Written by: Anne Marie Forgarty, RGN
Alcohol abuse is the leading risk factor for mortality, illness and disability among 15-49-year-olds in the United Kingdom and the sixth leading risk factor for all ages. According to preliminary figures, there were 7,423 alcohol-related fatalities in England and Wales in 2020 alone (around 13 per 100,000 people). This is why mindful drinking is important to incorporate into daily life.
What is Mindful Drinking?
The idea of mindful drinking is to be deliberate in your approach to alcohol consumption. It allows you to take charge of your destiny instead of letting it control you. It’s more than a notion to drink mindfully. Instead of abstaining from alcohol, mindful drinking is about paying attention to how much, how often you drink and how it affects your body and mind. Recognising the causes and effects of drinking is an essential first step. In order to optimise your enjoyment and reduce the side effects, such as hangovers, regrets, and anxiety, you need to improve your relationship with alcohol.
Harmful Effects of Excessive Alcohol
A person who drinks excessively or chronically might develop an alcohol dependency or addiction, formally known as an alcohol use disorder. Other cognitive and mental health disorders are also linked to chronic alcohol use, including memory and learning difficulties, as well as the onset or worsening of significant mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Binge drinking, or drinking a lot in a short period of time, puts a lot of strain on your body and organs (and can result in feeling hungover following a drinking session). Headaches, severe dehydration, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and indigestion can all arise from excessive alcohol consumption.
Heart disease can be exacerbated by heavy drinking, even on a single occasion. The following are some of these effects:
• Cardiomyopathy which implies that your heart muscle has a difficult time pumping blood
• An irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia
• High blood pressure
Dangers of Excessive Alcohol Intake
When used in large quantities over an extended period of time, alcohol has the potential to harm several of your body’s most important organ systems. There were 976,425 alcohol-related hospital admissions in England in 2020, a 12% increase over the figure in 2016 – among them are the following:
• The dangers of cardiovascular disease: Additional cardiovascular effects and the danger of heart disease might result from excessive alcohol use.
• Risks to the brain’s health. Alcohol’s long-term effects on the brain may influence people’s memory, learning, and overall behaviour.
• Risks to the liver: Drinking large amounts of alcohol over a lengthy period of time might put your liver at risk for fatty liver disease. One is at risk of hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and an aggressive form of liver cancer.
• Risks to the pancreas: including vitamin deficiency, are discussed. Due to low food intake and malabsorption, drinking alcohol is linked to vitamin deficiencies. Pancreatitis, or inflammation and swelling of the pancreatic blood vessels, can be exacerbated by long-term alcohol intake. This might have a negative impact on your capacity to eat and absorb nutrients.
• Risks to the immune system: A person’s immune system might be weakened if they drink excessively over an extended period of time.
• Risk of cancer: Alcohol, a proven carcinogen, can affect the development of many malignancies. The development and risk of breast, liver, oesophageal, head and neck, and colorectal cancers can be influenced by high alcohol usage, particularly when paired with smoking. In addition, new research suggests an elevated risk of cancers such as melanoma, prostate, and pancreatic in men who use marijuana. According to the National Cancer Institute, drinking 3.5 or more drinks a day increases a person’s chance of developing head and neck cancer by at least 2 to 3 times.
This was all about the dangers of over-drinking and how alcohol can be consumed mindfully. As with any practise that promotes well-being, mindful drinking may provide space for actual change – physically, intellectually, and financially.