What Are Some Reasons I Should Stop Drinking?
1. Direct Risks to Physical Health
Different levels of alcohol consumption result in different levels of bodily harm, but no amount is healthy. New research calls the old attitude of “a glass of wine is healthful!” into question. The benefits of alcohol can be found elsewhere without the associated health risks. The act of drinking itself can lead to death before it has a chance to do any longterm damage. Alcohol poisoning kills 6 people a day in the US alone. If you avoid the poisoning, it will still wreak havoc on different regions of the body. Each of the following effects can completely alter someone’s day to day life, and each of them functions as a compelling reason to stop drinking.
Damage to the liver is the most well-known physical consequence of alcohol abuse. If you don’t stop drinking, the constant inflammation causes fat deposits, alcoholic hepatitis, Fibrosis, and Cirrhosis. These complications can be fatal if the drinking habit doesn’t stop.
The risks alcohol poses to the heart can be magnified by other poor health habits like smoking or poor dietary choices. Drinking can cause the heart muscles to stretch abnormally and weaken (cardiomyopathy). Incidences of stroke and high blood pressure also rise as a result of drinking, especially heavy drinking.
In response to alcohol consumption, the pancreas creates toxic substances, and this process leads to pancreatitis. This condition prevents normal digestion because of swollen blood vessels in the pancreas.
Copious studies observe the link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of several types of cancer.
- Head and neck cancer: Cancers of the mouth, throat, and voice box are all more common among drinkers. Risks are even higher among people who drink and smoke.
- Esophageal cancer: A very specific type of cancer called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is linked to drinking habits.
- Liver cancer: The hoops the liver has to jump through in order to process alcohol not only lead to the host of diseases mentioned above, but it can drastically increase the chance of liver cancer.
- Breast cancer: Over 100 scientific studies focused on the relationship between breast cancer and drinking. The vast majority found an increased risk of breast cancer in women who drank even just 1 drink a day. More than 3.5 drinks a day was associated with a much greater risk factor increase.
- Colorectal cancer: The relationship between colorectal cancer and alcohol isn’t as strong as some of the other types of cancer, but studies have established links between the two.
2. Indirect Risks to Physical Health
There are clearly adverse physical effects associated with the way the body processes alcohol. If that wasn’t reason enough, situations influenced by alcohol can have deadly consequences. Nearly every violent crime is strongly linked to alcohol.
15% of robberies, 63% of intimate partner violence, 37% of sexual assaults, 45% of physical assaults, and 40-45% of homicides involved the use of alcohol
In 2016 nearly 10,500 died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, which is roughly 30% of all traffic deaths that year.
The inhibition-reducing effect of alcohol often enables people to make decisions they otherwise wouldn’t. Studies surrounding these two behaviors show a strong link between binge drinking and illicit drug use. Frequent binge drinkers were:
- 3x more likely to smoke cigarettes
- 4x more likely to use marijuana
- 5x more likely to use amphetamines, LSD, and chewing tobacco
- 6x more likely to use hallucinogens
Polydrug use, or using multiple substances at once, can result in more profound incapacitation. Mixing amphetamines with alcohol can be especially dangerous, because the “upper” effect of amphetamines can reduce the feeling of drunkenness and result in increased alcohol consumption.
3. Pregnancy Risks
Alcohol use during pregnancy is extremely dangerous. It doesn’t matter if it’s beer, wine, or concentrated spirits, no amount has been proven to be safe through research. Mothers share everything they ingest with the child they’re carrying. Passing alcohol through the umbilical cord can lead to lifelong disability for the child.
Not only are all types of alcohol dangerous, but the entire duration of the pregnancy are at risk as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1st trimester or 3rd, avoid drinking. Any time after conception, the developing embryo is vulnerable to damage from alcohol.
The primary concern around alcohol and pregnancy and alcohol is the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. People born with this disorder often experience varying degrees of difficulty with these symptoms:
- Abnormal facial features and head size
- Hyperactive behavior and trouble paying attention
- Difficulty in school
- Learning disabilities, speech delays, and intellectual disabilities
- Poor judgment and reasoning skills
- Vision or hearing problems
- Issues with the heart, kidney, or bones
4. Mental Health Effects
Alcohol directly impacts the brain and how it functions. Some people use alcohol as a way to try and escape mental illness, but the relief you feel while drunk is often outweighed by the depressive effect of sobering up. In fact, drinking frequently worsens existing conditions and predisposes people to developing new ones.
Independent Major Depression
This is the most common mood disorder accompanying alcohol use disorder.
Behind major depression, this is the most common mental illness associated with drinking. Because of underreporting and the way alcohol impacts moods, it can be hard to diagnose, but alcohol use disorder is tied closely to bipolar.
Anxiety disorders don’t seem to run more frequently among heavy drinkers, but people with anxiety issues do often turn to alcohol for momentary relief.
5. Impact on Friends and Family
Problematic drinking patterns not only impact the individual, but those surrounding them as well. If you’re drunk at every social event or during inappropriate times, it can push people away.
If your drinking habit goes from problematic to dangerous, you become the center of attention constantly. Loved ones will constantly worry whether you’re out drinking again, if you’re okay, or if you’ve gotten hurt or worse. This incessant anxiety wears people down and makes helping someone with a use disorder difficult. The support of loved ones is vital for an effective recovery from addiction, but the process weighs heavy on those affected. Avoiding that kind of conflict by limiting alcohol consumption saves yourself and those around you.
