Social drinking: what's the risks?

So I’m debating whether to drink any more. Good parts: it’s fun. Bad parts: bad for your brain.

Or at least I think it is - I’m completely unable to find any fucking information online about the long-term health effects of having one or two drinks a week; it’s all “FOUR DRINKS A DAY WILL MELT YOUR BRAIN”! You don’t say.

Anyone know where to dig up information?

Being what you crazy Americans call a “college freshman”, I also would like to know what I’m diving head first into :P

Also, I read somewhere about a study on the effects of alcohol on perception in males vs females… I couldn’t find the link you guys were referencing. Any help would be much appreciated.

I’ve never heard anything about social drinking carrying any risks. In fact, some drinks (e.g. red wine) are actually supposed to be good for you in moderation. The only downside I can think of is that some drinks (like beer) have significant calories and carbs, so if you’re drinking a couple a day that’s probably going to add up to some weight over time (which carries its own health risks).

On the other side of the coin, there’s no real downside to not drinking, either. I decided a while ago that I just don’t like the taste of alcohol, and haven’t had anything to drink in I think five or seven years. No big deal, really, and cheaper. The only downside is that when I drink nonalcoholic stuff at certain occasions (office Christmas party, etc.), or turn down wine at a dinner, I’m sure there are some people who think I’m a recovering alcoholic. Whatever.

I’m sure there are some people who think I’m a recovering alcoholic. Whatever

I don’t drink either, for some of the same reasons. It is funny when you turn down alcohol at some functions. People’s reactions are interesting. Some people just can’t imagine a person who doesn’t drink. I wonder if these are alcoholics. Meanwhile, they probably wonder if I’m a recovering alcoholic. Only our hair dressers know for sure! :)

Ah, I maybe have 4 drinks a month. Just wondering if there’s any studies on that.

On a completely unrelated note, HOW ON EARTH do people average 4 drinks a day? I didn’t know anyone except winos was capable of this, but I’ve met a couple perfectly functioning people lately who are north of that mark. WTF? Doesn’t your brain try to escape from your body at some point?

There have been scientific studies that moderate drinking (defined as 1-2 drinks per day, not four) actually reduces the risk of coronary heart disease…

Back in the 19th century and before, I get the impression that 4 drinks a day was more of a minimum… I mean, the RN served a pint a day of rum as rations…

Really, though, 4 doesn’t seem all that much. One with lunch. Two with dinner. One as a nightcap. Not even a buzz… However, I don’t think I personally imbibe more than 4 drinks a week on average.

More recently a study showed that that health risks of even one drink a day outweighed the possible benefits, and further that those 1-2 drinks a day don’t really help with heart disease or strokes. That was a study on alchohol, not on the flavonoids or whatever they’re called found in red wine. Those substances are of course also found in grape juice, and are even more prevalent in chocolate and in tea. But you know studies – take 'em with a grain of salt, and maybe a slice of lime…

Being a university freshman who spent most of last term working in a pub, I too am a bit concerned about my new alcohol habits. The thing is, I only drink on social occasions, that is, when I’m with friends. I never drink anything by myself, not even a beer for dinner, but I do find that alcohol helps me with social interaction. Before I started studying here I drank maybe once a month, now it’s more like 3-4 times a week.

I would be seriously shocked if 1 or 2 ‘drinks’ a week could have substantial health effects. 1 or 2 drinking ‘sessions’ a week is another matter.

While I don’t think alcohol is ever good, health-wise, the amount you’re talking about is likely as negligible as slightly bad food habits.
The biggest direct and measurable risks from drinking in social enviroments are other people and vehicles. Very, very bad. Pretend you’re in Sweden and .02 is enough to get busted for DUI.

Kristy, a classmate in highschool, once asked me, “Roger, you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t do drugs… Just what do you do?”

“6.9 on the Richter scale” I replied. It was funny.

At social functions full of strangers, I go for a glass of ginger ale. It looks alcoholic enough that people don’t bother to comment on what I am or am not drinking.

So that was the “subtle innuendo” that followed her question?

(Sorry, attack of the 80s.)

And Kalle, I’d worry that using alcohol to help with social interaction is a crutch. What happens when the interaction isn’t going as you’d like? Drink more?

You obviously know nothing of Scandinavian drinking habits.

Getting drunk is a favourite pastime of most of my friends, while I don’t really find it all that enjoyable. Can get a bit tiresome at times; being the only reasonably sober person at a party is pretty boring.

