Alcohol is a drug commonly used worldwide. It is frequently used to celebrate special occasions, accompany a delicious meal, or as part of a relaxation routine. While much of the national conversation in recent years has centered primarily around the use and abuse of opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, alcohol continues to be one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Recent studies indicate that despite its high risk for addiction, there are a few benefits to moderate alcohol consumption. Understanding the effects of alcohol on the body can help individuals make conscious and responsible choices regarding their alcohol consumption.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Some studies indicate that regular consumption of beer, wine or hard liquor may potentially reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in men. However, the same studies indicate there is no health benefit to moderate alcohol consumption in regards to heart disease in women. According to this study, irregular heavy drinking (binge drinking) has been associated with increased coronary heart disease (CHD) risk for many years. It is important to note that the reduced risk is related to moderate alcohol consumption and that individuals who engaged in heavy drinking on a regular basis actually increased the risk for heart disease and stroke, both of which can be fatal. The standard for moderate drinking is no more than 12-14 drinks per week for men and no more than 9 drinks per week for women.

Impaired Judgement

One of the many effects of alcohol is impaired judgment. Alcohol begins to affect the body immediately, often without realization on the part of the person who has consumed it. Alcohol can greatly impair people’s judgment and make them do things they wouldn’t normally do. Sometimes the impairment is minor and causes minimal problems, but sometimes the impairment is major and can lead to major issues, such as accidents, arrests, and hospitalization. This US DUI attorney explains that most US states’ legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of under 0.08, however if the driver’s BAC is 0.15 or greater or if there’s a minor in the vehicle the fines are greatly increased. This UK DUI attorney explains that for the UK, the BAC is about 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, though they also count 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath and 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine as over their legal limits too.

Liver Taxation

Alcohol use places extra strain on the liver, the organ that breaks down and removes toxins from the body. While moderate drinking doesn’t have long-term effects on the body, heavy drinking can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver disease, and liver failure.

Central Nervous System Impairment

One of the first areas of the body impacted by alcohol use is the central nervous system which controls motor function, memory and speech. After the consumption of one drink reflexes become slower and less refined and as the body accumulates more alcohol speech becomes slurred, and balance becomes impaired. As this health news article says, if you continue drinking it impairs your vision and alertness; dulls the senses; affects concentration; slows your reaction time; and decreases coordination. Long-term, heavy drinking can result in frontal lobe damage, decreasing the ability for short-term memory storage and regulation of emotional responses. Severe alcohol abuse can lead to permanent brain damage.

While some studies indicate that there may be some benefits to moderate alcohol use, long-term, severe abuse of the drug can prove to be physically detrimental and fatal. Individuals who use alcohol should be conscious of the potential health risks and how use may impact any health conditions they may already have. Used in moderation, alcohol has minimal impact on the body and mind. Users should monitor their level of consumption, try to avoid heavy intake and if they find they have difficulty with dependency seek out relevant services to help them quit.

Most people drink to avoid unpleasant emotions or cope with pain. Try these simple foods as a healthier way to boost your mood and make yourself feel better!