Frequently Asked Questions about Alcohol

What are facts?

Facts are information we use in discussing something of significance. Here are a few facts about how alcohol can affect your family, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbors and your children in your state.

Isn’t drinking a glass of wine healthy? Yes and no. According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol, especially if there is a family history of alcohol use disorders. Staying within the low risk guidelines is key and while several studies have focused on red wine specifically, it is not clear which parts of the wine may have positive impacts on heart health. Any links between wine and heart health are not completely understood and more research is needed. For people who do not currently drink, studies have shown that adding regular alcohol consumption does not improve their health. In addition, the CDC notes that chronic alcohol use affects every organ and system of the body. It can lead to medical disorders (e.g., fetal alcohol syndrome, liver disease, cardiomyopathy and pancreatitis). Heavy drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers. Drinking increases the risk of death from automobile crashes, as well as recreational and on-the-job injuries. Furthermore, both homicides and suicides are more likely to be committed by persons who have been drinking (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).

Why do some people react differently to alcohol than others? Individual bodies react to alcohol in various ways, even among people in the same family or for the same person on different days. Many factors influence the impact of drinking alcohol, including: age, sex/gender, race and ethnicity, physical fitness level, weight, presence of medicines or other drugs in the body, amount of food eaten prior to drinking, how rapidly alcohol is consumed and a family history of alcohol problems.

How does alcohol affect a person? Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system, which means that it slows down the operations of the body. It is quickly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Alcohol is processed by the liver with enzymes that can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, while the rest is circulating throughout the body. The intensity of alcohol's effect on a person’s body is directly related to the amount they drank.

Everyone drinks too much; is it really a big deal? This is a common misperception, however, according to recent survey results, (2015 BRFSS) over 40 percent of Iowans did NOT drink at all in the last 30 days. Over a third of Iowans (35.6 percent) only had an average of one drink on the days that they did drink. Those reporting binge drinking made up 19.8 percent. Unfortunately, this number is higher than the national average, with only five states having a higher prevalence of binge drinking than Iowa.

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