3 surprising myths about alcohol

Don’t be fooled by these alcohol misconceptions.

From cracking open a beer at a backyard barbecue to sipping a glass of wine before bed, alcohol can often be a shortcut to socializing or winding down. For many Americans, alcohol use is an increasing problem — and it’s the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. During Alcohol Awareness Month, we’re dispelling some surprising myths about alcohol use to help you think before you drink.


Alcohol helps you to sleep better at night.

Drinking tonight might leave you feeling drowsy tomorrow. Although alcohol is a sedative, research suggests it disrupts rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which could result in insomnia the next day. Insomnia is linked to a number of chronic health conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, so it might be worth trading your nightcap for a cup of decaffeinated tea.


Having a high tolerance means you can handle your alcohol.

Over time, drinking alcohol can increase your tolerance, causing you to drink more before you can feel the effects. Excessive alcohol use, including binge drinking, heavy drinking and drinking by individuals who are pregnant or younger than 21 can affect your health. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) define excessive alcohol use as:

Binge drinking:
  • 4+ drinks during a single event, for women
  • 5+ drinks during a single event, for men
Heavy drinking:
  • 8+ drinks per week, for women
  • 15+ drinks per week, for men

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that adults who are 21 and older should drink in moderation (2 drinks or less per day for men or 1 drink or less per day for women) or choose not to drink.

Excessive use may also increase long-term health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease, various cancers (including breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancers) and a weakened immune system, among others, the CDC reports.


Excessive drinking is the same as alcoholism.

Most people who drink excessively do not have alcoholism and are not alcohol dependent, the CDC explains. However, the stigma associated with alcoholism can prevent many people from getting the care they need. People with alcoholism have difficulty stopping or controlling their alcohol use, even when it affects their jobs, social lives or their health.

How to find support

If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol use, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), is confidential and free. It’s available 24/7, every day of the year. English and Spanish options are available. You can also discuss alcohol use with your primary care physician for in-network treatment options.

Best Health® wellness program

Sharp Health Plan’s Best Health program offers free, self-paced wellness workshops to help you establish and maintain healthy habits. Topics include alcohol use and addiction education, stress management and more. Log in or sign up to get started.

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