Alcohol is one of the most popular addictive drugs on the planet, but it’s one that people still haven’t quite learned how to use safely. Every year, more than 2.6 million Americans are hospitalized due to complications or injuries related to alcohol. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, so to help bring attention to this issue and give you the tools to enjoy a drink safely, AFC/Doctors Express compiled a list of five safety tips that will keep you and your friends safe!
- Do not ever drink and drive. This must be said, because according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone dies every 53 minutes in the United States due to drunk driving. These are deaths that should be easily prevented, but every day, people make the choice to put themselves and others at risk by getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death among people ages 17-24. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most people who drive drunk did not plan on it and responded to the need to get somewhere without having a plan in place. Many also did not recognize that they were drunk. So AFC/Doctors Express recommend always having a plan to get where you need to go while you’re drinking, whether it’s a taxi service or sober friend.
- Pace yourself. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to process and absorb the alcohol you drink, so drinking very quickly can put you in danger of alcohol poisoning. Instead, try to drink a glass of water or a non-alcoholic beverage in between every drink you have, so your body has time to process the alcohol incrementally. Also, try to avoid drinking games, as these encourage very rapid and heavy drinking.
- Don’t mix. Do not mix beverage types, or take drugs with alcohol. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, which hasn’t been definitively proven or disproven, that mixing things like beer and liquor can lead to more severe hangovers. And there are more than 150 medications that interact negatively with alcohol. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a quarter of all hospitalizations for drug misuse or complications also involved alcohol.
- Know the symptoms of alcohol poisoning. The sooner you can identify these symptoms in yourself or someone else, the better your chances for preventing brain damage, coma or even death. Things like an inability to remain conscious, blue lips, difficulty breathing or vomiting aren’t just signs that you partied too hard. They are actually evidence of your body’s struggle to metabolize a large amount of alcohol, and the safest thing to do is to get to a hospital. Most states now have “alcohol immunity” laws, so minors who call for help dealing with possible alcohol poisoning will not be in trouble, as long as they stay with the person until police or an ambulance arrive.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended. This presents an easy opportunity for someone to slip something into it that you’re unaware of. Drugs like GHB, rohypnol and ecstasy can incapacitate you, so it’s much safer to keep your drink with you until you finish it.
Alcohol can be a very dangerous drug, and it’s up to each individual to learn how to enjoy it safely. By using these tips, you can dramatically reduce your risk of harm or injury and extend those good times! And if you need help exploring treatment options for a potential problem with alcohol, you can visit your local AFC/Urgent Care!