Alcohol related problems negatively impact families, schools, businesses and the community as a whole. Alcohol is the most abused substance in Iowa, but is often used with other drugs, increasing the negative effects. Many of these problems can be prevented by increasing our knowledge of alcohol and developing plans to increase safety and protect what is most important.

Most people are unaware of how much alcohol they are actually consuming, but setting a standard can help us to raise our awareness. A standard drink of alcohol is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof spirits. As the percentage of alcohol increases, the size of the drink of the standard drink will decrease. Though this may be easy to manage when drinking premade versions, like cans of beer, mixed drinks can be a little tricky. Those that choose to drink margaritas or other made drinks, may want to ask how much alcohol was put into the drink. For instance, a small margarita is usually about 2 standard drinks, but sometimes the margaritas are larger and have more alcohol in them, so they might be more like 5-6 standard drinks. On average, 3 standard drinks can put most people over the legal limit of .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), increasing the risk of an accident. There are factors that can increase BAC, but how somebody physically feels is not an accurate indicator of how high their BAC may be, so paying attention to the amount you drink is vitally important.

People usually underestimate how long it takes for the body to metabolize alcohol and lower a person’s BAC. It can take 1-2 hours to metabolize the alcohol from just one standard drink. There are those that think having a glass of water or taking a short nap will lower their BAC so they can safely drive, but that is just not the case. Depending on how many standard drinks they consumed, a person may not drop below the legal limit until late the next morning and even after reaching the legal limit, mental abilities may still be impaired. The best recommendation is that if somebody is drinking alcohol, then they should not drive.

Increased health problems may result from binge drinking or using other substances, like stimulants with alcohol. Binge drinking involves consuming drinks so fast that the body can’t keep up, leading to a rapid and dangerous increase in a person’s BAC. When alcohol is mixed with stimulants, like energy drinks, people tend to drink more than usual as they feel a sense of alertness. Without the stimulant present, the depressant aspect of alcohol will kick in and your body will naturally slow down. When adding a stimulant to the mix, your body isn’t experiencing any of the normal warning signs that they need to slow down or stop drinking altogether. This can lead to alcohol poisoning, where the blood becomes toxic, and can resulted in serious health problems, including death.

It is recommended that those under the age of 21 avoid any health and legal problems by not consuming alcohol. Research shows that the younger somebody begins drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to develop health related problems, including addiction.

For those over the age of 21, it is recommended that they error on the side of safety. Feelings of relaxation generally occur after 1-2 standard drinks, but drinking too much, drinking too fast and mixing with other substances can quickly increase the likelihood of problems occurring. Those that choose to consume alcohol can protect the things that are important by being safe.