If you are like most people, you probably drink alcohol occasionally. Most people drink alcohol moderately, which may even have health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart diseases.
However, for those that drink heavily, severe health and behavioural problems develop. Therefore, knowing if alcohol is right for you and when NOT to drink are important decisions you have to make.
Although, alcohol has been reported to have health benefits, it is clearly unsafe in some conditions and should be avoided as much as possible. Let’s consider 5 common situations.
1.Do NOT drink if you have to take some medicines
It is not uncommon to find the statement ‘Do NOT take with alcohol’ boldly written on the pack of some medicines.
This is because alcohol interacts with the body in several ways, slowing down some metabolic processes and intensifying sleep, drowsiness, and light-headedness.
Did you know that alcohol and medicines can interact harmfully even if they are not taken at the same time?
Mixing alcohol with some medicines may result in liver problems, overdose, nausea, and vomiting. Some common medicines for pain, cough, blood pressure, allergies, fever, heartburn and sleep interact with alcohol, and may result in serious health problems or injuries.
According to NIAAA factsheet, you should steer clear of alcohol if you have to take:
- Antibiotics e.g. flagyl, Nizoral, griseolfulvin
- Pain medications e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen
- Allergies e.g. Piriton, flu tablets
- Arthritis e.g. diclofenac
- Heartburn medications e.g. Tagamet
- Sedatives e.g. Valium and herbal supplements
- Blood pressure meds e.g. Norvasc
- Diabetes medications e.g. Diabinese
- Cholesterol lowering medicines e.g. Lipitor
2. Do NOT drink if you have to drive
If you intend to drive, don’t drink. Alcohol affects driving in so many ways. It impairs vision, reduces your ability to respond to situations, and makes it difficult to focus on driving tasks such as staying in the right lane or overtaking. It may also make you feel overconfident, increasing the likelihood of risky driving.
Drink driving is a major source of concern worldwide. In the United States, 28 people die every day in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
Did you know that your blood alcohol level may continue to rise for up to 3 hours after the last drink was consumed?
Taking a shower or drinking coffee does not reduce blood alcohol levels.
Every standard drink of alcohol needs about an hour for the body to process it. So, if you have taken 3 shots of gin, a bottle of beer and two glasses of wine at a party (roughly 6 standard drinks), your body needs 6hours to process it! No more, no less.
Therefore, if you have taken too much, ensure you have other arrangements so you don’t have to drive.
3. Do NOT drink if you are pregnant
Even in small quantities, alcohol has been demonstrated to have significant impact on the well-being of an unborn child.
This can occur at any stage of pregnancy even before you know you are pregnant.
As a result of drinking, a child may have intellectual disability and birth defects. The most severe form is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). In FAS, the child may have several physical and behavioural problems such as trouble with remembering, understanding, speech, feeding, and controlling emotions.
By the time these problems are discovered, it is often too late since has FAS has no cure.
4. Do NOT drink if you are 15 years or younger
In many countries, drinking before the age of 16 is illegal, for good reasons.
Childhood and adolescence are periods of rapid growth and development. That is when children mature mentally, emotionally and physically. Out of curiosity, some kids may ask: Mum can I have a sip of your wine? And parents sometimes say ‘why not?’ That is really NOT good.
Did you know that alcohol has been described as a poison for children? That is why experts recommend that children should NOT be allowed to drink alcohol.
Why is alcohol dangerous for children?
Unlike adults, alcohol causes low blood sugar in very young children. This may lead to convulsions, coma and death.
When a child drinks alcohol, the normal development of vital organs such as liver, brain may be disrupted. This may have lifelong impact on his well-being.
Drinking before adulthood may also be associated with social problems such as unintended pregnancies, unsafe sex, and academic challenges during teenage years.
Road traffic injuries are common among young persons because alcohol makes them overconfident and less likely to obey traffic rules.
Furthermore, there have been reports of violent behaviour, suicidal thoughts and attempts and other injuries in persons that drink before the age of 16.
Would you like to give your kids an alcohol- free childhood? If so, always lock up ALL alcoholic beverages and remember to empty beer cans, wine glasses before your kids can get to them.
5. Do NOT drink if you have alcohol use disorder
For persons with drinking problems, just a sip of alcoholic beverage may lead to a complete relapse and re-emergence of alcohol related problems.
It has been found that the brain probably preserves pleasurable memories of past drinking for years. Although an individual may have made efforts to overcome drinking habits and focused on a healthier way of life, the risk of relapse persists for years.
Therefore, taking just a little drink awakens a strong, irresistible urge to drink more. Apart from craving, it is much easier for such an individual to lose control.
He or she ends up taking large quantities of alcohol over a short period of time. Some experience guilt feelings after a slip which puts them under more emotional pressure and makes them more vulnerable.
Without help, they may harm themselves or contemplate suicide during this period.
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Department of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2014data : alcohol impaired driving. Washington. DC: NHTSA: 2015.