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The health risks of too much alcohol

Find out about drinking health risks and how much alcohol is TOO much.

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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There's no doubt that Ireland has a drinking culture and that there are those of us who drink more than we should. But not everyone in Ireland drinks, even if it seems that many people do.

Drinking too much alcohol can have a serious impact on your health, social life, and finances.

The health risks from drinking too much alcohol

  • Drinking a lot can lead to feelings of sadness. Many people who are alcohol dependant suffer from depression and heavy drinkers have a much higher risk of suicide or attempted suicide than others. As well as this, alcohol can have a big impact on anxiety.
  • Binge drinking, when you have six or more drinks at one time, is a serious problem in Ireland. A standard drink is about 10 grams of pure alcohol in Ireland and one standard drink is a half pint of beer OR a small glass of wine OR one pub measure of spirits. Click here to see pictures and more detail on standard drinks and binge drinking.
  • If you drink a lot you can suffer from alcohol poisoning. This is when there’s too much alcohol in your body for you to deal with. You might pass out, lose control or need to be taken to hospital. Alcohol poisoning can cause death in some cases.
  • Hangovers aren’t just there to make life miserable. They’re your body’s way of trying to get rid of the alcohol you drank the night before. So headaches, sick stomachs and depression are just some of the possible hangover symptoms.
  • Alcohol is full of calories. If you a drink a lot, it may make you gain weight.
  • In the long term (this goes for most of us who regularly drink more than the recommended amounts) alcohol can damage your brain, heart, stomach, reproductive organs and nerves.
  • Regularly drinking too much can lead to dependency or addiction. Alcoholism is terrible for your health and can also ruin relationships, families, your finances and your enjoyment of life.
  • Sometimes, people might take risks after drinking alcohol that they wouldn’t otherwise. If you have unprotected sex,  you should go for an STI test. If you are worried you may be pregnant, you can find out about your options here or find information about emergency contraception (the ‘morning-after’ pill) here.
  • If you drunk drive then you put others at risk as well as yourself. If someone else is drunk and offers you a lift home, take a taxi instead.

There's no such thing as a safe amount of alcohol, but if you do drink remember...

  • Men shouldn’t drink more than 17 standard drinks a week and women shouldn’t drink more than 11 standard drinks a week. Your drinking should be spread over the week. It’s not healthy to drink all your standard drinks in one night and it’s best to aim to have some alcohol free days every week.
  • Beer has the lowest percentage of alcohol (around 4-5%), then wine at about 12% and finally spirits (whiskey, vodka, gin, etc.) have the highest alcohol content at about 40%.
  • Size matters. If you’re small then alcohol is going to affect you more. So, if you’re drinking with someone who’s bigger than you, don’t try to drink the same amount. Also, it’s bad luck for women but alcohol affects them faster than men.
  • If you think you always drink more than the safe recommendations, if you ever feel like you NEED a drink or if others are concerned about how much you drink then you might be dependant on alcohol and you need to get help right away.

Remember that it is against the law for a young person under 18 to buy alcohol or drink alcohol in a public place.

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Published February 25th, 2013
Last updated November 2nd, 2017
Tags alcohol drink
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