Even Small Amounts Of Alcohol Can Have A Negative Impact On Your Health
New evidence suggests that even small amounts of alcohol is not good for people under the age of 40. According to data collected by researchers at the University of Washington, for people between the ages of 15-39, there are no health benefits to drinking alcohol; in fact, there are only health risks.
This new analysis, which examined alcohol use in 204 countries, estimates that nearly 1.34 billion people consumed harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020. Of those 1.34 billion, nearly 60% were between the ages of 15 and 39, and almost 80% were male.
“Our message is simple: Young people should not drink,” said Emmanuela Gakidou, University of Washington professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in a news release. “While it may not be realistic to think young adults will abstain from drinking, we do think it’s important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health.”
Risks Associated With Drinking Small Amounts Of Alcohol
Drinking even small amounts of alcohol has many negative effects on your body, both in the short term and long term. As previously noted, data suggests that there are no benefits of drinking alcohol for those under 40. This means that even moderate drinking, which is defined as 2 drinks or less per day for men and 1 for women, can have negative effects on your health.
Alcohol consumption has many short-term effects, most notably the physical and cognitive impairment felt immediately after drinking. Other short-term effects of drinking even small amounts of alcohol include:
- Injuries, such as falls, motor vehicle crashes, drowning, or burns.
- Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
- Alcohol poisoning, typically the result of heavy drinking or binge drinking.
- Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FSADs) among pregnant individuals.
Abusing alcohol for long periods of time can have serious effects on your body. These effects may not be immediately noticeable and may develop later on in life. These include:
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
- Cancer of the breasts, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and rectum.
- Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.
- Weakening of the immune system, which may increase the risk of getting sick.
- Social problems, such as relationship issues, job loss, and family problems.
- Alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcohol dependence.
How Age Impacts Your Risk
In today’s day and age, there is a growing number of adolescents and young adults abusing alcohol. In 2019, nearly 25% of 14 to 15-year-olds reported having at least one drink, and over 7 million people between 12 and 20 reported they drank alcohol within the last month. What is even more concerning is that when people in this age group drink, they do so at much higher levels than those above the legal drinking age. This is due to factors like lack of physical access to alcohol, peer pressure, and lack of understanding of the long-term effects of alcohol.
It’s not just those who are underage that are at risk for negative health outcomes due to alcohol consumption. As previously noted, research suggests that there are no benefits of alcohol for those under 40. This means that it’s possible drinking small amounts of alcohol consumption can have consequences.
Of all the noted health outcomes associated with alcohol, this new data suggests that people under 40 are most likely to experience injuries than any other type of harm. These injuries can be both intentional and unintentional, such as driving under the influence and getting into a car accident or falling down the stairs after drinking too much.
“The rates of cancers and heart disease are generally low in this [under 40] population,” Bryazka said. “Taking a disease-rate weighted average of the risk of alcohol use, we found that even relatively low levels of alcohol use are harmful to young people.”
While younger people are less likely to develop diseases such as heart disease or cancer, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health effects like liver disease and can eventually turn into an addiction.
Understanding The Signs Of Alcohol Addiction
While this new data has revealed that even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to young people, the reality is that people in this age group will continue to drink. While having an occasional drink is not a sign of addiction in and of itself, when alcohol use becomes excessive and is accompanied by compulsive behaviors, it may be a sign that a physical dependency has developed.
While understanding what an addiction to alcohol looks like may sound straight forward, it can oftentimes be hard to truly understand if someone is abusing alcohol. It can be even harder if the person is a close friend or loved one, as they may try to hide their alcohol misuse out of guilt or fear of being misunderstood. The severity of alcohol abuse can also play a role in how a person exhibits signs of addiction.
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If left untreated, excessive alcohol use can quickly lead to a host of severe consequences. These can include health problems, legal troubles, relationship issues, and even thoughts of self-harm or suicide. When alcohol abuse begins to negatively affect a person’s life, it is diagnosed as an alcohol use disorder (AUD). While it may be difficult to determine if an AUD is present, some of the most common signs may include:
- Drinking alone or in secrecy.
- Signs of irritability or extreme mood swings.
- Feeling hungover when not drinking.
- Inability to stop drinking.
- Needing to drink more than others to feel the effects of alcohol.
- Needing to drink in order to “unwind” or destress.
- Becoming isolated from friends and family.
- Experiencing temporary episodes of blackouts or short-term memory loss.
Signs of alcohol addiction should never be ignored. While it may be difficult to confront a loved one about their alcohol abuse, getting treatment can help save them from the dangerous, and sometimes deadly, effects of alcohol addiction.
Should you or someone you know need help with an alcohol addiction, contact a treatment provider to start a recovery plan today.
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