Alcohol is among the most widely used drug substances in the world. When consumed in moderation, it can form part of an enjoyable and healthy lifestyle; but when drunk in excess, alcohol can have a harmful effect on your health.
Emphasize on drinking alcohol responsibly to ensure you or those around you are safe. This involves a number of steps from taking personal responsibility to seeking help. Let’s see what this means in practice:
Do NOT drink and drive
For many, driving is an everyday activity. It is, however, a complex activity that requires concentration, good coordination and decision-making skills and reflexes. Alcohol impairs these abilities, increasing the risk of an accident if a person drives under the influence of alcohol. You are most likely to find the following activities difficult to manage:
- See and hear clearly
- Judge the right speed, and distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you
- Navigate through traffic
- Stay awake and focus on driving
- Keep your balance (on a two-wheel vehicle)
- React in proper time
Plan your transportation to and from an event or party beforehand. If you plan to drink, the most sensible thing to do is to take public transportation or ask a sober friend to drop you home. In case the party is at a friend’s place, you may arrange to sleep over and leave when sober next day. Refrain from drinking on an impulse if your only means to returning home is driving yourself.
Set a drinking limit and stick to it
There is no safe level for consuming alcohol. The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not set a definite limit because the ideal situation is to not drink at all. Alcohol is linked to 60 different diagnoses that have a close dose-response relationship – hence the more you drink, the higher is your risk of illness.
The European region has the world’s highest levels of alcohol consumption and the highest levels of harm due to alcohol; correspondingly, alcohol is one of the leading causes of ill-health and premature deaths in Europe.
Thus, while it is most ideal to totally refrain from alcohol, knowing your own capacity and setting a limit for yourself avoids overdose. While drinks like beer and wine are served in standard sizes, mixed drinks can contain two or more standard drinks, and it can be difficult to measure how much you consume. It is best to proceed with caution.
Pace your drinks
Binge drinking refers to drinking too much on a single occasion of drinking or drinking more than the recommended level for adults. It also refers to drinking continuously or drinking in occasional bouts for more than a day or for weeks. There are risks associated with binge drinking:
- Injury to yourself or others
- Dizziness and memory loss
- Loss of coordination
- Diarrhoea, vomiting
- Alcohol poisoning (that could be fatal)
The average human body can metabolize one standard drink of alcohol every hour. Limiting yourself to less than one standard drink per hour will keep you from feeling ‘buzzed’. Two standard drinks per hour cause low buzz levels.
Alternate your drinks
One method of slowing down your drinking rate and staying within moderate drinking limits can be to alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, say a glass of water with a glass of wine or plain coke with rum.
Choose your drinks wisely
When looking to drinking in moderation, how about starting with the choice of drink in the first place? You may opt for less concentrated drinks like beer or wine in place of hard liquors like whiskey, vodka or rum. It is also difficult to keep track of shots than other less concentrated drinks.
Snack before and while drinking
Drinking on an empty stomach is not a good idea. Wonder why? A large surface area of the small intestine ensures that alcohol gets absorbed very efficiently by your body, which raises the blood alcohol level quickly and leads to intoxication.
However, if you eat a good-sized meal, the valve between the stomach and small intestine closes to allow for digestion by stomach enzymes, keeping the food there. In fact, food with a high fat content can keep the valve closed for up to six hours. Thus, if you eat something before you drink, the alcohol will be absorbed more slowly, the blood alcohol content remains low, and it will take time for you to become intoxicated.
Eat before and while you drink to ensure that you do not pass out or suffer a black out – what is the fun being at a party if you don’t remember anything!
Alcohol is a diuretic that causes your body to become dehydrated. The more alcohol you consume, the thirstier you will feel. With plenty of water in your system before and while you drink, you will not only drink alcohol slowly but also will not feel thirsty. You can even dilute your drink by adding ice or water.
“Alcohol and diabetes: Drinking safely,” MayoClinic.com, Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. December 9, 2011, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-blog/alcohol-and-diabetes/bgp-20056464
“Alcohol use and safe drinking,” medlinePlus.com, NLM, NIH, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001944.htm
“How much can you safely consume?” MedicineNet.com, http://www.medicinenet.com/alcohol_and_nutrition/page9.htm
“Q&A – How can I drink alcohol safely?” World Health Organisation, WHO, Dr Lars Møller, http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/alcohol-use/data-and-statistics/q-and-a-how-can-i-drink-alcohol-safely
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