Dangers of excessive alcohol intake by Nurse Angela

Having an alcoholic drink now and then is unlikely to harm your health, but drinking excessively can have negative effects on your health and overall well-being. Nurse Angela Motsusi tells us more.

Themba’s story

Themba, a 21-year-old male had a great future ahead of him. He’d just finished college when his mother organised him a job, to look after animals at an animal sanctuary. He also met the girl of his dreams at the same facility.

For a while, things were perfect, but he had a need to fit in with his friends and part of that included not only buying the alcohol for his friends, but also included heavy drinking binges. It first started on weekends but soon evolved into daily binges, which impacted his ability to show up for work and focus on the job. The drinking resulted in him losing not only his job, but his relationships with his mother and girlfriend too.

Currently he’s without a job, no girlfriend and has a shaky relationship with his mother. Themba lives a far cry from what his life used to be. At the center of all this is the alcohol abuse, which has taken away a bright future and turned it into a life of shame and regret.

What is excessive drinking?

Excessive drinking is when you have five or more drinks at one time or more than ten drinks in one week. It includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21 which can result in alcohol dependency.

Short-Term Health Risks

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase your risk of many harmful health conditions, such as:

Injuries- such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, drownings, and burns.

Violence- including murder, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.

Alcohol poisoning- a medical emergency caused by high blood alcohol levels.

Risky sexual behaviours- including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviours can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Miscarriage, stillbirth or foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in pregnant women.

Long-Term Health Risks

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.

Cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, liver, and colon.

Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.

Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school/work performance.

Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Social problems, including loss of productivity, family problems, and unemployment.

Alcohol dependency.

South Africa has a culture of binge drinking and alcohol. Over the years, we’ve seen the negative effects that this can have on individuals, families and communities. If you find yourself experiencing any of the risks I’ve mentioned, The South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) or the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) South Africa are good places to start, or you can send me a message to get advice on other ways of finding help.

It’s important to know how to draw the line when having drinks alone or with friends. While an occasional drink every now and then isn’t a concern, finding yourself drinking heavily can take its toll on our bodies, health and lifestyles. A moment on the lips can result in a lifetime of regret.

If you or a friend need someone to talk to, you can speak to me for advice or help here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).