Treading the fine line between drinking for pleasure and alcohol dependency – where do you stand? By Helen Wallace
Many people like to finish off a long day with a glass of their tipple of choice to help them unwind. This has been a cultural norm for generations – we tend to think nothing of it. Recent research, however, has drawn a link between casual drinking and alcohol addic-tion, because people can become dependent on drink to be able to relax. We all know that bingeing
is bad but now it seems that even drinking in moderation can have potentially harmful consequences.
So how much is too much? The answer: much less than you think.
A calming influence
Most of us enjoy the odd glass of wine or a beer – some of us more than others – because it is not only a relaxant but also a social lubricant enjoyed on most special occasions or nights out. Many people think that reaching the level of ‘being drunk’ is the only benchmark when it comes to assessing whether or not someone is a heavy drinker. Not so. As it turns out, even moderate drinking, if done often enough, can lead to an increased tolerance for alcohol and result in any negative effects of such overindulgence becoming less and less noticeable over time.
Recent studies carried out at various institutions across the UK and the US suggest that consuming around three or more units of alcohol a day can be just as detrimental to your health, both mentally and physically, as binge drinking, and could increase the likelihood of people developing substance-abuse problems later.
A step too far
According to SANCA, the South African National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, around 3.3 million deaths across the globe in 2012 involved the consumption of alcohol. On a micro-level, people who abuse alcohol can create problems in their workplaces and home environments, fracturing the relationships around them and doing a lot of harm to the people they care about as well as strangers in various ways, such as in road accidents or due to acts of violence.
In terms of your own health, the toll that excess drinking takes on the body can lead to problems such as certain cancers, heart disease, liver dysfunction and even some psychological problems such as addiction, mood disorders and depression. The line between drinking in moderation and overdoing it is a fine one and considering the multitude of risks associated with drinking, is it not maybe better to err on the side
of caution and drink moderately or rather infrequently?
So, you now recognise the potential dangers of consuming alcohol on a regular or daily basis and want to cut back? You may need to think about why you find yourself reaching for a bottle in the first place. If you, like so many others, see it as a good way to relax after a long day, you could also investigate other ways in which you can unwind that are better for your physical and psychological well-being, such as yoga, meditation, exercising or spending time on your hobbies, all of which have been proven to help you unwind and de-stress.
They say that too much of a good thing often leads to trouble, and this is undoubtedly the case when it comes to drinking. Despite the fact that some drinks contain substances that can be beneficial to your psychological and physical well-being, this is only in very small amounts that need not be taken daily or in large quantities. Next time you’re about to fill up your glass, think about all the potential dangers before you pour ‘just one more’ drink. After all, most things in life are enjoyed best in moderation.
Did you know?
Certain alcoholic beverages have health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Red wine, for example, is known to contain antioxidants and is good for maintaining cardiovascular health and holding back early-onset dementia, while beer can help lower blood pressure and increase bone density. Remember, though, that you do not need to indulge every day to reap the benefits. If you follow a healthy, balanced diet you can live a long life without consuming any alcohol.
Worried you’re drinking too much? Here are some warning
signs indicating you may need a lifestyle change.
• Mood swings, grumpiness and being more forgetful than usual.
• Having to consume more and more alcohol to feel a buzz owing to having built up a tolerance.
• Not being able to get a good night’s sleep.
• Dental problems, skin break-outs and upset stomach.
• Doing a lot of your drinking alone, rather than in a social setting.
• Looking forward to your post-work drink is what gets you
through the day.
Think you may be suffering from alcohol dependency or would like to gain a bit of clarity regarding your drinking habits? Contact Alcoholics Anonymous to find support in your area and get on the path to recovery. Call 0861 435 722 or visit aasouthafrica.org.za.