Drinking an average of more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men can lead to problems nine years later.
Think of yourself as a light-to-moderate drinker, the occasional cocktail or glass of wine with dinner, and just having a few extra glasses to cool off at weekend social gatherings. By most standards, this would be accurate, as alcohol consumption is usually tracked on a weekly average.
“This leads many people who drink to assume that a moderate level of alcohol consumption is safe, regardless of mode of consumption,” said Rudolf Moos, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. University School of Medicine, in a statement. .
People who drink heavily are about five times more likely to have various alcohol-related problems, according to a new study.
Moos co-authored a recent study that found that many moderate drinkers over the age of 30 end up binge drinking on the weekends — a situation defined as five or more drinks in a row or over a short period.
People who drank heavily were about five times more likely to have various alcohol-related problems, such as “being hurt, having emotional or psychological problems related to alcohol, having to drink more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect. the effects of alcohol at work, school, or when caring for children,” said study co-author Charles Holahan, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. , in an email.
“What this means is that an individual whose total consumption is seven drinks on a Saturday night has a higher risk profile than someone whose total consumption is one drink a day with dinner, even though the average level of consumption is the same,” Holahan said.
Adult compulsive drinkers
Most previous research on binge drinking has focused on younger generations, typically teenagers and college students. Consumption of several drinks at the same time is common in this segment of the population. But statistics show that many adults over 30 consume alcohol, and the problem is on the rise, especially among women and adults over 65.
However, levels of binge drinking in adults may escape “public health scrutiny because they occur in people who drink in the mid-to-moderate range,” Holahan said. “Currently, heavy drinking among moderate drinkers goes undetected in primary care settings.”
Women are especially susceptible to the effects of alcohol, according to the American Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Problems related to alcohol consumption appear earlier and at lower levels of consumption than in men, specifies the INAAA.
Women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-related brain damage and heart disease, and studies show that women who drink one drink a day increase their risk of breast cancer by 5% to 9%, compared to abstinent women.
For men and women over 65, the increase “is particularly concerning because many older people take medications that can interact with alcohol, have health conditions that can be exacerbated by alcohol, and can be more susceptible to alcohol-related falls and other accidents”. injured,” the INAAA said.
An “underestimated” model
The new study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, used research data collected as part of the Midlife Development Study in the United States, which followed a national sample of Americans aged 25 to 74. since 1995.
The study looked at nearly 1,300 alcohol drinkers over nine years and found that the majority of binge drinking – and multiple drinking problems – occurred among moderate drinkers.
“The average average drinker, for example, can hit that average with one drink a day at dinner or seven drinks on a Saturday night,” Holahan said.
While this behavior doesn’t necessarily lead to alcoholism, Holahan said, the study found that drinking on average more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men — or five or more drinks on one occasion – was related to alcoholism, alcohol-related problems nine years later.
“These findings underscore the need for alcohol-related interventions targeting moderate to middle-income drinkers, in addition to conventional strategies focused on the smaller but high-risk population of high-end habitual drinkers,” Holahan said.
Is your consumption a problem?
How do you know if your drinking has become a problem? A telltale sign is when alcohol consumption begins to interfere with your ability to go about your daily business, experts say.
“Alcohol disorder is defined as the compulsive consumption of alcoholic beverages despite negative consequences, such as impact on relationships, the ability to function at work, or any role someone has in the community,” said in a statement. interview with CNN, Dr. . Sarah Wakeman, clinical director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Mass General Brigham Hospital.
Be careful if you continue to drink despite the negative impacts on your physical or mental health. And there’s no need to call work to say you’re sick or going to work with a hangover, Dr. Leena Mittal, chief of the women’s mental health department in the Brigham Women’s Department of Psychiatry Boston Hospital.
“Don’t forget the relationships. Have you had more discussions? Are the people in your life expressing concern or noticing that you are different? Hiding or lying about drinking is also concerning behavior,” Mittal said.
Be careful, you serve too full drinks without realizing it. Current American Heart Association guidelines require no more than two standard drinks per day for men and one for women and anyone age 65 and older.
What is a standard drink? That’s 355 milliliters of regular beer, 118 milliliters of regular wine, or 44 milliliters of liquor, by American standards.
“Yet people can pour out a huge glass of wine and not realize it’s actually two or three servings of wine and not just one,” Wakeman said.
“We know millions of Americans are drinking above these levels, even in pre-pandemic times,” Wakeman said. “In 2019, approximately 66 million Americans had episodes where they drank more than the recommended limits.”
If you think you have a drinking problem (or have a loved one), don’t hesitate to seek help, experts point out. There are many different support groups that can help you, such as 12-step programs and individual therapy.