Being Safe with Alcohol in the Mix

By Felecia Sumner, D.O., Crozer-Keystone Family Medicine Physician

174675_2187Summer is here and with it comes barbecues, happy hours, graduation parties and tons of fun with those you love and care about.

In many cases, alcohol may play some role in those pleasurable moments. As you partake in alcoholic beverages, it’s important to keep in mind that moderation is key. If you find yourself drinking over the appropriate limit, you then put yourself at risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease and even cancer. To help you enjoy the fun in the sun, here are some strategies to ensure that if you do drink, you do so safely.

  • Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men. And, remember, depending on the alcohol content of your beverage choice, the actual amount you’re allowed to drink may differ. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) has a very helpful website that can help you ensure you’re not drinking too much by using their calculator.
  • If you don’t want to drink, don’t feel pressured. Keep company with those who are comfortable with your plan. Sometimes keeping a nonalcoholic beverage in your hand may allow you to feel more assured about your decision.
  • Keep track of how much you drink and be sure to “pace” your alcohol consumption. The average liver can only process approximately one drink (1/2 ounce of pure alcohol) per hour.
  • Avoid places where people intend to binge/drink a lot and play drinking games. These promote the abuse of alcohol and abuse of one’s body. Unfortunately, most alcohol-related deaths occur after individuals have consumed alcohol at a fast rate.
  • Never mix alcohol with other drugs (whether prescription or over-the-counter). If you have specific questions about this, please call your doctor.
  • Never drink and drive, or ride with an impaired driver.

If you find yourself in the company of someone who is intoxicated, here is some care advice:

  • 347929_7013Stay calm and assess the situation. Try your best not to let your anxiety transfer to the individual in trouble. Before approaching or touching the person, explain what you intend to do.
  • DO NOT permit the person to drive.
  • DO NOT try to walk, run, exercise the drunk person, or try to keep the person awake. This can cause further dehydration and excessive muscle inflammation.
  • DO NOT administer anything orally – food, liquid or drug – to sober the person up. The only thing that will sober a drunk person is time.
  • DO NOT give the person a cold shower. The shock may cause him/her to pass out and sustain an injury.
  • Stay with the intoxicated person who is vomiting. Lay the person on his/her side. Keep the person from swallowing vomit.
  • DO NOT attempt to constrain the person without sober assistance.
  • If a person is unresponsive, their skin is cold/clammy, or they are breathing less than 10 breaths per minute, call 9-1-1 and DO NOT LEAVE THEM.

Not only is it wise and kind for you to provide care to someone in an immediate situation, but this experience may be a cry for help.

Consult your personal health care provider if you feel you or someone you know has a drinking problem. Other resources include the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service available at 1-800-662-HELP.

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