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I enjoy a few drinks with friends.
I deserve a drink to calm down after a hard day at work.
Everybody drinks, right?
I started Sunshine Nutraceuticals in July of 2019. My goal has always been to help my readers live a happy, healthy, healing lifestyle.
I know a lot, if not most, of my readers, drink alcohol.
This post is not about judgment. It is not about right or wrong. This post is meant to give my readers the facts about alcohol. The first fact, and likely the most important is this:
Ethanol is a neurotoxin
What this means is when you drink alcohol, you are consuming poison.
Is it worth it?
Like most of you reading this, I used to drink alcohol. When my second youngest child was born, I decided to stop. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to be more productive and was sick and tired of wasting money on alcohol. I wanted my kids to grow up in a home without alcohol.
My life today without ethanol is much better. I am in good shape, I think more clearly, my anxiety level has decreased, and I am saving money.
I have seen hundreds of patients admitted to the hospital because of alcohol intoxication. The nurses in ICU will tell you these are some of the most challenging patients to manage. Alcohol withdrawal is no joke. It can kill you!
I have watched people die of liver failure due to ethanol. This is not a good way to go. Remember, your liver is the primary organ responsible for removing toxins from your body. Imagine living your final days with a body full of byproducts. We have dialysis to help with kidney disease, but if your liver fails, there isn’t much that can be done.
If you want to be healthy, ethanol will not help you achieve the goal.
It is estimated that 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. 1
This ranks third as the most preventable cause of death in the United States behind tobacco, poor diet and physical inactivity. 2
In 2014, thirty-one percent of all driving fatalities (9,967 deaths), were attributed to alcohol impairment. 3
In 2017, 26.4 percent of people over eighteen years of age reported binge drinking and 6.7 percent reported heavy alcohol use in the past month:
Binge drinking: a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours. 4
Heavy alcohol use: Binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States: According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 14.1 million adults ages 18 years and older have AUD. 5
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD can range from mild to severe, and recovery is possible regardless of severity. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM–IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, described two distinct disorders—alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence—with specific criteria for each. The fifth edition, DSM–5, integrates the two DSM–IV disorders, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, into a single disorder called alcohol use disorder, or AUD, with mild, moderate, and severe subclassifications. 6
Over ten percent of children in the United States live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a study published in 2012. 7
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of contracting the following types of cancers:
Why Do People Drink Ethanol?
We will now explore the reasons people drink alcohol. Again, no judgment here. I am merely pointing out why you might drink.
Alcohol Gives Me Confidence and Helps With Socialization at Parties.
What alcohol does is dull your sense of apprehension along with other mental capabilities. Our bodies have a method to combat fear, known as the “fight or flight” response. This is the body’s way of protecting us from dangerous situations. Alcohol has a depressant effect on the brain and suppresses this response.
When our “fight or flight” system is diminished or absent, it makes us vulnerable to dangerous situations. If there is a danger, we are less likely to notice and certainly not as able to respond to it. What do we call people who are drunk? Hammered, wasted, tanked, tipsy, plastered. These words describe someone who can quickly be taken advantage of or hurt. This world is full of individuals that can’t wait to take advantage of someone in a vulnerable state.
As far as confidence goes, I would much rather spend time with a shy person than someone who is drunk and talks nonstop. Drinking to gain confidence can easily backfire, turning the person into a fool. You are much more likely to develop strong friendships if you appear as you are rather than who you are when drunk.
Intoxicated people also have diminished impulse control. I explain this to my students in the following way:
Suppose someone has just made you very angry. You don’t like this person and think about punching them in the face.
Most of us would not punch them. We know there are consequences to such actions. This is an example of impulse control. We stop ourselves from doing something that will undoubtedly have negative consequences. Alcohol removes some of this control. Remember, alcohol deadens all senses, good and bad.
Why do you suppose there are so many fights in bars?
Alcohol does not give you any special powers, and it takes away your body’s inherent protective mechanisms.
Another thing to consider is the fact that you have to get home from that party!
Do you have a designated driver?
How many times have you driven when you have had too many drinks?
I don’t have to tell you what happens if you get pulled over by the police on the way home.
The least you will lose is a night of freedom and a big pile of money. You could also lose your job or even your career in some cases.
Is it really worth it?
Drinking Alcohol Relaxes Me, and I Deserve That After a Rough Day at Work!
Does alcohol relax us?
What is it doing?
The truth is alcohol doesn’t remove stress at all. It merely enables us to ignore our body’s innate warning system. If we are genuinely “stressed,” maybe we are trying to accomplish too much. Our body is telling us to slow down.
In fact, alcohol is very good at causing stress.
What happens when the alcohol wears off?
We feel anxious. Most of us want more.
Wanting more causes stress that is only relieved when we continue to drink. The next drink does induce some relaxation, but this is only due to decreasing the withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol leaving our body.
What will happen is the more you drink, the more stress you will invite into your life. Secondly, any problems you were attempting to forget will still be there when the alcohol wears off.
Finally, if you end up drinking too much to relax, your next day will likely be worse.
Alcohol helps Me Sleep
Not a chance. It might make you think you are sleeping better, but the sleep quality is reduced.
Ethanol is a typical “over-the-counter” sleep aid. It increases the quality and quantity of NREM sleep during the first half of the night in non-alcoholics, but REM sleep is disrupted later. The REM stage is where we dream and is considered a restful period as our muscle tone is decreased. Do not use alcohol as a sleep aid! There are many other products that work much better with fewer side effects.
