Alcohol: When it’s too much

“Alcohol overdose is when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life support functions (breathing, heart rate, temperature control) begin to shut down,” advises the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism within the National Institutes of Health.

How alcohol affects you is linked to age, sensitivity to alcohol, gender, how much you are drinking and how fast, medications that you are taking and the amount of food that you have eaten. Opioids, sleep aids and over-the-counter antihistamines taken with alcohol affect vital functions, those things we just mentioned above, like breathing.

If binge drinking comes to mind in this discussion, it is related to this serious, but preventable public health problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that binge drinking is the most common, costly and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S. The CDC advised that one in six U.S. adults binge drinks four times a month, about seven drinks per binge.

More men than women binge drink by twice as much. The most common ages for binge drinking are 18-34, but more than half of binge drinks are consumed by those aged 35 and older.

How much alcohol can a human body handle? Kevin O’Hara at AlcoholMastery.com advises one unit of alcohol (1/10 of a bottle of wine, for example) per hour. Every organ in the body is affected when a person begins to drink, he said.

There are serious risks with drinking alcohol. When your judgment becomes impaired, your risk of injury goes up: car crashes, falls, burns and alcohol poisoning. The chances go up for you to be involved in some form of violence like homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence and sexual assault. There are other things to consider like sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy and pregnancy with risks like miscarriage and still birth. And after the baby is born there may be problems with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) or SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Alcohol misuse affects chronic diseases including high blood pressure, heart and liver disease, and stroke. It has been linked to breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon cancers. Memory and learning problems may occur. And then there is alcohol dependence.

That little word “may” can play games with you. It’s true that the problems associated with alcohol misuse will happen to others. You may use it to justify risky alcohol use. But the bottom line is this: What does good common sense tell you? Hopefully it leads you to moderation, drinking only what your body can handle.

All of those movies and TV shows you have watched with a funny drunk entertaining everyone doesn’t come close to the realities of alcohol misuse and dependence. Black coffee, cold showers and walking a lot are some of those “false truths” we’ve heard about for years. Learn about the symptoms to watch for and when to call 911 for help. Any of the resources mentioned in this column can help you learn more about it.

The word of the day: Moderation, the avoidance of excess or extremes; restraint.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way Services of Northern Columbiana County.