Even with a plethora of alcohol awareness campaigns, still not everyone is aware of how much alcohol they can drink before consuming too much. Due to differences in weight and size, some people can tolerate a bit more alcohol than others, but in general, the following rules for responsible drinking apply:
- For women, two standard units per day;
- For men, three standard units per day;
- So as to prevent drinking becoming a habit, it is important to not consume any alcohol at least two days a week;
- Do not drink when you're tired or in response to stress or other personal problems.
Proceeding via the oesophagus, stomach and large intestine, alcohol enters the blood stream and is transported throughout the entire body. As soon as it has reached the brains, you feel more relaxed and cheerful and are less inhibited in talking for the first two units or so. When consuming more, you start caring less, have more difficulty assessing situations, your response time decreases and your muscle coordination is affected. Consuming even more may lead to your cheerful mood souring and you becoming depressed or aggressive. The better your physical and mental health, the more alcohol you can tolerate.
Women are more easily affected by alcohol than men. This is because they on average have less bodily fluids and, therefore, more quickly raise their alcohol levels.
Alcohol promotes fluid loss through increased urine production. This loss of fluids is responsible for various characteristics of the hangover: the dry mouth, feeling weak and tired, and probably the headache. In addition, alcohol irritates the gastric mucosa, which may lead to nausea and bouts of vomiting.
'Binge drinking' (every now and then consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period) is a health hazard, too: it may cause acute renal failure, heart conditions and brain damage. In the long term, binge drinking may damage the nervous system and cause brain damage.
Drinking 15 units of alcohol in one go once a week is definitely unhealthy; consuming 2 to 3 units five days a week is not necessarily so. For alcohol affects various organs, like the stomach, the liver and the brain. The more alcohol absorbed by the body in a short timespan, the more damage it may cause to these organs. Examples of such damage include gastritis (infection of the stomach) and liver cirrhosis (damage to the liver). If you do drink too much every once in a while, it's best not to drink any alcohol for at least two consecutive days. This allows the body to recuperate.
Drinking too much for an extended period of time may have serious consequences. Physical consequences include infections of the mucosa of the oesophagus and stomach, liver damage and damage to the brain and nervous system. A clear connection has also been proven between alcohol and certain forms of cancer, in particular mouth, throat, laryngeal and oesophageal cancer.
In addition to physical consequences, alcohol abuse also impacts your functioning within society. Problem drinkers are absent six times more often than others and they are more prone to be the victim of a work-related accident. Fifteen percent of all traffic deaths are due to an accident involving alcohol. When drunk, people easily turn aggressive: thirty percent of all instances of abuse of women can be traced to alcohol abuse, for instance, and problem drinkers often end up socially isolated due to becoming aggressive and fighting often.