The effects of alcohol are not an exact science, for many different reasons. Therefore, the amount of alcohol that can affect you in the short-term, or the long term, varies greatly from one person to another. However, there are some general guidelines for when no alcohol is your best option.
When No Alcohol is Best
For some people, no alcohol is the wisest choice -- they should not drink, or should not drink at certain times. These are examples of when it is unsafe to drink at all. Other people might tell you something different, but you should not believe them.
- If you plan on getting pregnant, or are pregnant, or are breastfeeding, no alcohol is best.
- If you are taking medication which may interact with alcohol, no alcohol is best. Check with your pharmacist.
- If you have a medical condition which could be affected by alcohol, such as liver disease or stomach ulcer, no alcohol is best.
- If you have abstained successfully from alcohol for a year or more, often no alcohol is the best way to avoid a relapse.
When Caution Is Advised
There are also situations when you would be ill-advised to drink, so no alcohol might be best, or you should prepare to allow your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to return to 0.00 if you do drink before taking any risks.
- If you plan on driving, no alcohol is ideal. Even if you are under the legal limit, you are still impaired.
- If you are going to operate machinery or work with tools on which you could injure yourself, such as knives, hammers, saws etc, no alcohol is safest.
- If you are going to go swimming later, no alcohol reduces the risk of drowning.
- If you are taking care of children or other vulnerable people, no alcohol is the most responsible choice.
- If you are making a public performance, have an important meeting, or are taking an exam later, no alcohol will keep your head and voice clear.
When You Might Need Professional Help
Some people react badly to alcohol, or have life factors which make it unwise to drink. For these individuals, no alcohol is a good approach to any situation. The following are "red flags" for heavy drinkers, both because of the risk of dependence, and because of the risk of other consequences of alcohol use. If they apply to you, it may be time to think about getting help.
- If you have had a negative reaction and have felt ill after drinking alcohol in the past.
- If you are experiencing negative feelings, such as depression, anxiety or anger.
- If you are having long-term problems getting enough sleep.
- If you are experiencing relationship problems with someone you live with.
- If you ever lose control or become violent.
- If you have a hard time stopping once you have started drinking.
Miller, W. and Munoz, R. Controlling Your Drinking: Tools to Make Moderation Work For You. New York: Guilford.