With the country already in a festive mood, and most South Africans enjoying some down time following a rather hectic and challenging year, the need to take a drink or two has become more appealing.
However, the dangers of over-indulging are always there and more than ever, one’s health and social tolerance should remain a key factor when trying to strike a balance between fun and responsible drinking.
Affinity Health CEO, Murray Hewlett has cautioned against excessive and binge drinking which he says has its drawbacks for those who are travelling on the roads following a night out with friends and family.
“With the holiday season in full swing, many of us are taking advantage of the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family, with drinking being a component of the festivities. However, the aftermath of excessive drinking can cast a shadow over the holiday season. Fortunately, there are ways to keep within your limitations while still having a good time,” he says.
According to Hewlett, binge drinking is associated with particular risks to health, including damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach.
“Another immediate danger of drinking too much is impaired judgment. You're likely to make poor decisions and engage in risky behaviours when you have had one too many. Frequent and excessive drinking can also lead to alcohol dependence and addiction, and – because alcohol is a depressant – it can worsen negative emotions like anger, depression and anxiety,” he says.
According to Hewlett, those who partake in having a drink-infused social life should always know their limits.
“Understanding your personal alcohol tolerance is essential. Be aware of how much alcohol you can consume before feeling the effects. It’s important to recognise when you’ve had enough and to stop drinking to avoid overindulgence. Before attending festive gatherings or parties, decide on a specific number of drinks you’ll consume and stick to it. Having a predetermined limit can help you avoid excessive drinking and its potential consequences,” he said.
Another good trick is to alternate one’s drink with non-alcoholic beverages to smooth things out and for people to always have a healthy meal before drinking.
“Intermingle alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic options, such as water, soda, or mocktails. This not only helps pace your drinking but also keeps you hydrated and reduces the overall alcohol intake.
“Consuming a meal before drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol in your bloodstream and mitigate its effects. Opt for a balanced meal that includes carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to help buffer the alcohol's impact on your body.”
Most people in social gatherings are always accompanied by friends and family, Hewlett says the trick is to not fall into being peer-pressured by those around us.
“Resist the temptation to drink more than you're comfortable with. Surround yourself with friends and family who respect your choices and support responsible drinking,” he says.
When all else fails, Hewlett recommends having a designated driver or calling a cab home to avoid being caught by the police or even causing an accident that could have been avoided.
“Did you know 58% of South African road fatalities are alcohol-related? If you plan to drink, arrange for a designated driver or consider alternative transportation options such as taxis, rideshares, or public transit. Never drink and drive, as it endangers your safety and the safety of others on the road,” he adds.