Alcohol: Taking the Good with the Bad

When it comes to alcohol, moderation is the key to avoiding health problems, reaping potential benefits and being around to enjoy life for years to come.

For many people, enjoying the occasional bottle of beer or glass of wine may be a normal part of life. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol has actually been linked to several health benefits. When alcohol consumption is excessive or leads to high-risk behavior or habits, however, physicians and loved ones may start to get justifiably concerned.

The Good

Research supports the idea that mild consumption of alcohol in low quantities may have some positive benefits on health. It may help prevent heart disease, protect against type 2 diabetes and even reduce the likelihood of developing gallstones. Physicians typically define mild consumption of alcohol as one drink a day or two drinks daily for men, or three or four drinks per week.

“Just because research says it may be good for you to have a glass of wine, that doesn’t mean it’s all right to drink multiple glasses every day,” says Bradford Commons, M.D., medical director of Emergency Medicine at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Alliance. “Take recommendations at face value, pay attention to serving size and be honest with yourself about your habits. If you don’t already drink, the possible benefits aren’t a good enough reason to start.”

Knowing what constitutes one drink is a big part of being able to play it safe with alcohol. Here are a few basics:

One drink is:

  • One 12-ounce beer
  • Five ounces of wine
  • One and a half ounces of 80-proof liquor

The Bad

In his line of work, Dr. Commons unfortunately comes face to face with the negative effects of drinking too much alcohol. His patients may be incoherent, unable to maintain a clear airway, in need of rehydration, or dealing with withdrawal symptoms if they are alcohol dependent.

“I see health issues related to alcohol that span the spectrum, from injuries caused by reckless behavior to chronic conditions caused by years of drinking too much,” Dr. Commons says. “Drinking alcohol causes more than 79,000 deaths a year. It’s the third most common preventable cause of death. That represents a major health threat. This is something we have to help people realize.”

If alcohol has become a problem in your life, the Texas Health Behavioral Health substance abuse treatment program can help. Call 682-236-6023 or email THRBehavioralHealth@texashealth.org for a complimentary assessment.

Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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