Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Thinking About Your Drinking
Our ideas and beliefs about alcohol consumption are usually learned from family and the cultural experiences we had while growing up. Many people, including Veterans, are surprised when they discover that what they assumed was a normal pattern of alcohol consumption may be alcohol abuse.
The fact that a person has never had a DUI or legal problem associated with alcohol use does not indicate the absence of a problem. Also, even if you “don’t get into trouble” when drinking, alcohol may still negatively affect your health.
Some people should never drink alcohol. This includes women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Additionally, those recovering from alcoholism, or those unable to control how much they consume, should also avoid alcohol.
For those who do drink alcohol, how much is too much? On average, women should have no more than one drink per day, and men no more than two drinks per day. Drinking more than this amount on a regular basis can cause health issues, or make existing problems worse.
Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of unintentional injuries, unexpected violence and high-risk sexual behavior. It also can make mental health problems worse, including depression and anxiety. Also, some prescription and over-the-counter medications do not mix with alcohol and can cause harmful health issues.
Almost every organ in the body can be negatively affected by too much alcohol. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, stomach problems and dementia. Alcohol also can negatively affect sleep.
Even if you don’t think you have an alcohol problem, be sure to let your health care provider know about any alcohol use. It is important to find out about possible dangerous interactions with medications or whether alcohol use is causing other health problems.
Veterans often decide to cut back on alcohol once they know how it is affecting their health. VA providers are trained to regularly ask about alcohol use to educate Veterans about the dangers of excessive consumption. If you are concerned about your drinking, talk to your VA health care provider, or call the Truman VA Behavioral Health Department at (573) 814-6486. Help is available.
Here’s to your health!
To learn more about how alcohol can affect your health, visit www.prevention.va.gov/Healthy_Living/Limit_Alcohol.asp.