Alcohol is socially acceptable, recreationally. It is a legal indulgence (for those over the age of 18) that can be enjoyed responsibly. Alcohol plays a part in many celebratory events such as birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, which usually kick off with a toast of some kind.
But research has warned that even the occasional tipple can have negative effects on the body. These effects range from temporary pain and nausea to long-term, debilitating symptoms.
Overconsumption can land you in the emergency room. Yes, some people have even died from an alcohol overdose.
Alcohol irritates the stomach and digestive tract, which is why many people vomit if they drink too much.
Many people have died from asphyxiation after emptying their stomachs through vomiting, while unconscious because of intoxication, says College Drink Prevention. You can choke on, or inhale, your own vomit into your lungs.
The most cautionary tale, alcohol is known to decrease liver function. The liver is responsible for producing an important digestive liquid called bile. It stores energy in the form of a sugar called glycogen. The liver also filters the blood, cleaning it from toxins. Alcohol causes liver disease, including cirrhosis and life-threatening liver failure. The only way to fix a liver failure is a liver transplant. Unfortunately, people who have a history of alcohol abuse are not eligible for a transplant.
Alcohol impairs judgment and coordination by affecting the brain’s chemical balance. Impaired judgment causes lower inhibitions, which make people ‘braver’ and this usually ends up in risky behaviour.
You don’t even have to consume large amounts of alcohol to feel the effects. Studies show that people feel more confident after just one glass. This is why people usually have a ‘shot for the nerves’ before a gig or when they are stressed out.
Alcohol changes the way you think and feel, and therefore influences how you act. Of course, the more you drink, the more impact alcohol will have, says Alcohol.org. After a few drinks, you will probably be more social and outgoing, happy, full of energy, talkative and fun to be around.
Unfortunately, the next stage of being intoxicated is usually slurring speech, falling down, and increasing aggression. Even more drinks and you may black out. When you are drunk, you lose the ability to decide when you have had enough.
This is also why it is illegal to drink and drive. The majority of road accidents are caused by drunk drivers. It is impossible to monitor the speed you are driving when you are intoxicated. Also, drinking impairs your vision and judgement; both very important factors when operating heavy machinery.
Alcohol consumption in women is directly linked to hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer by damaging DNA in cells. This is according to a study on the link between breast cancer and alcohol, which found that women who have three alcoholic drinks a week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer than non-drinkers.
Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer increases another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.
BreastCancer.Org reports: “Teen and ‘tween girls aged 9 to 15, who drink three to five drinks a week, have a three times higher risk of developing benign breast lumps.”
There is also much research that links alcohol to a higher risk of other types of cancers, including those of the digestive tract (including colon cancer) and liver.
Surprisingly, red wine could in fact have positive effects. Studies show that red wine could lower cholesterol and help combat stress. Wine is mostly grapes, which means that it is naturally high in resveratrol, a natural antioxidant in the skin of grapes.
A 2019 study on Red Wine Consumption and Cardiovascular Health concluded that drinking red wine is linked with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and might have cardio-protective effects.
Other research also reported that red wine compounds may also act as prebiotics, which are compounds that boost healthy gut bacteria – which also reduce the risk of heart disease through their effect on the gut microbiome.
However, it is important to note that each study made a point of mentioning that overconsumption of red wine will have negative effects on both the heart and the gut; so getting these tannins and compounds from food instead is more beneficial and much less risky.
How much alcohol is too much?
Alcohol overdose is a medical emergency. Harvard explains that women should have one drink a day; men can have two a day, maximum.
“The lower recommendation for women isn’t just because they are, on average, smaller than men, as it turns out that alcohol affects women differently. They produce less of the enzyme (called alcohol dehydrogenase, or ADH) that breaks down alcohol. In addition, women tend to have more body fat, which tends to retain alcohol.”
Symptoms of overdose include: Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or when a person cannot be roused, vomiting and even seizures are signs that someone may be suffering from an alcohol overdose and needs immediate medical attention.
Other signs and symptoms of an overdose are slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths a minute) and low body temperature. Some people also become dehydrated after binge-drinking, which can cause permanent brain damage.
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