Your Health is Your Wealth: Al­co­hol and Binge Drink­ing

Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Health & Wellbeing -

What is the risk for al­co­hol in­take?

Al­co­hol is a de­pres­sant de­rived from the fer­men­ta­tion of nat­u­ral sug­ars in fruits, veg­eta­bles and grains. Al­co­hol has a com­plex role in Aus­tralian so­ci­ety. “Binge drink­ing” is pop­u­larly un­der­stood to mean some­one go­ing out to get drunk. Most Aus­tralians drink al­co­hol, gen­er­ally for en­joy­ment, re­lax­ation and so­cia­bil­ity, and do so at lev­els that cause few ad­verse ef­fects. How­ever, a sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion of peo­ple drink at lev­els that in­crease their risk of al­co­hol-re­lated harm. For some, al­co­hol is a cause of sig­nif­i­cant ill health and hard­ship. In many coun­tries, in­clud­ing Australia, al­co­hol is re­spon­si­ble for a con­sid­er­able bur­den of death, dis­ease and in­jury. Al­co­hol-re­lated harm to health is not lim­ited to drinkers but also af­fects fam­i­lies, by­standers and the broader com­mu­nity.

Risk fac­tors

In small doses, some of the short-term ef­fects of al­co­hol are re­duced ten­sion and re­lax­ation, but th­ese are also ac­com­pa­nied by re­duced in­hi­bi­tion (your abil­ity to stop your­self from do­ing some­thing you know you shouldn’t), co­or­di­na­tion and re­ac­tion time – all of which put you at risk.

When you drink a lot and drink fast ( binge drink­ing), the risks go up even faster. In ad­di­tion to the se­ri­ous dan­ger of al­co­hol poi­son­ing, the de­pres­sant ef­fects of al­co­hol can over­whelm your body’s de­fences. Un­able to move and think clearly, you can do risky and reck­less things that are un­safe, or even lethal.

Each year, ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 peo­ple un­der the age of 21 die as a re­sult of un­der­age drink­ing. This in­cludes about 1,900 deaths from car ac­ci­dents, 1,600 homi­cides, 300 sui­cides, and hun­dreds of other deaths due to ac­ci­dents like falls, burns and drown­ings.

Health ef­fects as­so­ci­ated with al­co­holism

Mal­nu­tri­tion, chronic pan­cre­ati­tis, al­co­holic liver dis­ease, cancer, damage to the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and pe­riph­eral ner­vous sys­tem.

Al­co­hol and preg­nancy?

Al­co­hol may harm baby dur­ing preg­nancy. Heavy daily drink­ing or heavy episodes of drink­ing have the most risk. How­ever there is no lower limit that can be guar­an­teed to be com­pletely safe and so the safest thing is to stop drink­ing al­to­gether dur­ing preg­nancy and dur­ing breast feed­ing. If it is dif­fi­cult for a mother to de­crease or stop drink­ing al­co­hol speak to your health care prac­ti­tioner for sup­port and ad­vice. What are Al­co­hol in­take dif­fer­ences be­tween men and women?

At low lev­els of al­co­hol consumption, there is lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween the risk of al­co­hol-re­lated harm for men and women, both over a life­time drink­ing occasion. How­ever, over a life­time, the risk of al­co­hol-re­lated dis­ease in­creases more quickly for women and the risk of al­co­hol-re­lated in­jury in­creases more quickly for men.

Women may reach higher blood al­co­hol lev­els than men who have con­sumed an equiv­a­lent amount of al­co­hol; how­ever, men are more likely to in­cur an in­jury be­cause in gen­eral they are more likely to en­gage in risk-tak­ing be­hav­iour when drink­ing.

God bless, Dr Ash Mina Prin­ci­pal Sci­en­tist | NSW Health Pathol­ogy Ph.D., M.Sc.(Clin Biochem), B.Sc.(Hons), Grad Dip (Biochem Nu­tri­tion), Grad Dip (Mi­cro), MACMSR, MAIMS. In­sti­tute of Clin­i­cal Pathol­ogy and Med­i­cal Re­search (ICPMR), West­mead Hospi­tal. Se­nior clin­i­cal lejjc­turer, Fac­ulty of Medicine, Syd­ney Univer­sity. Ad­dress: Locked Bag 9001, West­mead NSW 2145.

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