alcohol limits

How Much Is Too Much? Why It’s Important to Know Your Limits with Alcohol

Imagine showing up at your friend’s house to watch the big game, and there’s no beer in sight. That would be an anomaly, wouldn’t it? Alcohol is so ingrained in our culture that most social settings seem bare without it.

So you have a beer. And then another.

From here, the most important question is also the most difficult to define: How do you know when to stop drinking?

Why You Should Set Limits on Alcohol

No one really wants to be the friend who gets black-out-drunk and does silly things that he can’t even remember. But alcohol can be powerfully persuasive. The more you drink, the harder it is to stop drinking. And even if you aren’t worried about getting black-out-drunk, there are many reasons why should know your limits and stick to them.

  1. Links between alcohol and cancer – You probably know that it’s bad for your health to drink copious amounts of alcohol or to drink alcohol regularly. But did you know it might give you cancer? Studies have linked alcohol consumption with certain cancers that include liver, colon, throat and breast cancers. This is one good reason to keep your drinking in check. If you do drink daily, try to keep your limit at one drink. Research shows that people who have more than one drink daily are more likely to develop these types of cancers.
  2. Alcohol changes your brain chemistry – When you drink heavily, you have more to worry about than dancing around with a lampshade on your head. When alcohol enters your bloodstream, it suppresses glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) and increases GABA (the inhibitory neurotransmitter). You’ll start to feel these effects as your speech slows and you begin slurring. While all this is happening, alcohol is also increasing dopamine in your brain’s reward center. This is what tricks you into thinking you’re having a great time.
  3. Alcoholism and problematic drinking are both bad – You can limit yourself to two drinks each night and not be an alcoholic. But as we’ve seen above, it can still have an impact on your health. You are a problem drinker if you have more than a glass of alcohol every night or have a tendency to binge drink. If you cannot stop drinking without experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, you have crossed the line to alcoholism. Alcoholism may be more common than you think: 1 in 8 Americans are reported alcoholics. The more you drink, the easier it will be to drink more, so problem drinking often leads to alcoholism.
  4. Alcohol impairs your abilities – This one may seem obvious, but enough people are still drinking and driving that it deserves attention. In 2014, alcohol was responsible for 31% of all driving fatalities. When you stick to a one-drink limit, you can still drive safely and responsibly.
  5. Having limits will help you set a good example – If you have kids, it’s important to lead by example. Even if you don’t have children of your own, you may have kids that look up to you. Unfortunately, they are likely to mimic your bad habits and form their own unhealthy relationship with alcohol as adults. It is a vicious cycle, but it’s one you can stop.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

This question can be a bit tricky to answer for everyone because everyone’s tolerance is different. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you figure out where you stand.

Your personal alcohol limits may depend on a few things like how much food you’ve consumed and whether you have to drive. Regardless of what you set, if you start feeling drunk, it’s probably time to stop drinking for the evening.

Setting alcohol limits will help you form and maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol, which is important for many reasons. If you think you have a drinking problem, it’s important to address it before things progress. Try cutting back or abstaining from alcohol. If you have trouble with this or notice physical withdrawal symptoms, reach out to an alcohol counselor.

Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash


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