Many people around the world like to consume alcohol.
Overconsumption, however, is a major problem in modern society and more than 95,000 people in the USA die from alcohol-related events each year, making it the third most avoidable cause of death.
The challenge most people face is drinking too much in one go, especially at times like Christmas, other special occasions such as birthdays or whilst on vacation. The weekend binge is pretty common in Western countries as people wind down and relax at the end of work.
In a survey in 2019, more than 25% of Americans over the age of 18 admitted to having engaged in binge drinking the previous month. People who indulge in what is called high-intensity drinking are also more likely to end up in an emergency department being treated. Indeed, 18.5% of ED visits are alcohol-related.
The truth is excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a lot more than just a simple hangover. Here we look at the impact a heavy drinking session has on the individual.
When someone wakes up the morning after a heavy drinking session their hangover is usually the first thing they notice. This is largely caused by acetaldehyde in the body, which in significant quantities can cause major damage to cells.
People are also dehydrated after a big night out which can cause headaches and a feeling of thirst on waking. Alcohol can also cause sleep disruption which means that we wake not feeling rested as normal.
The problem is that alcohol contains several ingredients that are harmful to the body. Among these are congeners – a group of chemicals that include sulphites, acetone, histamine and even methanol.
Different types of alcoholic drinks have varying levels of congeners. For example, darker tipples such as whiskey and red wine both have quite high concentrations.
These chemicals are what give individual drinks their flavor but they can also contribute to a noticeable hangover the next day. There are fewer congeners in clear alcohols such as vodka but this doesn’t mean that these drinks are less harmful, especially in large quantities.
Combined with acetaldehyde, these chemicals can cause major physiological effects in the body. This includes raising levels of inflammation, irritating the gut lining and causing a drop in blood sugar levels.
The Psychological Effects of Alcohol
Different types of alcohol can also affect our mood in different ways. In a recent study looking at more than 30,000 drinkers between 18 and 34, researchers found that spirits are often associated with poor or negative moods.
About half of respondents felt that drinks such as beer or red wine allowed them to wind down. Another 50% felt that alcohol made them more confident and nearly as many said they felt sexier. This number was higher in younger participants, most notably between 18 and 24.
Of course, where alcohol is consumed can be important too. People who drink strong spirits tend to do so at home and while they are alone which can have an impact on their mood. Beer is a drink that is often consumed in a bar or pub when out with friends. Wine is often consumed along with a meal. All of these situations can affect how we think and feel so it’s not all down to the drink.
One of the best ways to recover after a hangover, according to science, is a product such as Rapid Recovery which contains L-cysteine, ascorbic acid and B1 and B6 vitamins. It helps perk up the liver and reduces the amount of acetaldehyde in the body. For most people, however, it’s a question of waiting for the hangover to pass and drinking plenty of water.
Getting the Balance Right
While drinking alcohol is a popular social activity that many of us enjoy, excessive consumption comes with several major downsides. It’s not just the impact of that morning hangover. Drinking can, for example, impair the immune system, making us more susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections. Several cancer types and other serious health conditions such as liver disease are also associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
Moderation is the key here. This can be difficult if someone is out for the night with their work colleagues where everyone is drinking a lot. Being more aware of the damage that someone could be doing to their body by overindulging, however, can make a big difference.
The content above is based on the information featured in the article linked below.
The author of the article is Dr Ross Walker, one of Australia’s most esteemed cardiologists and a member of the Miskawaan Medical Advisory board.