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Alcohol and Health

Is Whiskey Good for You? Side Effects To Be Aware Of

Published:
July 4, 2023
·
7 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 4, 2023
·
7 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 4, 2023
·
7 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 4, 2023
·
7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 4, 2023
·
7 min read

There's a particular charm to whiskey, isn't there? 

Without a doubt, whiskey is a prominent character in the world of alcoholic beverages. Its unique charm and versatility make it the star of a plethora of drinks, from the sophistication of a Manhattan to the comforting warmth of an Irish coffee, or the citrusy tang of a whiskey sour. It also stands tall on its own, enjoyed neat or on the rocks by purists worldwide.

But is whiskey good for you? As it turns out, behind the inviting amber glow of whiskey lurks a fact we often choose to overlook — its negative impacts on our well-being.

Whiskey’s Alcohol Content

Let’s first understand whiskey’s downsides by discussing its potent alcohol content. A standard serving of whiskey typically contains 40-50% alcohol by volume, significantly higher than wine at about 12-15% or beer at approximately 4-6%. Premium whiskeys, specifically the cask strength variety, can even have an alcohol content as high as 60-70%. This high concentration implies that consuming whiskey can quickly lead to intoxication and, when consumed regularly in large quantities, can have severe health consequences.

Whiskey Nutrition Facts

barman filling glass alcohol

The most notorious and significant danger linked with heavy whiskey consumption is liver damage. The role of the liver in our bodies is crucial, as it filters out toxins and keeps our internal environment clean.

One toxin it tirelessly works to remove is alcohol.

However, the liver has its breaking point. Regularly bombarding it with large amounts of whiskey can mean the liver struggles to keep up: alcohol accumulates in the body and the liver cells get damaged. This damage can lead to a spectrum of liver diseases, ranging from fatty liver and alcohol-induced hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) to fibrosis (thickening or scarring of the liver tissue) and, in the worst-case scenario, cirrhosis, a condition characterized by permanent scarring and impaired liver function.

Whiskey’s Impact on Mental Health

Another aspect that we often disregard when we discuss the implications of excessive whiskey consumption is its impact on our mental health. Sometimes, after a particularly challenging day, we may turn to a glass of whiskey to unwind, as it seems to offer a short-term escape from stress or anxiety. However, this relief is transient and deceptive.

Regular and excessive consumption of whiskey can amplify feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression instead of alleviating them, trapping us in a dangerous cycle. It can also wreak havoc on our sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and other sleep disorders. The relationship between good sleep and mental well-being is reciprocal, and disturbances in one often affect the other, further exacerbating mental health issues.

Whiskey’s Role in Cancer Risk

Arguably the most alarming side effect of consistent, heavy whiskey intake is its association with several types of cancer. Research has repeatedly highlighted the correlation between high alcohol consumption and an increased risk of various cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and even breast cancer.

When we consume whiskey, our bodies metabolize the alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Over time, exposure to high levels of acetaldehyde can cause DNA damage and other harmful changes at the cellular level, which can potentially lead to the development of cancer.

Changing Our Relationship With Whiskey (and Alcohol Altogether)

Now, we aren't suggesting that we should shun our whiskey sour or old fashioned indefinitely. Still, it's crucial to understand the importance of moderation and informed decision-making when it comes to whiskey or any alcoholic beverage. Balancing consumption, not overindulging, and pairing any alcohol with adequate hydration and food to slow down alcohol absorption can significantly mitigate these risks. But if you’re wondering if whiskey is good for you, the answer is pretty clear: there are no real health benefits of whiskey.

And for those occasions when you yearn for the smoky, full-bodied flavor profile of a whiskey-based drink but want to steer clear of alcohol, why not explore the vibrant world of mocktails? For example, a Smoked Honey and Black Pepper Shrub can tickle your taste buds and replicate the complexity of flavors found in whiskey.

Remember that there are myriad ways to enjoy social gatherings that don't involve alcohol. Engage in board game nights, participate in outdoor activities, organize theme-based dinners, or immerse yourself in deep, enriching conversations. After all, the joy derived from such gatherings comes from the company and the shared experiences, not from the contents of our glass.

