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Personal Safety When Drinking Alcohol

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 2 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Drinking Safely Safe Alcohol Consumption

Red wine makes us live longer… a pint of beer improves your sight… beer before wine and you’ll be fine… there are plenty of factoids and myths about the powers of alcohol. But overstep the limits and you’re at risk of serious illness brain damage, and even cancer. How can you reduce your risk? And how much is too much, anyway?

Safe Drinking

Drinking alcohol isn’t all bad: drink the right tipple at the right rate, and you can actually improve your health! Did you know, for instance:
  • Low to moderate intake (1-3 units per day) improves your resistance to coronary disease
  • One to three drinks a day is said to reduce your risk of mental health problems such as dementia or Alzheimer’s (Erasmus University Medical School, 2002)
  • One small glass of red wine per day can reduce a woman’s stroke risk by up to 50% (A.Malarcher, 2001)
  • Red wine from France and Sardinia, rich in procyanidins, has been linked to longer lifespans (R.Corder, 2006)
  • Ale and stout contains antioxidants which have been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts (consumed at the rate of one unit per day) (J.Trevithick, 2000).
However – and you knew it was coming – excessive alcohol drinking has been universally proven to be linked to hepatitis, gastritis, cancer, heart failure, brain damage and epilepsy. That’s quite a list. Reduce your risk by drinking sensibly, and knowing your limits.

It’s recommended that men drink no more than three or four units per day, and for women only two to three are advised. Here’s a quick guide to the unit ratings of your favourite drinks:

  • 1 pint beer (5% vol): 3 units
  • 1 pint lager (3% vol): 2 units
  • 1 small glass wine (12% vol): 2 units
  • 1 measure spirit (40% vol): 1 unit

Alcohol Poisoning

The effects of alcohol are biphasic, which means that they occur in identifiable phases. The first, of course, is relaxation and loss of inhibition; this can be followed by dehydration, nausea, headaches, and – in some cases – even worse symptoms. Watch out for the symptoms of serious alcohol poisoning:
  • Passing out.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Throwing up.
  • Skin cold and blue, particularly beneath fingernails.

Avoiding a Hangover

A hangover is your body’s way of warning you against excessive consumption. Symptoms include headache, dry mouth and dizziness. It is thought that hangovers are primarily caused by dehydration, so drinking lots of water between your alcoholic drinks can help reduce their effects. Because women’s bodies contain a lower percentage of water than men, women cannot drink as much as men before acquiring a hangover. It’s also true that some types of alcohol make you more susceptible to hangover than others. Spirits (such as brandy, gin and vodka) and wine (red and white) contain more congeners (the by-products of fermentation), which have been shown to cause worse after-effects.

Drinking and Work

For employers, alcohol consumption can sometimes be a concern. Some organisations include alcohol screening as part of their recruitment process. Others develop an alcohol policy in consultation with their staff. It is reasonable for employers to offer help where an employee’s drinking becomes an evident problem. At some point, discipline would also be expected; but this should be outlined in the staff policy. It’s a good idea to be aware of your employer’s stance on drinking and how it affects your work.

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