When talking about drinking, most people will tell you that moderation is the key. You want to drink enough to get a good buzz and maybe lower your inhibitions a bit, but you don’t want to be “that guy.” You know the guy—the one who has a bit too much and spends the rest of the night trying to make time with a garden gnome.
You see, drinking has at least one potentially fatal flaw—the more you drink, the less you want to stop. Your perspective gets twisted and your judgment gets more impaired with each drink, so you are less likely to stop drinking after your eighth drink than your second. Still, you do have a limit on how much you can safely drink, and you’re going to have to find a way to know when you’re approaching it.
How do you define “too much” alcohol?
Depending on the kind of drinker you are, where you are, and why you’re drinking, there are different ways to define your alcohol limit. If you’re intending to get seriously drunk, your limit is pretty much when you’re passed out or in danger of medical problems. If you’re having a quick drink with your boss, your limit should be well before you start to lose your inhibitions and tell her exactly what you think of her.
The Public Health Agency suggests that men should drink no more than three to four units of alcohol per day and women should have no more than two to three units. These limits are designed to prevent not only immediate problems, but also long-term health problems as well.
Who can I trust to tell me when I’ve had enough?
A lot of people trust the bartender to know when it’s time to stop serving them. The problem with this idea is that the bartender is making money selling you drinks, so it’s in his best interest to push the limit a bit and sell you alcohol until you’re at or beyond your safe limit.
A good friend can help, but they have to be trustworthy and not too drunk themselves. If you trust your friend to tell you when you’ve had enough and he’s too busy trying to pry a fire extinguisher off the wall so he can see how the foam tastes in his drink, you’re probably going to go a drink or two past your limit.
If you have a designated driver in your group, he or she is a great choice to monitor your drinking. Of course, they may be too busy picking up all the attractive singles you’re too drunk to notice while you’re flirting with potted plants, but then everything involves risk, doesn’t it?
What are some ways to know when I’m approaching my limit on alcohol consumption?
One great trick to test your sobriety is straight from the police field sobriety test—the leg stand test. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the test consists of holding one leg six inches off the ground for thirty seconds. If you sway, hop, lower your leg, or fall, there’s an 83% chance that you’re drunk, according to the NHTSA. Mind you, it’s hard to imagine that only 17% of us would have problems doing this when sober.
Another good way to tell if you’re drunk is to try to observe people around you. If they tell you you’re drunk, you’re drunk. If they are moving away from you with great regularity, you’ve probably hit your limit and need to back off a bit.
If you want to go high tech, Gizmag reports the ultimate invention for drinkers—smart ice cubes. These cubes normally give your drink a comforting green glow, but when you approach your limit, the cubes begin to glow a warning shade of red. There are also relatively cheap breathalyzer tests you can use to be sure of exactly how close you are to your limit.
What are the risks of consuming too much alcohol?
There are a number of unpleasant long-term effects of alcohol consumption, including liver damage, depression, memory loss, weight gain, certain cancers, brain damage, and more. According to the Public Health Agency, there are also short-term effects that you should worry about, too.
The impaired judgment that comes with drinking too much alcohol can lead you to make decisions that put you in danger. You are at a greater risk of choosing to drive drunk, of being the victim of a crime, committing a crime, or damaging personal and professional relationships. The Public Health Agency even reports that 65% of suicides are linked to excessive drinking.
Drinking in moderation is generally healthy—drinking to excess, not so much. Whether you trust a friend to help keep you from going over your limit or if you use some tricks or gadgets to monitor yourself, it’s important to know when you’re approaching your alcohol limit. Going over that limit could be hazardous to your health, your career, and your life.