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No matter where you come from, alcohol is one of those things that connects us all. From a glass of wine at dinner to beers and whiskeys with our friends at your favorite bar, we all enjoy a good drink from time to time. But, where’s the line between moderate drinking and alcoholism? Let’s find out, shall we?

Alcohol Intake Recommendations

Although people all over the world drink alcohol, it’s safe to say that our intake recommendations vary from country to country. What some consider moderate might be too much for others and vice versa. Still, we’ll focus on United States’ standards and general drinking culture in Northern America.

On average, your regular drinks like beer, wine, or a spirit contain around 14 grams of plain alcohol. This means that you’ll consume these 14 grams if you drink 12 ounces of lager, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of liquor. Of course, these measures don’t apply to all drinks since some are stronger than others, but you get the point. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to alcohol.

If you look up the government’s health and dietary guidelines, drinking more than one drink for women and more than two for men is excessive drinking. Only 2% of people who follow these guidelines suffer from alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The thing is, not everyone’s body is the same when it comes to alcohol metabolism. Hence, it’s important to stay away from binge drinking, as it’s the easiest way to gain alcohol dependence and fall into the pit of alcoholism.

READ: Alcohol Abuse versus Alcoholism

The Effects of Alcohol on Your Body

Our drinking habits affect both our physical and mental health. And depending on the amount of alcohol we consume, we can damage every part of our body. From head to toes, excessive drinking can cause all sorts of health problems. Furthermore, it can negatively change our mood and the way we behave.

When it comes to brain damage, alcohol is a dangerous enemy of our nervous system. From slurred speech to troubles with hand-eye coordination, it causes many problems. Studies suggest that it ups the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, especially in females. In other words, alcohol is a memory killer and a fine one at it.

Another common problem is liver damage. The earliest sign of alcoholic liver diseases is the number of liver fats. Binge drinking will cause inflammation that will lead to cirrhosis and eventually to liver failure. The latter is a life-threatening condition.

Alcohol consumption can also form a physical and mental dependency. Worrying about where they’ll get their next shot and if there will be any drinks left, alcoholics usually find it hard to enjoy themselves like other people. Everything begins to revolve around drinking, and that’s when the fun stops.

Your Alcohol Metabolism

Our ability to deal with the amount of alcohol in our bodies differs from person to person. Moreover, men and women have opposite standards when it comes to drinking. It all comes down to our genetics. The main enzymes that affect alcohol metabolism are alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).

Females have lower levels of these enzymes, making them prone to the effects of alcoholic beverages. Of course, some men have low ADH and ALDH too. But enzymes in our bodies aren’t the only factors when it comes to alcohol metabolism. The way we deal with it also depends on the composition of our bodies.

Unlike men, women have more fat cells and less water inside them. And as such, alcohol in their blood can be higher than in men’s, even if they drink the same amount of it. This is one of the reasons behind the notion why girls get drunk easier. Of course, some guys have more fat cells and less water, too, making them vulnerable to alcohol as well.

People Who Should Abstain From Alcohol

Seeing how dangerous drinking can get, it’s vital to understand whether you should play around with it. Sure, having a beer or two from time to time is okay, but sometimes even the slightest amount of alcohol can affect your health negatively. Certain people shouldn’t ever drink, and here’s why.

In case you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, we strongly suggest that you lay off drinking. Not only will you hurt the baby, but you’ll endanger yourself. Alcohol can cause birth defects, problems while in labor, and the child’s further physical and mental development. So, if you see a pregnant woman enjoying a glass of wine, do give her the same look as if she’s smoking a cigarette.

On the other hand, there’s a reason why underage people can’t enjoy drinking. Their bodies aren’t ready for the shock and will get ill pretty fast. Also, there’s no point in influencing them into doing something potentially dangerous. Unfortunately, the mainstream culture is full of alcohol promotion, and it’s easy to understand why they’ll eventually consume it.

READ: 11 Ways To Curb Your Drinking

The Bottom Line

The fact is that alcohol is everywhere around us, and we’re practically drowning in it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t figure ways of handling our drinking. The smart bet is to enjoy up to one drink a day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man. At least that’s what our government’s guidelines suggest. This way, you’ll lower the health risk that comes along with alcohol consumption.

Having a glass of wine with your partner while eating a nice meal is great, but you shouldn’t make it a rule. Also, going out with your friends is fun and all, but there’s no point in it if it turns out that it’s all about drinking. In case you find yourself not enjoying company without alcohol, it might be time to lay off it and consult a health expert.