Alcohol and New Year’s Eve: the rules of safe drinking

Alcohol and New Year’s Eve: the rules of safe drinking


It starts already in the afternoon with Happy hour and a couple of spritzes or a prosecco. We then continue with dinner with 2-3 glasses of wine and also afterwards in the disco, at the board games table, for a tombola or a game of cards with accompanying glasses of amaro, limoncello or spirits.

Moreover, Coldiretti’s estimates confirm that the end-of-year holidays record the highest demand for Italian sparkling wine with around 95 million sparkling wine corks uncorked in Italy alone, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve last year: over eight out of 10 Italians ( 84%) do not give up on making a Made in Italy toast at the end of the year. We are on holiday, these are festive days and we want to loosen up the brakes, but beware of losing sight of the effects that this accumulation of alcohol in the space of a few hours, the so-called binge drinkingcan have on your health.

How much can you drink?

From the systematic review of the scientific literature, it emerges that there is no healthy consumption of alcohol and there are no protective effects on health, even in small doses. “Women – he explains Emanuele Scafatodirector of the National Alcohol Observatory of the National Center for Addiction and Doping of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità – are the most vulnerable of all because their metabolic system functions differently”. For this reason the national guidelines recommend that an adult woman good health not to exceed a daily consumption of 1 alcoholic unit, while men must not exceed 2 alcoholic units. “This difference – continues the ISS expert – depends on the fact that the female organism has a lower body mass compared to humans, a smaller quantity of body water and less efficiency of the alcohol metabolising mechanisms”.

Never before the age of 18

The quantities also vary based on age and based on the latest indications of the Guidelines for healthy eating, alcohol cannot be consumed under the age of 18. The problem is that instead we start drinking earlier and earlier. According to the latest data from the National Alcohol Observatory of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, approximately 1 million and 370 thousand children aged between 11 and 25 drank alcohol in ways that were at risk for their health in 2021. In this age group , which includes adolescents just over children and young adults, 18.6% of males and 12.8% of females are at-risk consumers.

And then there’s the binge drinking, alcoholic binge drinking, a practice which in the year considered affected 11.4% of males and 6.4% of females aged 11-25. Among those under 18, 2.3% of males and 1.8% of females experienced binge drinking. Among 18-20 year olds, 72.3% of males and 62.2% of females consume alcoholic beverages, 300,000 drink in risky ways, 279,000 get drunk. “According to the Guidelines for healthy eating – underlines Scafato – minors under the age of 18 should not ingest alcohol and indeed the latest scientific research indicates that even up to the age of 21 it would be better to avoid this substance because it interferes with brain development. Moreover, Alcohol is toxic to our body and in fact it eliminates almost all of it through urine excretions.”

Holiday happy hour

In these days between Christmas and the Epiphany, the occasions for conviviality between aperitifs and dinners are more frequent and it is easy to overdo the toasts. “There is a social and cultural deformation of being together. After all, just look at what the open bars offer where in exchange for a fixed sum you can drink without limits”, warns Scafato who suggests some measures to avoid exaggerating: “Better eat something before drinking to slow down the absorption of alcohol and choose what to drink by checking the alcohol content. Furthermore, you need to know how to dose the quantities of alcohol well taking into account the various social commitments. If we start with happy hour at 6pm and then we have an aperitif and followed by an after-dinner session, we add quantities of alcohol which – even if diluted over time – cause damage because it takes the body three hours to dispose of a glass of an alcoholic drink, so if in those three hours instead of giving If the liver is able to dispose of that glass, if we add one after the other we are causing damage to our health.”

Resist the temptation of New Year’s Eve

The temptation to experiment with the effects of alcohol could be stronger among 16-18 year olds who, on the occasion of their first New Year’s Eve party away from home with friends, allow themselves to be persuaded to try drinks or other alcoholic beverages, fearing that if they don’t do as they do others are still judged to be small and socially isolated. “Kids – explains Scafato – approach alcohol because it makes them feel uninhibited, but in reality that feeling of euphoria they feel immediately after drinking is only transitory and even if at the moment it helps them to be more relaxed, to find the courage of looking into each other’s eyes can later create forms of dependence because from time to time to experience that same sensation again he will need greater quantities of alcohol.”

The damage to the brain

In addition to the risk of developing a real addiction, excessive alcohol consumption in children can damage the brain. The absorbed alcohol passes from the blood to the liver, which has the task of destroying it via an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. Only when the liver has completely fulfilled this function is the concentration of alcohol in the blood reduced to zero. But this alcohol disposal system is not the same in all people, it is not completely efficient before the age of 21 and is inefficient up to the age of 16. “Unfortunately, today’s teenagers drink according to the pattern of binge drinking by taking 5-6 concentrated alcoholic drinks in a single moment. Following this trend, every year 39,000 cases of alcohol poisoning arrive in our emergency rooms, of which 10% therefore almost 4000 people concern children under 14 years of age”.

Road accidents after the holidays

Among other things, the risk of excessive alcohol consumption during the New Year holidays also concerns road accidents at the end of the night. “In Italy – Scafato points out – a large share of mortality is related to alcohol-related road accidents and it may not take much to exceed the legal limits and encounter an accident which may perhaps also involve people who do not drink but are of the innocent victims of other people’s drinking”. The data confirms this: last year, in 17% of cases the motorists who were victims or involved were driving drunk or at least at an irregular rate. During normal roadside checks, almost 20% of motorists stopped tested positive for alcohol. “Responsibility is needed, especially on New Year’s Eve, when young people return from the celebrations having drunk more than eaten. In fact, this is one of the periods in which there is a peak in mortality on the roads due to alcohol-related accidents, especially among young people. understand that those who drink should not drive and vice versa”.

Alcohol and teenagers, how to help a child who drinks

Reduced consumption after the age of 65

But the limits also concern adults who have exceeded a certain age. For example, those over sixty-five should never consume more than one glass of an alcoholic drink per day and in particular in elderly women it has been seen that alcohol intake, even moderate, can worsen and accelerate the degeneration of the neurological and psychological sphere. Furthermore, people over 65 are often on drug therapy and alcohol can interfere with many medications.

How to stay sober

Among those who must keep their alert threshold high are former alcoholics who have managed to detox or are completing a process. How to stay sober when everyone invites you to toast? “Generally, in the families of former alcoholics or those who are trying to overcome an alcohol addiction there are no alcoholic drinks in the house and perfumes are also eliminated precisely to prevent them from falling into temptation”, replies Scafato who adds: “For these people the relapse is always around the corner especially these days and therefore they must avoid contexts in which they drink and should warn all those who frequent them of their situation in order to avoid the embarrassment of having to speak in public perhaps more times of their problem”. And so as not to completely give up a toast, you can opt for non-alcoholic drinks. The alcohol-free drinks market offers a wide range of products, from classic non-alcoholic drinks such as water and fruit juices, to sophisticated drinks such as mocktails and alcohol-free beers.

The health effects

It certainly won’t be the toasts of these festive days that put us at risk (provided we don’t exaggerate), but if we consume alcohol consistently over time, our health is affected, starting with the liver: “Anyone who abuses alcohol – explains the director of Ona – has hepatic steatosis, but if he keeps abstaining from alcoholic beverages he will see this damage completely regress. On the contrary, if he continues to drink the damage progresses; in 40-60% of these people chronic inflammation of the cells appears of the liver; also in this case, by stopping drinking, the damage can still be reversed. Conversely, by continuing to drink, 20-25% of patients progress from chronic hepatitis to liver cirrhosis”. Excessive alcohol consumption is also linked to a greater risk of cancer.



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