Sleep quality in alcoholics is even worse. During drinking periods as well as abstinence, altered sleep architecture leads to profound insomnia and daytime sleepiness. 9
Alcohol and Dementia Risk
As a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist in Psychiatry, I see the consequences of substance abuse often. This is one of the subjects I am most interested in and will be writing about regularly — the unit where I currently practice has geriatric psychiatric patients.
A large percentage of these have dementia. There are four basic types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia and frontal-temporal lobe dementia.
We know that chronic alcohol use can lead to dementia.
Vascular dementia occurs as a result of a stroke. Long-term ethanol use increases blood pressure, increasing stroke risk. Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of developing type II diabetes, obesity, and atrial fibrillation. All of these increase the risk of stroke.
Alcohol abuse has also been associated with Alzheimer’s dementia:
“Research from the University of Illinois at Chicago has found that some of the genes affected by alcohol and inflammation are also implicated in processes that clear amyloid beta — the protein that forms globs of plaques in the brain and which contributes to neuronal damage and the cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease.” 10
Alcohol is bad for the brain. I want nothing to do with any avoidable habit that may lead to dementia.
What Alcohol is Doing to Your Body
Life Without Ethanol
Here are a few positive benefits of an ethanol-free life. Some of these have already been described earlier but will be repeated for emphasis.
- Fewer calories consumed, which may lead to weight loss: It is no secret that alcoholic drinks contain empty calories. Drinking too much can derail any diet plan.
- Better sleep quality: As mentioned above, ethanol disrupts REM sleep. This often leads to daytime sleepiness. If you combine this with a hangover, it leads to an awful day!
- More money to do the things you enjoy: Drinking is expensive, especially if you go to a bar. I once worked with a psychiatrist who told his patients to take half of the money they spent on their addictive substance (alcohol in this case), and spend it on something they enjoyed.
- Improved interpersonal communication with family, friends, and colleagues: Nobody wants to be around someone who drinks too much.
Alcoholism is a significant problem in the United States. This disease leads to lost productivity, broken families, increased medical costs, and unnecessary pain and suffering. People have lost jobs, been involved in accidents, and gone through a painful divorce because of alcohol abuse.
Many drink booze to “have fun.” Is this making the situation more fun? Maybe you are having a good time because you are surrounded by people you like? Why not try to live without alcohol and see how you feel?
Ethanol does not make you sleep better. It changes your sleep patterns and robs your brain of restful REM sleep.
Think about the positives and negatives of drinking alcohol. If you think about it, drinking poison doesn’t make sense. Take it from someone who has eliminated it. You will feel better!
It is possible to stop drinking. If you have a problem with alcohol, the most critical thing you can do is get help. Being healthy feels much better than being addicted to ethanol. Click on the following link for more information.
This one-click may be the beginning of the healthiest thing you can do for your body!
Don’t be shy.
You are in control of your life.
You are responsible for your happiness, and only you can decide what goes into your body.
Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and do the things that make you happy!!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol and Public Health: Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI). Average for United States 2006–2010 AlcoholAttributable Deaths Due to Excessive Alcohol Use. Available at: https://nccd.cdc.gov/DPH_ARDI/Default/Report.aspx?T=AAM&P=f6d7eda7-036e-4553-9968-9b17ffad620e &R=d7a9b303-48e9-4440-bf47-070a4827e1fd&M=8E1C5233-5640-4EE8-9247-1ECA7DA325B9&F=&D=.
- Mokdad, A.H.; Marks, J.S.; Stroup, D.F.; and Gerberding, J.L. Actual causes of death in the United States 2000. [Published erratum in: JAMA 293(3):293–294, 298] JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 291(10):1238–1245, 2004. PMID: 15010446.
- National Center for Statistics and Analysis. 2014 Crash Data Key Findings (Traffic Safety Facts Crash Stats. Report No. DOT HS 812 219). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812219.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIAAA Council Approves Definition of Binge Drinking. NIAAA Newsletter, No. 3, Winter 2004. Available at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Newsletter/winter2004/Newsletter_Number3.pdf.
- SAMHSA. 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 5.5A—Alcohol Use Disorder in Past Year Among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by Age Group and Demographic Characteristics: Numbers in Thousands, 2016 and 2017. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/ NSDUHDetailedTabs2017/NSDUHDetailedTabs2017.htm#tab5-5A. Accessed 11/5/19.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism www.niaaa.nih.gov • 301.443.3860 Updated October 2019.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Data Spotlight: More than 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems, 2012. Available at: http://media.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/Spot061ChildrenOfAlcoholics2012.pdf.
- National Cancer Institute. Alcohol Consumption, November 2015 update. Available at: http://www.progressreport.cancer.gov/prevention/alcohol.
- Thakkar MM, Sharma R, Sahota P. Alcohol disrupts sleep homeostasis. Alcohol.2015 Jun;49(4):299-310. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2014.07.019. Epub 2014 Nov 11.Review. PubMed PMID: 25499829; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4427543.
- Sergey Kalinin, Marta González-Prieto, Hannah Scheiblich, Lucia Lisi, Handojo Kusumo, Michael T. Heneka, Jose L. M. Madrigal, Subhash C. Pandey, Douglas L. Feinstein. Transcriptome analysis of alcohol-treated microglia reveals downregulation of beta amyloid phagocytosis. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 2018; 15 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12974-018-1184-7