As we head into the holiday season, alcohol inevitably becomes a bigger part of our lives than usual. It is a key part of most people’s celebrations: wine at dinner parties, alcohol-laced eggnog at social gatherings, sparkling wine to see in the New Year.
Not only is increased alcohol consumption during the holidays accepted, in some ways it is expected and celebrated. There is an automatic assumption that parties without alcohol will be “boring”. Party guests who ask for a glass of Coca Cola are met with insistence to have a “real” drink. The person who becomes loudly intoxicated is hailed as “the life of the party”.
But while we live in a society that applauds drinking, we are also told that we need to drink responsibly. This is a critical message, because irresponsible drinking can come at a tremendous human cost. But it’s also confusing: how can someone tell when they have crossed the line from fun social drinking to problem drinking?
Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
In Canada one standard drink is the equivalent of a 12-ounce bottle of beer or cider, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of spirits.
According to Health Canada, people assigned female at birth should limit consumption to two standard drinks on any one occasion, and a total of ten drinks per week. Those assigned male at birth should limit consumption to three drinks on any one occasion, and a total of 15 drinks per week. Both groups can allow for one extra drink on special occasions, and everyone should avoid consuming alcohol on some days.
Guidelines vary from person to person
The guidelines laid out by Health Canada are just that – guidelines. They are based on how the average person metabolizes alcohol, and there are many variations to the norm. People with certain medical conditions, for instance, may have a higher risk of adverse events from consuming alcohol.
Not only should you understand how alcohol affects you personally, you should be aware that the effect of alcohol can vary from one day to the next. This can be due to a multitude of factors, such as nutrition, stress, sleep, and exercise.
What this means is that even if you can usually have two or three drinks without noticing any effects, you may have days when one drink is enough to make you feel exhausted or unsteady. Anyone who consumes alcohol has a responsibility to monitor how they are being affected, especially if they will be driving.
Listen To Your Body
Your first barometer of anything you ingest, be it food, alcohol, or other substances, should be how you feel physically. Most of us will stop eating immediately if we start to feel sick. We listen to that signal that our body is rejecting whatever food we’re eating. We know that if we continue to eat that food, we will feel progressively worse.
A lot of people disregard these same warning signs when it comes to alcohol. They will continue to drink even though they don’t feel well. It is important to heed the warning signs. Your body is telling you that it cannot metabolize the alcohol you are drinking, or that there is something standing in the way of you being able to consume alcohol safely.
Physical signs that you have over-consumed alcohol include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Headaches, lightheadedness, or dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Impaired motor skills
- Loss of consciousness
Listen To Your Emotions
Alcohol can have a significant effect on how your brain processes emotions. This looks different from one person to the next: some people become angry, others feel an over-inflated sense of confidence, others experience an alarming dip in their mood. When combined with the loss of inhibition that often comes with alcohol consumption, this can be disastrous. People who experience anger may become aggressive to the point of physical violence. The overconfident drinker may lose their sense of danger and engage in high-risk behaviour without regard for the possible consequences. Those who feel an uptick in depression or anxiety may experience suicidal thoughts.
For your safety and that of the people around you, it is important to monitor your sense of emotional equilibrium on occasions when you are consuming alcohol. If you are having thoughts like, “Why am I so angry?” or “I don’t know why I feel so sad,” this may be a sign that you need to step back from the alcohol.
Listen To The People Around You
When you go to a party, everyone wants you to have a good time. You may be encouraged to drink; you may even be celebrated for being drunk. But if the people around you start to feel that you are putting yourself or someone else in harm’s way, someone may let you know. A friend might tell you to calm down, your spouse may suggest that you have had enough to drink, a bartender might refuse to serve you another beer.
If you are hearing messages like this, it is a sign that your drinking is having an impact on the people around you. Listen to those voices of wisdom and follow the advice they are giving you.
When Any Amount Of Alcohol Is Too Much
For most adults, consumption of alcohol according to the guidelines is safe. But there are some people who should either avoid alcohol completely or seek the advice of a doctor before consuming it.
Children and youth
In Canada, the legal drinking age is 19. It is illegal for an adult to sell or serve alcohol to anyone below this age. Adults between the ages of 19 and 25 should limit themselves to one or two drinks at a time, no more than once or twice per week.
Some people believe that the occasional drink during pregnancy does not do any harm. However, medical science has not been able to establish any safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Heavy alcohol use can lead to complications during pregnancy and delivery, and fetal alcohol syndrome in the baby. If you are pregnant or intending to become pregnant, your safest course of action is to abstain from alcohol completely.
Illnesses, conditions, and medications
Alcohol consumption can be more risky in people who have certain medical conditions, or who are using some prescribed medications. Alcohol interacts negatively with many substances, both legal and illicit. If you are using any prescription drug for any reason, find out if it is safe for you to consume alcohol.
Getting Help For Alcohol Addiction
Thousand Islands Rehab Centre is a full-service alcohol addiction treatment facility that will take care of you throughout your detox and rehab phases of recovery. Your treatment program will be tailored to your unique needs and circumstances, and when the time comes for you to leave rehab, we will still be there for you in the form of a comprehensive aftercare program. For more information, call us today.