There's a particular charm to whiskey, isn't there? 

Without a doubt, whiskey is a prominent character in the world of alcoholic beverages. Its unique charm and versatility make it the star of a plethora of drinks, from the sophistication of a Manhattan to the comforting warmth of an Irish coffee, or the citrusy tang of a whiskey sour. It also stands tall on its own, enjoyed neat or on the rocks by purists worldwide.

But is whiskey good for you? As it turns out, behind the inviting amber glow of whiskey lurks a fact we often choose to overlook — its negative impacts on our well-being.

Whiskey’s Alcohol Content

Let’s first understand whiskey’s downsides by discussing its potent alcohol content. A standard serving of whiskey typically contains 40-50% alcohol by volume, significantly higher than wine at about 12-15% or beer at approximately 4-6%. Premium whiskeys, specifically the cask strength variety, can even have an alcohol content as high as 60-70%. This high concentration implies that consuming whiskey can quickly lead to intoxication and, when consumed regularly in large quantities, can have severe health consequences.

Whiskey Nutrition Facts

barman filling glass alcohol

The most notorious and significant danger linked with heavy whiskey consumption is liver damage. The role of the liver in our bodies is crucial, as it filters out toxins and keeps our internal environment clean.

One toxin it tirelessly works to remove is alcohol.

However, the liver has its breaking point. Regularly bombarding it with large amounts of whiskey can mean the liver struggles to keep up: alcohol accumulates in the body and the liver cells get damaged. This damage can lead to a spectrum of liver diseases, ranging from fatty liver and alcohol-induced hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) to fibrosis (thickening or scarring of the liver tissue) and, in the worst-case scenario, cirrhosis, a condition characterized by permanent scarring and impaired liver function.

Whiskey’s Impact on Mental Health

Another aspect that we often disregard when we discuss the implications of excessive whiskey consumption is its impact on our mental health. Sometimes, after a particularly challenging day, we may turn to a glass of whiskey to unwind, as it seems to offer a short-term escape from stress or anxiety. However, this relief is transient and deceptive.

Regular and excessive consumption of whiskey can amplify feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression instead of alleviating them, trapping us in a dangerous cycle. It can also wreak havoc on our sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and other sleep disorders. The relationship between good sleep and mental well-being is reciprocal, and disturbances in one often affect the other, further exacerbating mental health issues.

Whiskey’s Role in Cancer Risk

Arguably the most alarming side effect of consistent, heavy whiskey intake is its association with several types of cancer. Research has repeatedly highlighted the correlation between high alcohol consumption and an increased risk of various cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and even breast cancer.

When we consume whiskey, our bodies metabolize the alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Over time, exposure to high levels of acetaldehyde can cause DNA damage and other harmful changes at the cellular level, which can potentially lead to the development of cancer.

Changing Our Relationship With Whiskey (and Alcohol Altogether)

Now, we aren't suggesting that we should shun our whiskey sour or old fashioned indefinitely. Still, it's crucial to understand the importance of moderation and informed decision-making when it comes to whiskey or any alcoholic beverage. Balancing consumption, not overindulging, and pairing any alcohol with adequate hydration and food to slow down alcohol absorption can significantly mitigate these risks. But if you’re wondering if whiskey is good for you, the answer is pretty clear: there are no real health benefits of whiskey.

And for those occasions when you yearn for the smoky, full-bodied flavor profile of a whiskey-based drink but want to steer clear of alcohol, why not explore the vibrant world of mocktails? For example, a Smoked Honey and Black Pepper Shrub can tickle your taste buds and replicate the complexity of flavors found in whiskey.

Remember that there are myriad ways to enjoy social gatherings that don't involve alcohol. Engage in board game nights, participate in outdoor activities, organize theme-based dinners, or immerse yourself in deep, enriching conversations. After all, the joy derived from such gatherings comes from the company and the shared experiences, not from the contents of our glass.

Change Your Relationship With Alcohol — Download Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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