July 05, 2019
Wine, beer or the occasional shot of something stronger.
Many of us enjoy a couple of drinks when we hang out with friends and family at parties or on a night out at the local watering hole, but do you wonder if you drink too much?
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 86 percent of people ages 18 or older have reported drinking alcohol at some point in their life, and 26.9 percent have admitted to binge drinking – 4 or 5 drinks in just a couple of hours – in the previous month.
It may surprise you to know what is really considered excessive alcohol use. For women, it means having 8 or more drinks in a week, and for men, consuming 14 or more drinks during that same time period. If you enjoy a drink with dinner every night and then knock back a few at least one weekend night, you can see how quickly all those drinks add up.
While engaging in excessive alcohol use doesn’t necessarily mean you are an alcoholic, it can still be a health hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that “excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006-2010; shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.”
Besides the increased risk of dangerous behaviors like driving while drinking, getting into fights and unplanned pregnancies, excessive alcohol use is linked to higher risk for liver disease, liver cancer, other types of cancer and heart disease. It also weakens your immune system leading to an increased risk for infection.
Here are three signs you’re drinking too much (sources include National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic):
• You need a drink every day to unwind from the stress of the day. You are an emotional drinker, treating yourself to one or two to both celebrate happy times and to forget your troubles.
• When you go out with friends, you often drink more than you had planned.
• You struggle with a lot of hangovers in the morning and experience blackouts – gaps in your memory – from the night before, affecting your ability to keep up with work and family responsibilities.
If you are worried about your alcohol use, talk to your primary physician or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).