What is excessive alcohol abuse?

Alcohol Testing The Science
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Excessive alcohol

On the one hand excessive alcohol abuse can be difficult to clarify, there are various factors that govern our ability to consume alcohol and negate its effects at different rates.

 However what is clear that there are no safe drinking levels, so the term “Excessive Alcohol Abuse” has been put together to determine at what level will an individual be causing significant harm to themselves and those around them..

The old government advice is that men should drink no more than 3-4 units per day (2 pints of lager) and 2-3 units for women (standard glass of wine). New research that is being published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is inline with the Australian Cancer Council showing that even one drink is too many. But at what stage can it be defined as excessive alcohol abuse?

A general rule is difficult to apply, as each persons body reacts to alcohol differently. An Individual's metabolism or how they break down alcohol will vary.

Alcohol metabolism is controlled by genetic factors, these variations in the enzymes factor how our bodies break down the alcohol. Other environmental factors, such as the persons overall health and current levels of nutrition need to be considered.

For the UK courts, excessive alcohol abuse is defined as ¾ a bottle of wine every day over a 3 month period. This equates to roughly 7.5 units per day.

A persons metabolism level can put people at greater risk of alcohol effects, whereas others are more “protected” from alcohol's harmful effects. To become an excessive alcohol drinker, an individual will need to drink alcohol at a high enough frequency ( 7.5 units a day) to register excessive in a hair alcohol test.

Another factor is the type of alcohol consumed, as each alcohol product can vary significantly in potency. Therefore, there are various factors that contribute to excessive alcohol abuse, and why sometimes the matter isn't exactly a black and white situation.   

Metabolism is key

No matter how much alcohol is consumed, the body can only break down a particular quantity an hour. The amount varies per person and depends on various factors such as liver size and body mass.

ADH and ALDH are two enzymes that break down the alcohol molecule, these enzymes also vary widely in ability, the more of these two enzymes an individual has, the easier it is for a person to break down alcohol.

Not all ADH and ALDH enzymes are the same and can vary between people, this can be traced back to our genetics. ADH and ALDH vary in ability in different races, making some races more susceptible to alcohol related issues than others.

Environmental issues shouldn't be ignored as they play can play a more important part, for example, more Native American’s die from alcohol than any other Americans, even though they have the same enzymes, this suggest that environmental factors play an important role.

In the end the question that has to be asked, what is the capacity of an individual to take care of a child when intoxicated, if that child needed emergency assistance then any level of alcohol could be severely detrimental to their chances of survival.

If you ask a child, they will tell you clearly that if their “mummy” or “daddy” has had a glass of alcohol, they are not the same person.

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