What are the negative side effects from moderate alcohol usage?

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Q: What are the negative side effects from moderate alcohol usage?

(Editor’s note: this is the very first question submitted to our new BuckMD question/comment box in the lobby of the Student Health Services pharmacy!  Jotting questions down on scraps of paper isn’t exactly high tech, but we figured knowing that you’ll be completely anonymous might make it easier to ask some things that you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.  Please swing by the SHS pharmacy and put the comment box to good use!  Now on to your question…)

A: First let’s define moderate alcohol use.  No more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.  A “drink” is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Drinking in moderation is typically low-risk unless you are:

  • under 21 years of age
  • pregnant or considering pregnancy
  • unable to limit drinking to low levels
  • planning to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination
  • taking medication that interacts with alcohol (for example, Tylenol)
  • alcohol dependent or recovering from alcoholism
  • being treated for a medical condition which is worsened by alcohol use, like diabetes

Negative side effects from alcohol use tend to occur more with heavy or binge drinking, which is defined as 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks for women.  Examples of negative effects from binge drinking include:

  • unintentional injuries (car crashes, falls, burns, drowning… jumping into mirror lake)
  • intentional injuries (firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence)
  • alcohol poisoning
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • unintended pregnancy
  • Giving birth to children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
  • high blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases
  • liver disease
  • neurological damage
  • sexual dysfunction

For more information you can check out the CDC and NIH websites, or stop in and talk to us at the Student Wellness Center

Amanda Blake, MPH (OSU Student Wellness Center)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)