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Alcohol: How Much Is Too Much?

We consulted St. John Providence's Brighton Center for Recovery to find out if we're overindulging.

News stories touting the health benefits of a daily glass of red wine seem to pop up several times each year. While scientific research has shown that the resveratrol in red wine can offer some benefits for heart health, so too can a glass of red grape juice, points out Raymond Waller who is the Director of St. John Providence's Brighton Center for Recovery.

"There are a number of studies demonstrating that resveratrol can also be obtained as well from most red grapes or red grape juice," he says. As the individual who oversees the 99-bed inpatient hospital and outpatient facility for drug and alcohol addiction treatment in Brighton, Waller regularly reminds patients and others with whom he interacts that alcohol is an addictive substance. "Some people have a greater chance of becoming an alcoholic based on heredity," he says. "A person who has an alcoholic parent is more likely to become an alcoholic him or herself. Unfortunately, our genes don't send us a text message letting us know if we got that gene." Waller points out that many of the patients who come to the Brighton Center for Recovery started out drinking only "socially" or "moderately."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate drinking as consuming up to one drink a day for women and up to two per day for men. The Dietary Guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicate that despite any potential health benefits of alcohol, moderate drinking is also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.

In Waller's daily work he interacts with patients battling alcohol addiction, many of whom are experiencing not only the physical effects of the disease but psychosocial ones, including depression. "My best advice to anyone who wants 100 percent assurance that they won't become addicted to alcohol and have to deal with the family disruption, job disturbance and other issues that go along with addiction, is that they not use any stimulant at all," Waller says. He acknowledges that alcohol consumption, though, is a personal choice. "If one chooses to drink, educating one's self on CDC guidelines and risk is definitely recommended," he says.

Get more health information and find a doctor near you by visiting stjohnprovidence.org or calling 866-501-DOCS (3627).

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