Q&A: Karen Moses

There are many different side effects when it comes to drinking alcohol, but just as many waysto prevent harmful problems that may come with them. Karen Moses, the Director of ASU Wellness and a registered dietician explains, via email, her take on young adults and their drinking habits.

In your opinion, what is the healthiest way to consume alcohol?


Responsible use of alcohol involves: Do not drink alcohol if you are stressed, ill, or tired, taking medications, pregnant, nursing, or considering pregnancy, driving, underage or in violation of the law, recovering, or related to someone with alcoholism. Eat food before and while drinking. Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks, particularly water. Do not play drinking games. Have no more than one drink per hour. Drink no more than four times per week. Arrange for a designated sober driver and a safe way home. Make sure that there is a sober person who can act quickly and with good judgment in an emergency at all times. This is like having a lifeguard at the beach.

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Do certain types of alcohol have different effects on the body?


Alcohol has the same effect on the body regardless of which type of drink it is in. What may be different is the strength (or the proof) of the alcohol content. As a general rule, a “drink” of alcohol is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of liquor (hard alcohol). It is important to know how many ounces of liquor are in various mixed drinks to be aware of how much alcohol is being consumed.

What are the effects of binge drinking?


Some short term effects of binge drinking include slurred speech, problems with balance, dizziness, blurry vision, nausea, vomiting, sleep disturbance, impaired memory, and driving. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death. Mixing alcohol with prescription medications or other drugs can increase the harmful effects of alcohol. College students who report higher levels of alcohol consumption report lower cumulative grade point averages. It is also important to note that [in] most cases of sexual violence among college students, the victim, the assailant or both had been drinking alcohol.

Long-term effects of frequent binge drinking over time can have a negative health impact on many of the body’s systems. Alcohol disrupts normal sleep patterns, can lead to impotence and infertility, weight gain, blotchy skin, blackouts, memory loss, brain damage, mental health problems, alcohol dependence and alcoholism. Alcohol is also a significant risk factor for certain cancers: those of the mouth and throat. There is also some evidence that women who consume more alcohol have a higher risk for breast cancer. These are just a few of the negative effects of binge drinking over a prolonged period of time.

Is there any other pertinent information about the "healthiest way" to consume alcohol that you can share?


Many people believe that college students spend a lot of their time binge drinking. This is not the case at ASU and many other colleges and universities: 40 percent of ASU students don’t drink alcohol. 22.6 percent of ASU students had five or more drinks the last time they partied or socialized. Thus nearly 80 percent of ASU students did not “binge drink” (includes non drinkers). This data is from the American College Health Association—National College Health Assessment II for ASU in April 2013 (n=1,547)

Reach the writer at arleinin@asu.edu at Twitter @axela_leininger.

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