I don’t drink at all (it’s been over 6 months since I have had a glass of wine), but I have read that a drink a day or so really is good for you, as mentioned above. I can’t imagine social drinking would be that bad, as long as you aren’t binging. If you just have some wine/beer with friends every now and then, you are probably ok. A good test would be whether or not you feel the effects the next day. If so, pull back a bit. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Oh, I know it probably won’t matter either way, I was just looking for something more definitive.

one thing to watch out for, at least according to my experience. i could hold my liquor pretty well in high school and early college. about sophomore year, i decided to quit drinking, didn’t touch alcohol for several years. when i went back to it, i found out that i had turned into a total two-beer-queer. i’m literally drop dead drunk on two drinks now.

actually, its not too bad. its cheap to go and my girlfriend seems to like it. ;-)

Again, I call “bullshit”. I want to see a link to these purported “studies” you quote, and want to know what axe they have to grind. The huge study conducted by Harvard and Boston University over 12 years are accepted in medical circles now as being pretty much definitive on the subject: 1-2 drinks per day for males has zero downside and incredible upside.

But rather than cite anonymous studies, here’s the New England Journal Of Medicine on the topic:

Here’s an earlier study (published in 1998) based on a 5-year study of 85,000 patients from Lance

Here’s the Washington Post reporting on the NEJM Study in a front page story:

[i]"The new findings appear unlikely to convince skeptics, who fear that any positive words about alcohol will either be misinterpreted as endorsing excessive drinking or used as an excuse for problem drinkers to keep drinking.

“The thing that really concerns me is the fact that we know that people who abuse alcohol are in denial, and people tend to underestimate how much they drink,” said Nicholas Pace, an assistant professor of medicine at New York University Medical Center who serves on the board of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. “I’m not a teetotaler, but one has to be very careful with this kind of thing.”

While previous studies have also shown that light to moderate drinking can reduce a woman’s risk for heart attacks, alcohol can boost a woman’s risk for breast cancer.

Robert H. Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver who chairs the American Heart Association’s Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, was also cautious. “This is a tough issue. I don’t know if there’s a simple solution here,” he said.

Others, however, were less ambivalent about the new findings.

“This finally puts some numbers to how often you should drink,” said R. Curtis Ellison, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “The dangers of that level of drinking are almost zero and the benefits are striking. Everybody should be told the facts and let them make up their own minds. If you drink a lot it’s bad for you. If you drink a little it’s good for you.”

The new data comes from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a large ongoing project based at the Harvard School of Public Health that is tracking the health of 38,077 male health professionals around the country while monitoring various aspects of their lifestyles.

After 12 years, the researchers found that those who consumed one or two drinks three to seven days a week had a 32 percent to 37 percent lower risk of suffering a heart attack–the lowest rate among the men. That was independent of age, smoking and exercise habits, diet and whether they had family history of heart disease. Men who increased their alcohol consumption by one drink a day experienced a 22 percent drop in their heart attack risk, the researchers reported in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

“This does suggest that alcohol can be a very important part of a healthy lifestyle,” said Rimm. [/i]

Finally, some practical anectdotal evidence. Although my doctor brother does mostly bariatric procedures now, his specialty for the first 12 years of his practice was cardiology. Given the fact that our father died at age 49 from an acute myocardial infarction (a/k/a “sudden death” heart attack), and that my stepfather died at 55 from exactly the same thing, he’s always been on my case about my cardio health. Two years ago he put me on lipitor (my cholesterol was sky-high at age 35). Last year, he asked me frankly and squarely if I was able to safely consume 1 or 2 drinks per day without continuing to imbibe or binge drink. I am. He then strongly suggested that I make a habit of having a glass of wine or a bottle of beer on a daily basis.

As for the effect on the brain, have some more anectdotal evidence. My mother is currently suffering through the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Other than genetics, the other major physical link neurologists can find to AD is that high cholesterol puts you at major risk, while elevated levels of “good” cholesterols like the HDL cholesterols in alcohol seems to tend to reduce the occurrence and onset of AD in some patients.

Hey, I don’t mind folks saying that you shouldn’t drink. It isn’t for everyone, and for those who don’t enjoy it or don’t partake for medical reasons, more power to you! But don’t make shit up, either. There are numerous studies, all credited and in use, that suggest that everything else being equal (no alcoholism, no other physiological condition like diabetes, etc.), drinking in moderation can be good for you. Especially if you’re in a risk group for heart attacks.

Then there’s the slobbering over the cute girl that you’ve been eyeing before you got drunk.

Look man, there are only three alcohol risks you should worry about:

  1. Waking up next to a paper bag special.
  2. Making an ass of yourself in front of the girl you really, really like.
  3. Being caught, on film, making an ass of yourself.

But seriously, getting drunk isn’t going to kill you unless you’re an angry drunk who picks fights, or the stubborn drunk who insists on driving home. I guess if you’re prone to be an alcoholic you might have some other concerns, but then you shouldn’t be drinking at all.