes 15 or more drinks in a single week. Many people who binge drink are not alcoholics or have a dependency on alcohol. However, continued excessive drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol use disorders occur when moderate drinking becomes less common than excessive drinking. The rise in drinking levels can occur if someone is having difficulty regulating their alcohol consumption. Alcoholism can also occur if someone participates regularly in binge drinking.
When a substance is introduced to the body in regular intervals – and increasingly larger doses – the body can develop a dependency on that substance. This same type of dependency can occur with alcohol, especially with regular excessive or binge drinking, thereby leading to the development of alcohol use disorder.
The signs and symptoms of an alcohol use disorder can include:
An alcohol use disorder can make it difficult to learn how to stop drinking due to the severe withdrawal symptoms that occur when someone stops consuming alcohol.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can create both short and long-term effects on the body. Like other CNS depressants, alcohol works by reducing the speed of function in specific parts of the brain, which can have dangerous consequences, especially with excessive drinking.
The brain, along with the rest of the central nervous system, is one of the organs most susceptible to the effects of alcohol. In order to maintain proper physiology and function, the brain requires certain amounts of different chemicals, a balance that alcohol can disrupt.
Alcohol produces short and long-term effects on the brain. The short-term effects of alcohol are known as intoxication and can be produced within drinking one to two standard drinks.
Intoxication creates mild mental and physical impairments that can grow more severe as more alcohol is consumed. The signs and symptoms of intoxication include dizziness, slurring, and decreased motor function. Large quantities of alcohol ingested in a short period can result in an alcohol overdose which requires medical intervention (2).
The long-term effects of drinking are alcohol use disorders and addiction. For those who are pregnant, consuming alcohol can lead to long-term side effects in the fetal brain (3). As a result, alcohol use should be avoided during pregnancy.
The main ingredient in nearly all alcoholic beverages is ethanol. The liver is the main site for ethanal metabolism. With perpetual excessive drinking, the liver can be exposed to a variety of conditions, including tissues damage (4).
One of the most significant medical concerns in the liver with drinking is cirrhosis.
Whenever a substance is regularly administered into the body, whether through ingestion, injection, or other forms, the body will become accustomed to its presence. This factor is especially true for substances like alcohol that alter the body’s chemistry by elevating or decreasing the levels of different chemicals. Once administration ceases, withdrawal symptoms can occur, which composes addiction.
When the body is addicted to alcohol, it adapts to the short-term effects. Thus, when the body begins to return to a natural state, the body undergoes withdrawal, which can include headaches, lethargy, and psychological effects like cravings.
Addiction and alcohol use disorders require medical intervention to treat, as well as a recovery process that begins with stopping excessive consumption of alcohol.
Excessive drinking can also make it difficult to maintain societal expectations, including attending work or school as well as maintaining relationships. The elevated sugar and acid contents of alcohol can also lead to a decline in oral health, which can impact the entire body.
Because of the side effects that excessive drinking can induce, it can be beneficial to learn how to stop drinking.
Once excessive drinking becomes a concern, reducing or stopping consummation can be beneficial to prevent or halt alcohol use disorder. Sobriety can help alleviate the symptoms associated with drinking to restore the body to health (5).
However, addiction can make sobriety difficult, especially when facing withdrawal symptoms. As a result, following certain steps or incorporating different tips into your life can make it easier to stop drinking. Some tips on how to stop drinking can include:(6)
When excessive drinking becomes unmanageable alone, it may be best to seek professional guidance to pursue treatment.
Detox involves stopping the consumption of alcohol and allowing the body to eliminate any remains and clear the system. Removing any alcohol from the system can help prevent any harmful side effects and may even be able to reverse minor effects that are already occurring.
Withdrawal occurs during the detox period and can be defined through psychological as well as physical side effects. The withdrawal period of alcohol can last several days or even weeks as the body and brain move from a state of depression back to natural levels.
Delirium tremens is a severe form of withdrawal caused by the absence of ethanol after the body has grown accustomed to it. Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
This condition is rare but may require medical intervention, especially in severe cases.
For individuals suffering from withdrawal or delirium tremens, a rehabilitation center provides continuous care that can reduce the severity of symptoms. Rehab also offers professional medical guidance as well as access to mental health services such as psychotherapy to reduce the likelihood of relapse.
Medication can alleviate discomfort during the detox period by reducing the severity of symptoms, including psychological symptoms such as cravings. The FDA has approved three medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorders and excessive drinking:
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