Cheers for the holidays

December 29, 2015 Bobbie (Barbara) J. Severson, ARNP

Tis the holiday season and everyone is expected to be in good cheer. Guess what enhances good cheer? For many people, it’s alcohol. Don’t you find it amazing that a little alcohol can make life easier to tolerate? Spirits, vino, hooch, sauce, brewskis or devil's juice can give the illusion that everyone and everything is much more interesting, funny and tolerable. Besides, why not indulge in your favorite beverage? People often believe that alcohol makes the world go round. But really, does it? Sometimes alcohol can cause your world to flip upside down and get you into trouble.

Consider multiple sclerosis (MS) and alcohol. Depending on the location of demyelinating lesions in your brain and/or spinal cord, and the side effects of your medications, you may already feel as though you have had a drink or two. Dizziness, imbalance, altered coordination and an unsteady gait may exist as part of your “normal” MS world. Add alcohol and, wow, you could become much more impaired. Alcohol can affect these same areas of your central nervous system and also contribute to the negative side effects of your medications.

Alcohol combined with MS becomes a safety consideration. No one is telling you not to drink. But do so with caution. Talk to your healthcare providers about the risks of consuming alcohol with MS, and also inquire about the interactive effect alcohol has with your medications (MS and non-MS drugs).

The term “drink responsibly” is important. Why do we care about your alcohol consumption? Because our top priority is your health and safety. Alcohol misuse can lead to:

• Decreased medication adherence
• Poor self-management of health
• Increased hospitalizations (broken bones from falls and other trauma)
• Higher mortality rates
• Increased violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault and intimate partner violence

In 2010, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults ages 20 to 64. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion.

How do we define alcohol misuse?

• Women: Seven drinks a week; three drinks a day
• Men: 14 drinks a week; four drinks a day

During this holiday season, think about the consequences of drinking and do it responsibly. Be safe.


American Journal of Preventative Medicine 2015
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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