What alcohol abuse can cause
Excessive alcohol drinking is dangerous to your health. It can cause a variety of problems for your health, social well-being and financial stability.
Broadly, the current recommendations for safe alcohol use are to not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, spread over 3 days or more.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Alcohol has been found to increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer. This is because people generally don't feel sick even though high blood pressure can cause a lot of harm to your body. Read our booklet on high blood pressure for more detail.
Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the demands for the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, waking up with breathlessness in the night and swollen legs.
Alcohol causes an increase in fat, also called cholesterol, in the blood. This fat can stick to the sides of the blood vessels, causing a disruption in flow which can result in clots, strokes, heart attacks and muscle aches and pain when exercising.
Alcohol can increase the risks of many different types of cancers, such as colon cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer and throat cancer, to name a few.
Alcohol is a well known cause of weight gain. Being overweight increases the risk of many diseases. Read our booklet on weight for more information.
Violence and trauma
Alcohol depresses mental function, impacting your ability to make good, well thought out, decisions. This plays a factor in people becoming violent and showing little regard for others. Hospitals across the country show that many cases of trauma, injury and violence are a result of alcohol consumption.
Drinking and Driving
Driving after drinking alcohol is very dangerous and you will be arrested by the police for it. If you drink and drive, you are putting yourself, the people in your car and people on the road in very serious danger. It is our responsibility to be good examples to others and ensure that drinking and driving does not occur. We must keep each other safe on the roads.
How to decrease how much you drink
Ideally, one should not drink alcohol at all. To drink less and be healthier, have your drinks with lots of ice. If you are using mixers, use low sugar or sugar-free mixers. Have a glass of water after every drink. Have singles rather than doubles.
Alcohol can also be addictive. Most people with an alcohol addiction don’t know that they have it. The questions below can help you find out if you may have an alcohol problem.
- Have you ever felt you needed to cut down your drinking?
- Have you ever felt annoyed by people criticising your drinking?
- Do you ever feel guilty about your drinking?
- Do you sometimes have an ‘eye-opener’ (alcohol) first thing in the morning to steady the nerves, or get rid of a hangover?
If you feel like you may have a drinking problem you can get help from Alcoholics Anonymous South Africa. Get in contact with this organisation through the additional resources page for alcohol.