The Culture of Drinking
People drink to have fun, relax, and celebrate. References to alcohol go all the way back to the time of the Egyptians, and even appear in the bible. Today billboards, commercials, on the sides of trucks, television shows and movies all depecit good friends and great drinks. Events like running and yoga are now centered around the availability of alcohol. Recipes for drinks cover all three meals, and every occasion in-between. The fact is it's hard to picture our lives without drinking.
The reality is though, alcohol is not necessary for life. All through history, humanity has tried to figure out alcohol’s mysterious hold on us. Tons of research has been done to try and figure out the pattern as to how it affects someone. Depending on a variety of factors you may or may not have - or develop - a drinking problem.
Impacts of Drinking
With the worldwide culture around alcohol it can be hard to find a reason NOT to drink. But more and more research shows alcohol contributes to more problems than it solves. Why would you choose not drink? Well, drinking contributes to:
Decreased kidney and liver function
Abnormal estrogen and testosterone levels
Changes to Serotonin, GABA, Glutamate, and Dopamine levels
Increases fat store retention
...and a host of other difficulties.
Is it a Problem?
But I don't have a drinking problem and don't have any of those things you're talking about! Okay, that is fair. But do you want to hear something scary? There is this thing called an EtG test. It detects ethanol metabolite in your urine. A research study in 2014 showed a positive test result 12 - 24 hours after only 4 drinks. For people who consumed more than 6 drinks there was a positive result almost 40% of the time.
This means the idea that alcohol only has effects in your body for 2 hours after you have a drink isn't the standard we thought it to be. The National Institute on Health describes heavy drinking as more than 4 drinks on any day or 14 per week for a man, and more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week for a woman. The standards further state that for people who exceed these limits, 25% already qualify for an alcohol use disorder and the rest are at very increased risk.
As a therapist I find it is commonly known what a hangover looks and feels like. Nausea, sweating, vomiting, headache, shaking all are common symptoms people know of. What people are less educated on are the psychological effects that come with it.
These effects can be mild to severe depending on the person and don't have to happen immediately. Remember that urine screen? Alcohol's effects on the body can linger long past that night out. Both physical and psychological effects of drinking can continue to happen up to 10 days after stopping. Even if it was just one raucous night on the town.
I am not trying to label anyone who has ever had a drink as an alcoholic. But with the mass availability of alcohol and the peer pressure to join in it is worth knowing both the short and long term effects it can have on you. It's also a great time to open a conversation about the appropriateness of alcohol and start setting a good example for the next generation.
So, if you are questioning really you REALLY want that next drink, come talk to one of us. A therapist or counselor can help you decide what is the right next step, for you.