Updated: Dec 12, 2021
It's Friday night and you've worked all week, you're stressed and you just want to unwind so you pour yourself a glass of wine, or four. No one bats an eye because it's socially acceptable to drink away your stress on a Friday night. But where does drinking four glasses of wine every Friday and Saturday turn from socially acceptable behavior to alcoholism. The line is blurry and many people cross the line without even recognizing it. They begin drinking on weeknights because they are stressed, they stop drinking around other people, they isolate, they hide how much they are drinking, they start drinking during the day. Even if you're "functioning" at work, with your friends, or even if your loved ones don't notice how much you're drinking and view it as acceptable behavior, you may have an alcohol problem. Do you know how much is an acceptable amount of alcohol for you to drink per day? Per week? For men it is no more than four drinks per day and no more than 14 per week, for women it is no more than three per day and no more than 7 per week. But what is a "drink"? 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol), 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol) 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of spirits (40% alcohol). Binge drinking counts as (for women) 4 or more drinks during a single occasion and (for men) drinking 5 or more drinks in a single occasion. Heavy drinking is defined as (for women) 8 or more drinks per week and (for men) 15 or more drinks per week. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends not drinking or to drink in moderation 2 drinks or less per day for men and 1 drink or less per day for women. Long term health risks of drinking include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems, cancer (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum), weakening of the immune system, learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance, mental health problems including depression and anxiety, social problems including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment, and alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence. During 2011-2015 excessive alochol use was responsible for an annual average of 95,000 deaths and 2.8 million years of potential life lost. Almost half of these deaths and three-quarters of the years of potential life lost was due to binge drinking. Alcohol use may lead to suicidality though disinhibition, impulsiveness and impaired judgment but it also may be used as a means to ease the distress associated with committing an act of suicide. Alcohol has been found to be in relation to nearly one third of suicides. People often self medicate with alcohol, whether that be depression, mood or personality disorders, anxiety, or anything else, they are trying to cope with alcohol to forget their problems. However, what was once an aid is now another strain on their life and it is harming relationships, their body, and perhaps their profession. Although alcohol can provide temporary relief it actually makes the issue exponentially worse and can make their mental health issues and suicidal ideation that much worse and more frequent increasing the likelihood for suicide attempts. Individuals with alcoholism are 120 times more likely to commit suicide than someone that is not dependent on alcohol. 29% of suicide victims in America had alcohol in their systems. If someone you love or you have a problem with alcohol or another substance please reach out for help. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself please reach out for help.
Suicide helpline: 800-273-8255
911 or your local Emergency Room