Although the simple process of fermentation has been allowing humans to enjoy alcoholic beverages as far back as recorded history, it wasn’t until approximately one thousand years ago that enthusiasts began to refine the distillation process in order to concentrate and control alcoholic content. Today, alcohol is not only a commodity, it’s a full-fledged industry. Alcohol is a prevalent presence in our society, accessible on almost any street corner and integral to social settings. In the past, such as times of prohibition, lawmakers have found the pervasion of alcohol to be a major encumbrance on society. Fortunately, through educational tools and programs, there are methods other than prohibition which can be used to promote the safe use of alcohol.

Responsible Consumption of Alcohol

To responsibly consume alcohol, one must be aware of exactly how much alcohol they are drinking and its potential effects on their body and mental faculty. Typically, alcohol can take effect within ten minutes. But this may depend on how much protective mucous is lining the stomach for absorption. Women and those who take non-steroidal medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, generally have less mucous covering; therefore, the effects of alcohol may be stronger.

The first thing to know is that not all drinks are created equally. A good rule of thumb is that one beer equals one glass of wine which equals one shot of alcohol. A visual aid with further information for moderation can be found here.

Although alcohol is categorized as a depressant, it may also exhibit effects of an excitant. This may affect behavior at the time of consumption as well as sleep patterns following even moderate drinking. Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks per day or four per occasion for men. It is one drink per day or three per occasion for women. Anything over this amount may be considered excessive alcohol consumption, especially if limits are surpassed on a regular basis. Repeated abuse is a sign of alcohol dependency.

Identifying Dependency on Alcohol

Given the prevalence of alcohol today, it is difficult to discern how much alcohol is too much. A useful starting point to determine whether alcohol consumption is becoming out of hand is the CAGE questionnaire which asks four simple questions:

1. Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking?

2. Have people ever annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

3. Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?

4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (Eye opener) to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

For each ‘yes’ answer, one point is allocated. Scores of two or above are thought to indicate alcohol dependence which should be addressed with the help of a professional.

When Alcohol Becomes a Problem

Alcohol consumption is considered a problem when it begins to impact your well-being or when it becomes a lifestyle pattern or social crutch. Alcohol abuse symptoms are detectable long before critical behavioral patterns and health problems develop. To help monitor your alcohol intake, you can employ the following strategies:

• Set personal drinking limits, and keep track

• Regulate how much you consume per serving

• Avoid situations where drinking is the main activity

• Avoid those who regularly abuse alcohol

• Moderate your own personal access to alcohol

If you or someone you know may have a psychological or physical problem related to alcohol addiction or excessive consumption of alcohol, see your personal physician to discuss this openly and confidentially. There are also ways to seek help through programs such as the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. You can use the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator to pursue treatment, or call the 24-Hour Helpline at (800) 662-HELP.