If you are like many Americans, you drink alcohol at least occasionally. For many people, moderate drinking is probably safe. It may even have health benefits, including reducing your risk of certain heart problems. Moderate drinking is one drink a day for women or anyone over 65, and two drinks a day for men under 65.
Some people should not drink at all, including alcoholics, children, pregnant women, people on certain medicines and people with some medical conditions.
Anything more than moderate drinking can be risky. Binge drinking – drinking five or more drinks at one time – can damage your health and increase your risk for accidents, injuries and assault. Years of heavy drinking can lead to liver disease, heart disease, cancer and pancreatitis. It can also cause problems at home, at work and with friends.
- How many drinks for males within a short period of time is considered binge drinking? How many drinks for females within a short period of time is considered binge drinking?
- True or false: Binge drinking is a risk factor for sexual assault, especially among young women in college settings. Each year, about 1 in 20 college women are sexually assaulted. Binge drinking also increases the chances of car crashes, violence against others, unintended pregnancies, and the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
- What is the most commonly used and abused substance among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs?
- True or false: Teens and young adults who do not get enough sleep are at risk for automobile crashes, poor grades and performance in school, depressed moods, and problems with peer and adult relationships.
Quick Quiz Answers: 1) males-5 or more within a short period of time, females- 4 or more within a short period of time; 2) true; 3) Alcohol; 4) true
Ethanol, which we commonly refer to as alcohol, is in a class of psychoactive drugs known as depressants (Figure). A depressant is a drug that tends to suppress central nervous system activity. Other depressants include barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
Acute alcohol administration results in a variety of changes to consciousness. At rather low doses, alcohol use is associated with feelings of euphoria. As the dose increases, people report feeling sedated. Generally, alcohol is associated with decreases in reaction time and visual acuity, lowered levels of alertness, and reduction in behavioral control. With excessive alcohol use, a person might experience a complete loss of consciousness and/or difficulty remembering events that occurred during a period of intoxication (McKim & Hancock, 2013). In addition, if a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, her infant may be born with a cluster of birth defects and symptoms collectively called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
With repeated use of many central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol, a person becomes physically dependent upon the substance and will exhibit signs of both tolerance and withdrawal. Psychological dependence on these drugs is also possible. Therefore, the abuse potential of central nervous system depressants is relatively high.
Drug withdrawal is usually an aversive experience, and it can be a life-threatening process in individuals who have a long history of very high doses of alcohol and/or barbiturates. This is of such concern that people who are trying to overcome addiction to these substances should only do so under medical supervision.