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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Alcohol

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Combining bipolar illness with alcoholism may make both conditions much worse

Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

As a former mental health nurse and recovering alcoholic, I write a lot about alcohol use and mental health. To my mind, not enough has been done to educate the general public about the dangers of alcohol use combined with mental illness. I have witnessed many people fall through the cracks in the health care system and I myself have struggled with severe depression and anxiety that resolved when I quit drinking.

Experts have found that mental health disorders (particularly anxiety) are exacerbated by alcohol use. This is because the same symptom of alcohol withdrawal is anxiety, and this symptom…


The evolutionary argument for happy hour

Photo by Caro Sheridan

Did you find yourself drinking too much during Covid shutdown? You’re not alone. Well, metaphorically at least. From mid-March to mid-May 2020, during the initial phase of the pandemic, alcohol sales around the world skyrocketed, increasing anywhere from 40% to 60% over pre-pandemic levels, with distilled liquor sales increasing more rapidly than sales of wine and beer. Some analysts argued that this retail surge merely reflected a shift from drinking at bars and restaurants to imbibing at home, but this in itself is a serious concern.

That is because, even if we were not alone in drinking more or drinking…


There are plenty of people whose health can’t afford a daily drink

Photo: Lisa Schaetzle/Getty Images

I am an alcoholic in recovery.

Before I quit drinking five years ago, I meandered through a slippery contemplation phase for several years. I knew I had a problem, but the perceived relief I got from drinking outweighed my desire to do something about my addiction. Instead, I tried to follow the safe drinking guidelines as a way to manage my relationship with alcohol.

Safe drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Moderate weekly drinking would then be less than seven drinks…


Photo: Alex Mecl/Unsplash

For the most part, getting a Covid-19 vaccination shouldn’t change any of your typical health, fitness, or wellness routines, or at least not for more than a day or two. Still, it’s reasonable to have questions about whether you should hold off on certain things, such as working out, drinking alcohol, or taking certain medications. Below are some of the common questions people have about what they should or shouldn’t do after vaccination related to their own health. …


The real reason women should drink less than men

Woman holding a wine glass filled with red wine.
Woman holding a wine glass filled with red wine.
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

It’s no surprise to anyone that drinking has increased dramatically as a result of the pandemic. As a pattern, drinking increases with any extreme stressor, and recent market research shows that alcohol sales went up by 55% during the pandemic’s peak.

This increased alcohol use has been particularly notable among women. Though even before 2020, women were beginning to drink more. What many may not realize is that women tend to have worse outcomes from increased drinking — worse outcomes in health issues, psychological consequences, and progression to an alcohol use disorder.

As a recovering alcoholic, former nurse, and middle-aged…


How choice justification distorts our view of reality

Photo: Markus Gann/EyeEm/Getty Images

It’s 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. You’ve had a hard day and still have a long list of “to-dos” to tackle before it ends and need something to help you relax and get through. A glass of wine or a beer should do the trick. You’re working from home, so no big deal. In fact, you deserve this, right?

I’m modeling this scenario after one that several patients in my outpatient clinic (which, I might add, specializes in addiction psychiatry) have replayed for me. More and more, I’m seeing patients come in wondering if their increased alcohol use is a…


In a pandemic, limiting access to alcohol may do more harm than good

Photo: Kyle Wagner/Unsplash

I recently hit my five-year mark without a drop of alcohol. Given how stressful the past year has been, I often pat myself on the back for getting through without a drink. Sadly, drinking has increased at alarming rates during the pandemic. Countries like Canada, the U.K., Australia, and the United States have all seen significant increases in alcohol use and abuse. Indeed, as stress increases, coping mechanisms proliferate — both the healthy and unhealthy ones.

It’s understandable why people often turn to alcohol in times of stress. The first few drinks feel like a warm blanket pulled over our…


Should a 30-year-old recommendation be cut in half?

Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images

For the past 30 years, the USDA has advised men to limit themselves to two alcoholic drinks per day. The reasoning: Binge drinking (defined, for men, as consuming five drinks in two hours) isn’t the only type of drinking that harms health. Consuming more than two drinks per day, or 14 total per week, is considered heavy drinking and is linked to a battery of issues, including cancer, alcoholism, cognitive problems, and injuries.

With the publication of the new 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) at the tail end of 2020, the recommendations on drinking remain the same. …


“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. “Everyone telling you, ‘Be of good cheer,’” sings Andy Williams in his 1963 holiday tune. But this holiday season, it might take a little more than a nostalgic song to get into the holiday spirit. For some people, that might be a mug of eggnog or a glass or two of wine. There’s a widespread assumption that alcohol cheers you up and reduces stress. And while it’s true that alcohol is an anesthetic and can blunt the brain and body’s response…


Not enough alcoholics are educated about this

Image: VSRao/Pixabay

My father died of alcoholic liver cirrhosis four years ago. It came as a surprise to all of us, even though it was clear he had a severe drinking problem for decades. It was especially surprising to me, as a former nurse and a recovering alcoholic. You would think I’d know more about liver problems and alcohol use than the average person. But the truth is, in the months before his death, I had no idea my father’s liver was struggling at all. …

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