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The Dangers of Drinking Absinthe

Substance abuse affects millions of people in the United States, with alcohol abuse being the most commonly abused substance. More than 50% of people drink alcohol on a regular basis and nearly 14 million people have an alcohol use disorder.[1] Alcohol abuse includes a variety of unhealthy behaviors around alcohol, including heavy drinking and binge drinking.

Alcohol use is common in American culture and is often glamorized in movies and on TV. While many factors contribute to substance abuse, many believe that media portrayals of drug or alcohol abuse may increase people’s likelihood of developing the condition.

In the early 1900s, many movies showed people drinking absinthe. This potent green alcoholic drink made an appearance in dozens of films for decades and created an interest in absinthe that exists today. Absinthe was shown as a glamorous, sometimes dangerous, drink that could make people go insane. So, why do people continue to drink it today? And what are the actual dangers of absinthe?

Understanding the risks of drinking absinthe and the signs of addiction may help you identify a problem in yourself or someone you care about. If you are concerned about the side effects of absinthe or want to learn more about finding substance abuse treatment, please reach out to the specialists at South Carolina Addiction Treatment today.

What is Absinthe?

Absinthe is an alcoholic drink first produced in Switzerland in 1792.[2] It arrived in the United States in 1878 and was soon known as the Green Fairy because of its color and effects on the people who consumed it.

Absinthe is made from distilled grain, green anise, and a variety of herbs, including fennel. Absinthe tastes sweet and mildly bitter with herbal and licorice flavors. It is highly alcoholic–often 45-75% alcohol by volume or more. This makes it more potent than other distilled spirits like vodka, whisky, or rum.

The Side Effects of Absinthe

Many stories have been told of absinthe’s ability to cause insanity or delirium. Absinthe is highly alcoholic, making it easy to consume high volumes of alcohol with little effort. People who drink absinthe may quickly become intoxicated or consume more alcohol than they realize. This level of intoxication may cause erratic or unsafe behavior.

One of the ingredients in absinthe is wormwood, which contains a chemical called thujone. In large quantities, thujone has been shown to cause delirium and hallucinations.[3] Medical experts have sometimes blamed thujone for the side effects of absinthe, which can include:

  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Impaired ability to focus or concentrate
  • Delayed reaction time

However, some research has concluded that the levels of thujone detected in absinthe are likely too low to cause these side effects.[4]

Instead, the high level of alcohol in absinthe is thought to explain the side effects of absinthe some people report. People who drink absinthe may be at increased risk of developing physical, social, or mental health problems related to excessive alcohol consumption.

The Dangers of Absinthe

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to problems in your mental, physical, financial, and social health. It can have a profound effect on your relationships and ability to live a healthy, productive lifestyle.

So, how much alcohol is considered too much? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two for men. The CDC defines a drink as:[5]

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

Because absinthe contains more alcohol by volume than other distilled spirits and can vary significantly in its alcohol content, it is very difficult to determine how much alcohol you consume if you drink it. People who drink absinthe may quickly exceed the CDC recommendations for alcohol. Drinking excessively can lead to alcohol addiction.

Do I Need Treatment for Alcohol Abuse?

Drinking too much, including binge drinking, can cause severe and life-threatening health issues. It can threaten your safety and cause significant relationship strain. Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction may look different than you imagine. Some of the signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Drinking more than you intended to
  • Getting hurt or experiencing health problems related to your drinking
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Having withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking
  • Falling behind at work, school, or in responsibilities at home
  • Hiding your drinking or becoming secretive about it
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Experiencing legal or financial problems related to your drinking
  • Developing tolerance–needing more alcohol to get the same effects

Drinking absinthe may lead to alcohol abuse or addiction because of its high alcohol content.  If you or someone you love shows signs of alcohol abuse or dependence, seek treatment as soon as possible. Alcohol addiction treatment programs are designed to address the physical, behavioral, emotional, and environmental factors that contribute to substance abuse and can give you the best chance at a full, lifelong recovery.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love require alcohol rehab, reach out to the South Carolina Addiction Treatment specialists today.

References:

  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/the-devil-in-a-little-green-bottle-a-history-of-absinthe
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC18101/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15896935/
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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