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April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which is an excellent opportunity to look at your relationship with alcohol and reevaluate dangerous drinking behaviors.

The fact is, over half of Americans have consumed alcohol in the past month. Some people drink daily, some only drink on special occasions. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 26.9 percent of Americans have been on a binge (four drinks in two hours for women, five for men) in the last month. Binge drinking is a particular problem, and frequent binge drinking turns into heavy alcohol use.

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 15.1 million adults in the United States have “alcohol use disorder,” otherwise known as alcoholism. So, what should you be thinking about before reaching for that beer?

Here are a few things you should consider before you take a drink (or another drink):

Are you going to have to drive?

The only genuinely safe amount of alcohol in your bloodstream before driving is zero. If you plan on driving yourself (or, even more importantly, somebody else) home, you should not consume alcohol.

As stated by Healthline, “…an average-sized person, the liver can only break down about one standard drink per hour”. A standard drink is considered which about one glass of wine is or half a pint of beer. This does not mean you wait an hour after drinking to get behind the wheel. You are still at risk for drunk driving.  Driving while intoxicated can end up with significant legal consequences or, worse, get somebody killed.

Are you binge drinking?

The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “binge drinking” as four drinks in two hours for women or five for men (women metabolize alcohol differently, in addition to being smaller). Essentially, this means you are drinking alcohol faster than your body is processing it.

In extreme cases, this can even lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. Maybe they get behind the wheel and get nailed for DWI/DUI.

Repeated binge drinking can affect your heart, kidneys, lungs, and pancreas according to Healthline. In other words, you should drink less and slow down to give your body a chance to metabolize one drink before starting on the next.

Are you dehydrated?

Before you reach for another drink, ask if you are getting dehydrated. The diuretic effect of alcohol can easily lead to dehydration and low mineral levels.  It is always important to drink water, especially if you are consuming alcohol.

The symptoms of this include headaches, weakness, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Sound familiar? Yes, I just described a hangover. You should drink a glass of water for each unit of alcohol.

Are you trying to lose weight?

Alcohol is empty calories, and they call it a “beer belly” for a reason. Did you know a pint of beer could contain as many calories as a large slice of pizza? If you want to cut back on the amount of alcohol you consume, check out the Drinkware app to track calories.

Can you stop drinking on your own?

Have people in your life told you that you have a problem? Alcohol abuse is prevalent in our society, encouraged by how socially acceptable drinking is (unlike most other drugs).

Is alcohol affecting your ability to work, study, and sustain relationships? Take note if you have any of the symptoms of alcohol abuse, which might include not being able to stop, having problems with work, quitting other activities, or drinking even though you don’t want to.

If you choose to drink you should do so in moderation and responsibly. Drunk drivers cause too many accidents. If you are caught driving while intoxicated, you might have to go to alcohol dependence therapy, and you may have to drive with an ignition interlock to keep you from driving while drunk again. If you are facing DWI/DUI or related charges, then you should contact Draeger, Inc. to find out about our ignition interlock program and how it can help you get back on the road. And remember, think before you drink.

*Links to any third-party websites herein are provided for your reference and convenience only. Dräger did not create nor develop, and does not own, any such third-party websites. Dräger does not endorse nor support the content of, nor any opinions stated in, any such third-party website links. Dräger is not responsible for the content of any third-party website or its accuracy or reliability. Nothing contained in this article or in any such third-party website shall be considered legal advice or be deemed to constitute legal advice. For any legal advice concerning a DUI arrest, charge, conviction or consequences thereof, you should contact an attorney of your choice.