Drinking and your body

Does drinking increase the risk of injury?

As alcohol affects your attention, focus and coordination, excessive drinking will increase your chances of being injured. Here are the dangers to be aware of.

Does drinking increase the risk of injury?
Does drinking increase the risk of injury?

People who drink heavily, as well as those who occasionally binge drink, have a greater likelihood of falling, sustaining a road traffic injury and being harmed (1). As well as the impact on physical functions (attention, focus and coordination), drinking heavily can result in poor judgment that may lead people to take risks and engage in behavior that can lead to serious injury (2).

Drinking heavily also increases the risk that you may injure someone else, not only yourself – and being intoxicated may mean that you’re not fully aware of your actions, so harm can be unintentional.

What can you do to avoid injury?

You can feel the effect of alcohol almost immediately, and people generally know when they’ve had too much to drink. The thing to do when you know you’ve had too much is to stop drinking alcohol. However, the better option will always be to not drink too much in the first place.

Do not drive impaired. Instead, make plans for alternative transportation or a designated driver. This applies to driving cars, as well as motorcycles and bicycles, and also boats. Flying planes after drinking is also dangerous. And you shouldn't operate heavy machinery or use sharp tools either. Save these activities for when you’re sober.

There are also things that servers and bartenders in bars, restaurants and clubs can do to help you stay safe. Many are trained in responsible service and may be monitoring how much you’ve been drinking and your behavior. They may refuse to serve you out of concern for your safety.

Being aware of your blood alcohol content can help avoid harm

Raised alcohol content in your blood (BAC) puts you at risk of different dangers, whether because of poor coordination, memory lapses or other effects – and the severity of these dangers increases with your drinking as your BAC rises (3). How quickly your BAC rises depends on your age, body size, whether you’re male or female, your health, whether you’ve eaten and how recently, and the quantity of alcohol you’re consuming and the rate at which you’re consuming it (4, 5).

Blood alcohol content is used as a basis for setting legal limits for driving a vehicle and some other activities (such as flying a plane, operating a boat or machinery). Most countries set official BAC limits for drinking and driving, although they vary (6).

The only reliable way to measure your BAC is through breath and blood tests. Since you’re not likely to have access to a breathalyzer or be able to run a blood test, use your judgment about being responsible and keep your drinking within the recommended drinking guidelines.