We’ve all been there. You wake up dehydrated- the previous night’s events are all a blur. Reach towards your nightstand…cell phone? Check. License? Check. Dignity… questionable.
If this happens more often than not, you may need help and that is no laughing matter. A recent national survey noted that more than fifty percent of Americans aged 12 or older reported drinking alcohol. Of these fifty percent more than twenty percent admitted to binge drinking. Binge drinking is typically defined as greater than four drinks at one time for women, and greater than five for men.
Let’s step back and understand how alcohol affects the body. Alcohol or ethanol is a chemical substance that most notably affects the central nervous system (CNS). As a person consumes more alcohol, their CNS becomes further impaired. In smaller concentrations, and at early stages of intoxication, alcohol can decrease inhibition. As the concentration of alcohol in the blood rises, a person’s CNS response begins to decrease. This can be seen with unsteady gait, slurred speech, and poor memory. As a person continues to have rising levels of alcohol in the blood they may even become comatose, and at the highest levels breathing can be compromised and death may follow.
For both men and women, intoxication can lead to injuries, embarrassment and serious consequences. If you are unsure if alcohol is something you are struggling with, consider asking yourself how it is impacting your life. If you find that you lose control more often than not when drinking, you may need help. Another area of concern would be that you have suffered serious consequences from alcohol (trouble finishing work, problems with relationships, a DUI, or injury) yet you continue to drink without much change in your habits. Women who suffer from alcohol abuse or dependency oftein either deny that they have a problem or are unaware of what to look for.
Alcohol consumption can also have a major impact on your health. Many women develop high blood pressure, weight gain, and anemia with prolonged alcohol abuse. As we age, continued alcohol use can have damaging effects on the heart and lungs and is often one of the contributing factors to strokes and heart attacks. Additionally, alcohol has long been linked to increased risks of breast cancer. This can be especially important for women who already have other underlying risks or a family history of the disease.
With its direct effects on the CNS, alcohol also causes depression, and increases anxiety. It may seem that alcohol reduces anxiety, however depression and anxiety are typically seen in those individuals who consume increased quantities of alcohol or who binge drink.
We all like to enjoy a drink every so often, but if it’s becoming a problem for you or you find yourself recovering from frequent binge drinking episodes don’t feel embarrassed. Speak to your personal physician about your concerns and questions. He or She can give you a detailed evaluation of your alcohol consumption and provide resources to help you.