April is alcohol awareness month. Alcohol has become an integral part of our culture. Regardless of our background or beliefs, we can’t get away from it, as we are frequently exposed to this item. People use alcohol in various settings; often in celebration and parties. Some people drink little; mostly in social settings, and some drink a lot; recreationally or as a form of self-medication to get comfort, relieve anxiety or “drown depression.”  The irony is using alcohol as a tool to deal with life’s problems is that the problem never truly goes away.

 

WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING?

April is alcohol awareness month, and as such it is important that we are enlightened about this commodity that is part of our culture and celebrations.  It is often said, “You are what you eat”. While this is true, we can apply that same slogan to alcohol.  “You are what you drink,” which now begs the question, “do you know how much alcohol you consume in every drink?”

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism spells it out clearly here:

  • 12 fluid ounces of beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 8 to 9 fluid ounces of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
  • 5 fluid ounces of table wine (about 12% alcohol)
  • 5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spiritse.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). (40% alcohol)

The diagram below should give you a great visual of what this looks like in actuality.

This information can help inform your choice when you are in an alcohol-prone situation.  The difference between drinking a 12 oz. bottle of beer versus 1.5 oz. of spirit is HUGE as the latter has 8 times more alcohol content in a tiny container than the former.  This shows that how much we drink is as important as what we drink.

IMPACT OF EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL USE

Even though, alcohol might look and feel fun in practice, it’s abuse and misuse can lead to dire consequences. Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overindulgent use of alcohol led to approximately 88,000 deaths in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.  Look at that statistic, HUGE!

Summary, alcohol abuse can shorten life by 30 years. That’s a lot of years to lose if you ask me!!

Alcohol misuse and abuse does impacts our lives in the short and long term.

Some immediate or short-term impacts of alcohol abuse include the following:

  1. Often involved in violence act(s).
  2. Can increase the risk of sexually transmitted infection from careless activities, as alcohol can impair judgment.
  3. Can lead to miscarriage and still birth in pregnant women.
  4. Can lead to injuries from falls, drownings and burns. This is a result of impaired judgment that excess alcohol in the blood stream causes.

Some long-term impacts of alcohol abuse include the following:

  1. Causes skin dehydration.
  2. Causes weight gain.
  3. Causes fragile bones by preventing calcium from being absorbed.

This schema shows more clearly how alcohol affects specific organs in our body in the long term.  Additionally, excessive consumption of alcohol can hurt our relationships at work and with family and friends in the long and short term. It can also impact our life diminishing our productivity and general quality of life.

MAKING CHANGES

It starts with calling the issue by its name.  Being in denial won’t help.  Do you think alcohol is causing problems in your life and relationships?  Are you willing to change that pattern?

But first, how do you know this is a problem?

  • Do you experience cravings?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping without drinking alcohol?
  • Have you tried to quit more than once and could not?
  • Is it negatively impacting your relationships? Quality of life?  Productivity?
  • Do you always end up drinking more than you intended to?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink like nervousness? Sweating?  Shaking?  Anxiety?
  • Do you use alcohol as a cure-all for depression, anxiety, problem avoidance?

If one or more of these situations above describes you, it doesn’t have to be your story anymore.  You have the power to change that.  You can take ownership of your life and future today to create a preferred future.  One you will be happy with. There are many avenues to get help:

  • Speak to your Health Care Provider.
  • Speak to an Addiction Specialist.
  • Speak to a Counselor.
  • Speak to your Religious Leader.
  • There are lots of community support programs aimed at helping you beat this, seek them out and commit to one.

These professionals can support you and empower you with tools to cope with life’s stresses and live in a healthy fashion.  If this information you read has significantly enriched you, please share with your friends, community.

Spread the awareness.

Empower others.

 

For more information on impact of alcohol on the body, visit – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body

For more information on getting help or treatment for alcohol abuse, visit –https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Treatment/treatment.htm

For more information on alcohol prevention, visithttps://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/prevention.htm

 

Tolu Oyewumi, MD, MPH, is passionate about holistic health. She is also a certified Coach, Speaker, Teacher, Trainer who helps individuals and corporations maximize their potentials.

 

 

© 2015 Colorado Black Health Collaborative
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