Happy Hour Fatigue

A look at our drinking culture

If you’re growing weary of wine lists and boozy cocktails, you may have happy hour fatigue. From work events to family gatherings, you’re never too far away from a drink. And while that’s not always a bad thing for everyone, today’s drinking culture can sometimes feel more like a hangover than a celebration. Healthline collaborated with the American Liver Foundation to talk about the way we consume alcohol, how that can affect our health and overall well-being, and why we should consider a healthier, happier happy hour.

The month of January can offer the perfect opportunity to explore the possibility of limiting or abstaining from alcohol. One campaign that can help you on the path to moderating or even abstaining from drinking is Dry January.

People who commit to Dry January abstain from drinking alcohol the entire month. The annual movement stems from a U.K.-based charity called Alcohol Concern, and Americans are also starting to jump on the “dry” bandwagon for the entire first month of the year.

Though Dry January first began in the United Kingdom back in 2013, the group's app, Dry January & Beyond, was downloaded by more than 36,000 people globally in 2017.
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Alcohol use in America

According to a 2015 national U.S. survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 86.4 percent of Americans over the age of 18 reported they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. This may include someone who drinks on a regular basis or someone who drank once and never again.

However, more than one-third of Americans over the age of 18 said they participated in binge drinking or heavy alcohol use in the past month. These numbers suggest Americans’ relationship with alcohol might not be as healthy as you might assume.

Experts estimate 16 million people over age 18 in the United States have alcohol use disorder. This condition is characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.

When broken down by sex, the overall number of women who drink compared to men is lower. But a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry reports the increase in the number of women engaging in high-risk drinking (four or more drinks per day at least weekly for a year) rose nearly 60 percent. This is compared to the 15 percent increase among men who have five or more drinks per day at least weekly for a year.

Heavy alcohol use also harms the economy. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that excessive alcohol use cost the United States $249 billion in the form of loss of productivity at work, healthcare expenses, and losses from law enforcement or motor vehicle accidents.
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How does this affect our health?

Alcohol can affect both your short- and long-term health. Some of the short-term health risks can include alcohol poisoning, miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal alcohol syndrome, or injuries from motor vehicle accidents or other accidents. The long-term effects on your health can include mental health issues, cancer, high blood pressure, or stomach ulcers.

Alcohol-related liver disease is also a major public concern. A 2018 study reports deaths from cirrhosis are rising. Between 1999 and 2016, annual deaths from cirrhosis in the United States increased by 65 percent to 34,174. Meanwhile, the death rate for liver cancer doubled to 11,073.

Researchers note people ages 25 to 34 experienced the highest rate of death from cirrhosis that developed entirely from alcohol-related liver disease.
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How much is too much?

  • Can you drink alcohol and still be responsible? The short answer is yes, as long as you understand how much is too much.
  • So, how do we know what’s safe? Experts recommend alcohol should be consumed in moderation. This is defined as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men.
  • The recommended guidelines also point out that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant shouldn’t drink, as well as anyone under 21 years old.
  • There’s also risks associated with drinking if you have certain health conditions, such as diabetes, liver problems, congestive heart failure, or high blood pressure.
  • Certain combinations of medication and alcohol can be dangerous as well. Talk to your doctor if you’re using prescription or over-the-counter drugs and alcohol.
  • If you or someone you know is regularly using alcohol excessively, help and support is out there. Some of the more common signs of alcohol use disorder include drinking more or longer than intended, wanting to cut back but unable to do so, and feeling effects of withdrawal when alcohol wears off.
  • Find a more comprehensive list of symptoms of alcohol use disorder here.

Takeaway

Liver disease is one of the more common long-term complications of excessive drinking. However, it’s important to note that alcohol misuse doesn’t lead to all cases of liver disease.

Liver disease can also result from genetic, metabolic, or environmental causes. But due to the stigma surrounding alcohol use disorder and substance use disorders in general, many people aren’t reaching out for the help and support they need. In fact, people with nonalcohol-related liver disease often feel compelled to actively disassociate themselves from alcohol-related liver disease.

The bottom line is this: Anyone dealing with liver disease — regardless of the cause — needs to know that help and support is available. For more information and resources from the American Liver Foundation, check out their page on Dry January. To donate, visit their donation page.

Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health.

Mocktail Recipes

Just because you’re looking to cut back on your alcohol consumption doesn’t mean your drink options need to be boring. Enter mocktails. These colorful drinks are a fun, yummy alternative, but without the alcohol. Check out some of our favorites, below.

Real stories

Each person's reason to either reduce how much they drink or abstain from drinking alcohol entirely can vary drastically. We spoke with three different people about their own perspectives and experiences with alcohol. They share their journeys and tips for readers who are looking to make a change.

Article resources:

• Alcohol use disorder. (n.d.). https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
• Ballard J. (2016). What is Dry January? DOI: 10.3399/2Fbjgp16X683173
• Excessive drinking is draining the U.S. economy. (2018). https://www.cdc.gov/features/costsofdrinking/index.html
• Fact sheets — alcohol use and your health. (2018). https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
• Grant BF, et al. (2017). Prevalence of 12-Month alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV alcohol use disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2161 • Harmful interactions. (2014). https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Medicine/medicine.htm
• Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. (n.d.). https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.htm#tab2-41b
• Tapper ED, et al. (2018). Mortality due to cirrhosis and liver cancer in the United States, 1999-2016: Observational study. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.k2817
• U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
• What are symptoms of alcohol use disorder? (n.d.). https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/How-much-is-too-much/Whats-the-harm/What-Are-Symptoms-Of-An-Alcohol-Use-Disorder.aspx