Guess What: Drinking Too Much Isn’t Good For You

“320,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes each year.”

It’s not unusual for friends to want to have a few drinks to celebrate or enjoy social occasions. But drinking to excess is another story. The harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths each year. And 320,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes each year—about 9 percent of all deaths in that age group4.

Men’s Health

  • Men who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners, increasing the risks of unintended pregnancy and STDs6. How to prevent more than hangovers.
  • Men consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women5.
  • Among drivers in fatal motor-vehicle traffic crashes, men are almost twice as likely as women to have been intoxicated5. How to get their keys without a fight.
  • Men are more likely than women to commit suicide, and more likely to have been drinking prior to committing suicide5. How to talk to a friend who may be drinking too much.
  • Excessive alcohol use can result in impotence, infertility and reduction of male secondary sex characteristics such as facial and chest hair5.
  • Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon in men5.

Women’s Health

  • Women who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners, increasing the risks of unintended pregnancy and STDs6. How to prevent more than hangovers.
  • Excessive drinking may disrupt menstrual cycling and increase the risk of infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and lead to birth defects6.
  • The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than men6.
  • Excessive drinking may result in memory loss and shrinkage of the brain. Research suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to the brain damaging effects of excessive alcohol use, and the damage tends to appear with shorter periods of excessive drinking for women than for men6.
  • Studies have shown that women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle than men6.
  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon. The risk of breast cancer also increases as alcohol use increases6.

Mixing Alcohol and Medications

Mixing alcohol with certain medications can be dangerous, causing nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting or loss of coordination. It also can put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems and difficulties in breathing. In some cases, alcohol can make a medication less effective, or even toxic to your body. Combining alcohol with another central nervous system depressant (such as painkillers) can slow your heartbeat and breathing and may lead to death12.

Don’t think the danger only applies to prescription medications—it can be equally dangerous to combine alcohol with many over-the-counter medications and even some herbal remedies. Many cough and cold medicines that don’t need a prescription can cause heart problems and trouble breathing if combined with alcohol12.

If you’re taking medication, always talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider before consuming alcohol.12

Mixing Alcohol with Marijuana and Other Illegal Drugs

As dangerous as it is to abuse illegal substances, combining them with alcohol increases the danger even more, and in some cases can be life-threatening:

Marijuana:

Mixing marijuana with alcohol will result in much greater impairment than either drug used alone — meaning you are more liable to get injured or make bad decisions. Marijuana's tendency to reduce nausea and suppress the gag reflex can also make it difficult for someone with a toxic blood alcohol level to vomit, thus increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning13,14.

Cocaine:

When people consume cocaine and alcohol together, they compound the danger of each drug and unknowingly perform a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to produce a third substance, cocaethylene, which increases the risk of sudden death15.

Sedatives:

Mixing alcohol with other barbiturates can be a lethal combination. An ordinary sedative dose of a barbiturate may combine with an ordinary intoxicating amount of liquor to leave behind a lethal dose of nerve-depressant alcohol13.

Opiates:

Combining alcohol with opiates like heroin, opium, morphine, codeine or methadone enhances the sedative effects of both drugs and increases the risk of overdose13.