Changing our Perspective

By Brent Baker

Many people choose to consume alcohol for its pleasant, life-enhancing effects. In small quantities, alcohol gives people a lift in mood, relaxation, and increased sociability. These effects are most prevalent when individuals drink in a moderate- or low-risk manner, meaning no more than three drinks a day. Using this guideline, we can greatly reduce the risk of experiencing alcohol’s negative effects. Problems occur when we start thinking, since a few drinks makes us feel good, a couple more might be even better. The question is whether this logic is true or not. What really happens when we consume more than just a few drinks?

When we choose to drink in excess of this low-risk guideline, we risk the more unpleasant effects of alcohol. Some of us have witnessed a person drink too much and act out of character. The improvement in mood, relaxation, or sense of well being that initially occurs spills over into unpredictable emotions. Feelings become exaggerated, leading to uncharacteristic or even aggressive behavior. It’s difficult to anticipate exactly how our mood may be affected if we choose to drink to impairment. What began as an enjoyable time with friends and family quickly turns awry when too much alcohol is consumed.

We may also experience mental and physical impairments. Many people don’t realize mental impairments occur well before we feel any physical effects of alcohol. Mental abilities, like sound decision-making or complex tasks, such as driving, deteriorate even with a moderate amount of alcohol. We increasingly risk making poor decisions as we continue to consume beyond the low-risk guidelines. We then start losing our physical abilities, such as coordination, balance, and vision. We need these abilities for most common tasks, so our risk for accident or injury greatly increases.

Drinking socially with friends, family or coworkers is common, and in small quantities, helps us feel more sociable and connected with others. But too much drinking has the opposite effect. As our consumption increases, our ability to accurately read social cues diminishes. This may cause us to misread another person’s intentions and can lead to miscommunications or even conflict.

So is this information being presented to dissuade alcohol use or indicate it’s in some way bad? No. In low-risk quantities, alcohol use can be rather pleasant for many people. But it’s possible to find enjoyment in alcohol without increasing our risk for problems. Is alcohol use always low-risk for everyone? No. Some people may find it best to abstain, especially if they’ve ever experienced a problem with alcohol or experience adverse effects after they drink. Only you can make the decision whether alcohol consumption is low risk for you personally.

Hopefully this information will be helpful next time you choose to consume alcohol. Having a drink with friends or relaxing in our free time can be enjoyable when we follow low-risk drinking guidelines. We can have a good time without putting ourselves at risk for experiencing the more negative or unpleasant outcomes of alcohol misuse. For more information about alcohol and substance use resources, please contact the Alcohol Abuse Prevention Specialist at (252) 466-4875.