1. Responsible consumption 2. What amount is regarded as responsible consumption?
- Responsible Consumption is not only about how much alcohol we consume, but when, how and to what extent such consumption affects others.
- Responsible Consumption means to drink for fun, socially, and in moderation.
- Responsible Consumption means to refrain from drinking when it could harm or threaten the safety of others, as is the case when one is going to sit behind the wheel or perform labor involving the risk of accident or in the event of pregnant women.
- Responsible Consumption where parents are concerned means to be aware of the risks involved in underage alcohol consumption and set an example to one’s children in terms of how alcohol should be treated.
3. Alcohol consumption and driving
The same amount of alcohol does not have the same effect on everyone. Certain general guidelines have however been laid down in international literature and by the World Health Organization (WHO) constituting Low-risk Consumption. The said guidelines do not concern people with a history of alcoholism or with health problems affected by alcohol or young people, whose body is not mature yet.
The amount based on which consumption is usually measured is the Standard Drink, i.e. 8-13 g of ethyl alcohol.
This amount corresponds to the following – bearing in mind our habits at all times:
- 30 ml of a drink of approximately 40% vol.
- 100 ml of a wine with a content of approximately 12%.
- 250 ml of a beer with a content of approximately 5%.
Recommended upper limit for men:
- Up to three (3) standard drinks per day.
- Up to fifteen (15) standard drinks per week.
- At least two (2) days without consuming any alcohol.
Recommended upper limit for women:
- Up to two (2) standard drinks per day.
- Up to ten (10) standard drinks per week.
- At least two (2) days without consuming any alcohol.
It is obvious that women are more susceptible to alcohol due to their lower body weight on one hand and the lower water content of their body on the other hand, not to mention their low ADH activity levels, ADH being the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach.
It is noted that the above refers to Recommended Limits, not Recommended Consumption.
4. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Since alcohol dissolves in water, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and rapidly reaches the brain, thus affecting our reactions. Our reflexes slow down, our vision is impaired and risks or degree of danger are easily underestimated. That is why Blood Alcohol Content limits have been established.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limits vary among the EU countries and amount to 0.5 g/l in Greece, measured by blood sampling. When breath alcohol tests are performed, the limit mentioned above is reduced to half.
One (1) standard drink increases the blood alcohol content by an average of 0.2–0.3 g/l. That content varies depending on the gender, weight, meals and other factors, which is why it cannot be interpreted as a consumption guideline.
What is of extreme importance is that food may slow down alcohol’s absorption into the bloodstream but cannot speed up its elimination from the body. As a result, after an evening during which a large amount of alcohol was consumed, the blood alcohol content may be higher than the limit mentioned above in the next morning.
5. Young people and alcohol
The alcohol consumed by a mother-to-be during pregnancy freely passes through the placenta to the fetus. The development and function of the fetus’ organs have not been completed yet and, as a result, alcohol cannot be eliminated at the same speed as in an adult’s body, thus posing a burden on both organs and tissues due to the presence of alcohol.
As regards breastfeeding, alcohol crosses to the mother’s breast milk and may cause irritation, undernourishment and sleep disorders. Alcohol is rejected from the breast milk at a pace of approximately one (1) standard drink every two (2) hours.
« Excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to the health and annihilates any prospects of education or employment for thousands of young boys and girls, in many cases killing young people who would otherwise have had their whole lives ahead of them.»
Member of the European Commission, Responsible for Health
Europe is on full alert against alcohol consumption by young people. Young people are particularly vulnerable, seeing as one out of four deaths of people aged between 15 and 29 is related to alcohol consumption and, according to the results of a recent study, 19% of people aged between 15 and 24 drink at least five (5) alcohol units in every occasion.
Europe has recently started bearing witness to the establishment of a dangerous consumption practice among young people, consisting in targeted and heavy alcohol consumption described as “binge drinking” (consumption leading to intoxication or going out with the primary intention of becoming intoxicated). This reflects an entire new threat that needs to be curbed. The figures provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) on binge drinking among young people are particularly disheartening, ranking Greece in one of the middle places.
A very important parameter highlighted by a study conducted by the National Documentation and Information Center on Drugs (EKTEPN) in 2007 concerning alcohol consumption by adolescents and young people has to do with the fact that the vast majority (65.4%) of adolescents consume alcoholic beverages in venues where alcohol consumption by people under 17 years of age is prohibited pursuant to the existing law. That percentage increases even more if we add 4.6% reporting consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants (Source: National Action Plan to Reduce the Harmful Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Health 2008-2012, Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity, 2008).
Alcohol may at first give the illusion of freedom, this feeling is however most likely to be succeeded by a distressing mood. An intoxicated person may cause problems to his/her relations with friends or family and most often with strangers.
There is a dire need of informing young people and that needs to start during their adolescent years, so that responsible alcohol consumption can be consolidated as a consumption behavior pattern. Last but not least, it is imperative that people who serve alcoholic beverages adopt a responsible attitude.
7. Quick tips to enjoy your drink
1. Does the addition of juices or soft drinks to alcohol reduce its effect?
The rule is simple when it comes to consumption and has to do with the alcohol contained in the glass. That is what counts.
2. Is there any difference between consuming wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages?
What matters is the amount of alcohol consumed and not the beverage itself. In other words, one must take into account not only the alcohol content of the beverage, but the amount consumed as well.
3. Does coffee help a person sober up?
Caffeine may help stimulate the reflexes, but cannot help eliminate alcohol from the body nor sober someone up. Cold showers or physical exercise do not yield any practical results either, in terms of the time required for the body to eliminate alcohol.
4. How does alcohol affect behavior?
Excessive alcohol consumption does not only affect our reflexes and judgment, but our behavior as well. We may find ourselves doing things we would not otherwise be doing, saying things we would not be saying, quarrelling, becoming aggressive. Responsible Consumption can help us avoid engaging in unwanted situations due to the effect of alcohol.
i. Control how much you drink!
If you are not at home for hours in a row or if a night out lasts longer than expected, it is easy to consume large amounts. Try to alternate alcohol with water or juices, so as to provide your body with plenty of time to reject the previous amounts and reduce your alcohol consumption. Particularly if you intend to dance, drinking water will help the body avoid getting dehydrated by alcohol.
ii. Eat before you drink!
Even if you have planned a night out after work, make sure you eat a snack before drinking. Food helps prepare the stomach and slows down alcohol’s absorption into the bloodstream.
iii. Get organized before going out!
Plan your way back home before leaving the house. Decide whether or not to take the car and, if yes, who the designated driver will be. If you decide to drive, make sure you have some money on you for a cab in case you need it. If not, check the departure times of the last convenient bus or metro itinerary.