Alcohol fires a lot of passions and emotions, literally and metaphorically.
Alcoholic beverages have probably been with humans for most of human existence. It’s not particularly new and the fact that it’s been around for so long tells us that people do enjoy a drink. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Like most things, probably all things to do with the human body, a little bit is good – a lot is not good. Simplest example: we need water to survive, we need to drink water each day but if we are surrounded by too much water, we are going to drown. We need oxygen but if we are breathing 100% oxygen, that’s a problem for us as well.
So with alcohol, one of the hardest things for people to grasp (and partly because of so many mixed and confusing messages) is what is ok for me to drink. Let’s keep it fairly simple: A glass or two of some kind of alcoholic beverage a few times a week is not going to be a problem for the vast majority of people. Can you enjoy alcohol in moderation? Yes we can. There are some studies which have shown a benefit to moderate consumption and in particular what’s known as the Mediterranean diet which includes red wine has shown to be beneficial in the terms of heart health. I don’t think it’s fair to say it is for medicinal purposes but it is fair to say that a small amount of alcohol is not harmful. That’s quite different to a big amount of alcohol. There is a big difference – this is going to sound really obvious but bear with me – There is a difference between a glass of wine and a bottle of wine. The fact that it is still wine doesn’t really matter. The quantity does matter; large amounts of alcohol consumed regularly create enormous problems – both for the individual and those around them. We won’t go into all the issues but it does affect the heart, the brain, the kidneys and also obviously affects people’s behaviour.
There is a lot of violence and problems on the road fuelled by excessive alcohol. So there are major, major, problems with excess alcohol consumption but it doesn’t mean we have to tar everybody with the same brush. The fact that alcohol in excess causes problems doesn’t mean that alcohol in small amounts consumed socially, particularly with a meal, is a problem. An analogy can be it is a little like fire. Fire can be used to cook your food but if it gets out of control and burns down your house – it’s a problem. The fire itself, if controlled, is okay.
So what’s the bottom line? You don’t have to suddenly go out and start drinking, if you don’t currently, for medicinal purposes. It doesn’t work that way. But if you have a glass or two of wine or beer or whatever your favourite tipple is, a few days through the week (again what constitutes a few days people argue about) but it’s good to have a couple of days through the week without alcohol, all that’s going to be quite ok. Consuming more than probably 3 to 4 standards drinks per day on a daily basis for an extended period of time may end up causing you some health problems and the best way to stop that is to nip it before it gets to that stage. If you or your friends have any problems or are concerned about alcohol use there are various agencies you can go to and sometimes a logical start point is your doctor as well.
So alcohol can be our friend or our foe depending on the situation and how we use it. The power is in our hands. Use it wisely and enjoy and that way you can stay out of trouble.