6. Risk of Alcohol use Disorder
Not only is alcohol harmful to the body, but it’s also addictive. Most social situations include drinking, especially during the ages of 18-25. Recent research demonstrates a steady, worrying growth of binge drinking tendencies in college age kids, which could translate to poor alcohol management as they age.
Developing a high volume drinking habit can leave your body chemically dependent on alcohol. When your brain needs alcohol to function, abstaining leads to withdrawal. The unpleasant symptoms associated with withdrawal provide another hurdle for someone trying to stop drinking.
On top of the difficulty associated with quitting, the withdrawal process from alcohol can be deadly. If your pattern of use is severe enough, withdrawal may include Delirium Tremens. This form of ethanol (alcohol) withdrawal includes:
- Extreme confusion and disorientation
- Extremely high blood pressure
- Unusual levels of sweating
Without treatment, withdrawal from alcohol use disorder is sometimes deadly. Pursuing a heavy social drinking habit or frequent private drinking tendency can lead down this road. Drinking responsibly may not avoid all risk of health issues, but it will minimize the likelihood that you become addicted and experience these symptoms. An addiction also heightens the risk for all of the health complications associated with drinking in general.
7. Risking Suicide
Alcohol can lead to death through several avenues. Unfortunately, a common option is suicide.
- Nearly 30% of suicide victims in the US are found with alcohol in their systems.
- Alcoholics are between 60 and 120 times as likely to commit suicide compared to those with no psychiatric illnesses.
The fact that alcohol amplifies mental illness and reduces impulse control makes for a dangerous relationship with suicide. People with bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder are particularly at risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Suicide should not be how you stop drinking. Drinking isn’t worth dying.
8. Cost of Maintaining the Habit
The sheer cost of buying alcohol on a daily or weekly basis should be enough to stop drinking. Nearly 30% of the entire US population drink 6.25 drinks or more per week. Research shows that an astounding 10% of the population (24+ million people) drink over 70 drinks a week, averaging 10+ drinks a day. Assuming each drink is only around $6.00, the costs still build up quickly.
- 6 drinks/week: $36/week, $156/month, $1,872/year
- 15 drinks/week: $90/week, $390/month, $4,680/year
- 74 drinks/week: $462/week, $2,002/month, $24,024/year
Maintaining these habits is not only dangerous to your health, but it also drains financial resources for no real benefit.
Outside of the cost of alcohol alone, many of the consequences of a serious drinking habit also carry hefty cash penalties. Medical costs of injuries acquired while drunk, DUI (driving under the influence) related tickets, and the cost of rehab can all be extreme. Medical costs in particular pose an extreme risk because of the cost of medical care in the US. Risking bankruptcy is another reason to stop drinking, especially if you drink heavily.
9. Issues with Employment
Most jobs that hold drug tests don’t screen for alcohol because it’s a legal substance in most countries. A moderate drinking habit may result in an infrequent day where you show up to work a little hung over, but that should be the rare exception, not the rule. Maintaining a pattern of drinking that interrupts your work responsibilities most likely leads to unemployment.
A common hurdle for people suffering from alcohol use disorder is receiving a DUI. In all but 1 state (Pennsylvania), a DUI results in an immediate license suspension. If you no longer have the ability to reach your job, you may not have the job for long. Even the shortest minimum license suspension of 30 days can jeopardize any employment opportunity.
While dietary relevance may seem like a less important reason to stop drinking, alcohol’s complete lack of nutritional value and high calorie count can be a challenge when striving to make healthy dietary choices. Alcohol’s pervasive role in food and social culture make it a challenging item to cut out.
Depending on the kind of beer, alcohol content, and brand, beer can fluctuate greatly in its calorie count. Light beers usually hover around the 100-calorie mark for 12 oz, while the average, non-light beer is closer to 155. High alcohol content beers, as well as craft beers range from 170 calories all the way up to 350 calories, depending on their contents.
Straight liquor is more concentrated, so the volume is lower, but the calories are still high. For 1.5 oz of 80 proof gin, vodka, and whiskey you can expect around 100 calories. For 10% the volume of light beer, you’re achieving similar caloric intake. After just a few drinks, you’re looking at 500 calories in liquor alone. Rum tends to have the highest calories out of distilled alcohol, reaching nearly 200 calories for 1.5 oz.
This category of drink carries the highest calorie counts of any so far. The high caloric content of liquor and added calories from mixers like soda can take up a full meal’s worth of calories in a few drinks.
- Bloody Mary: 120 calories
- Cosmopolitan 146 calories
- Margarita 168 calories
- Pina Colada: 526 calories
- Rum and Coke: 185 calories
- White Russian: 568 calories
- Chocolate Martini: 420 calories
For a 5 oz pour, most wines will fall around 120 to 130 calories. Dessert wines pack more calories into less volume, ranging from 155 to 170 calories for 3.5 oz.
With the number of empty calories in mind, it’s easy to see how your diet could get a boost if you stop drinking.
Avoiding Alcohol Abuse and its Consequences
Regardless of the social and cultural importance of alcohol, it’s clear that it poses significant risks. Lifelong drinking habits lead to physical and mental health complications if left unchecked. Alcohol use disorder requires immediate attention in order to avoid serious complications. If you or a loved one struggle with an addiction to alcohol, please reach out and get help today. Struggling to stop drinking alone isn’t necessary, and there are compassionate professionals willing to help around the clock.