AM I DRINKING TOO MUCH?
Most people who enjoy drinking find it a sociable and relaxing thing to do, and don’t over indulge – 78% of people drink within the recommended drinking guidelines in the UK. In general, drinking within the guidelines is compatible with a healthy lifestyle.
The government advises that people should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This advice is for adults and is based on the evidence that if people did drink regularly at or above the low risk level advised, overall any protective effect from alcohol on deaths is overridden, and the risk of dying from an alcohol-related condition would be expected to be around, or a little under, 1% over a lifetime.
The same guidelines state that regularly drinking over the daily limits puts you at an ‘increasing risk’ of developing health problems, and if the amount you’re drinking is usually double the guidelines or more, you are putting yourself at a ‘higher risk’ of developing health problems.
Simple ways to cut down
Alcohol free days
A great way to cut down on your drinking without giving up is to choose a smaller glass for wine, or a longer mixer for spirits (use a measure too as home pours are always much more generous). Don’t top your glass up, wait until it’s empty and set yourself a clear limit before you start drinking. Again if you’ve broken your own rules, have a careful look at how much you are drinking. There are great Apps available to help you keep track.
Make a lower alcohol choice
Try alternating alcohol drinks with soft drinks or have a glass of water on the side - you’ll stay more hydrated and give your liver a chance to break down the alcohol. Watch out for ‘top ups’ too– you can kid yourself that you’re still on the same drink.
A bite to eat
What to do if you got drunk
If in spite of your best intentions you end up drinking more than you should, there are a few things you can do to ease the morning after. Drink as much water as you can before going to sleep, and put some beside the bed too. Take an antacid to settle your stomach. Alcohol is a depressant, so tea or coffee can perk you up (but they can also dehydrate you, so keep up the water as well). Drinking lowers your blood sugar level, so eat as soon as you can. Bananas, cereal, or egg on toast are all good morning-after snacks. Have 48 hours without alcohol if it was a heavy session to give your liver a chance to recover.
The best advice is to avoid getting one by not drinking or by sticking to low risk guidelines. Symptoms of a hangover include feeling thirsty, sick, tired and headachey and being more sensitive to noise or bright lights. These effects are caused by alcohol being dehydrating – alcohol makes your body lose water. Alcohol also irritates the lining of the stomach, leading to indigestion, and nausea if you drink a lot. Some people may be able to drink more than others without getting a hangover, but EVERYONE’s body will react to being overloaded with alcohol. Your liver can only break down one unit an hour. Time is the only cure for a hangover giving the liver a chance to get rid of the toxins helped by drinking lots of water and eating wisely.
How does alcohol make you drunk? (click to find out more).
What are the risks?
Short term increased risks due to getting very drunk include imprudent sex, antisocial behaviour, not getting home safely, vomiting, passing out or even alcoholic poisoning, being a victim of crime and of course, the inevitable hang over. When you ‘binge drink’ (that is drink five or more units in quick succession on one or two nights a week) you increase your blood pressure and the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Long term llnesses related to long term heavy drinking are cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus, cirrhosis of the liver, dementia, haemorrhagic stroke and pancreatitis. Visit our Alcohol and Health section to learn more.It is important to remember that ‘the majority of people who drink alcohol, drink sensibly the majority of the time. Also, more than half the worlds’ adult population choose not to drink alcohol for religious, cultural or health reasons. With moderate drinking, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease as well as all causes, may be reduced by up to 30%, especially for men over 40 and post menopausal women. The risk increases exceptionally, however, with each drink above moderation. Therefore, while a glass or two of wine, beer or spirits per day can be considered to be ‘good for you’, drinking ‘more’ than the guidelines will not provide ‘more’ benefits, only more harms.
Binge drinking is a commonly used term that has no clear meaning. It differs in its medical and social usage from drinking to drunkenness, drinking five ormore drinks in quick succession, or on one drinking occasion. It may be useful to describe harmful patterns of drinking as ‘drinking to drunkenness ‘ or ‘going out with the intention of getting drunk’ as well as tracking the number of drinks consumed, time frame and context. The World Health Organisation has defined binge drinking as drinking six or more standard drinks during one drinking occasion.Whatever the definition, drinking to drunkenness and repeatedly subjecting the brain to the effects of withdrawal from the presence of large doses of alcohol i.e. having what people would term drinking ‘binges’, could damage brain cells even more than continuous drinking.
What is alcohol tolerance and addiction?
There is alcohol tolerance and alcohol addiction. Toleration is when you gradually need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect. If you drink well above the daily recommended guidelines on a regular basis you run the risk of becoming addicted. 6% of 16 - 24 year-old men drink more than 50 units a week and 4% of women aged 16 - 24 drink more than 35 units a week and are taking this risk.
Regarding dependency and alcohol problems, the following sites could help:
ADFAM provides information and advice for families of alcohol and drug users. The website has a list of local family support services.
Alateen Part of the Al-Anon fellowship and has been developed for young people, aged 12 to 20, who are affected by a problem drinker.
Tel: 0207 403 0888 al-anonuk.org.uk
Addaction provides treatment, help and advice about alcohol and drugs for young people and adults. It manages more that 120 services in 80 locations in England and Scotland. Tel: 0207 251 5860 addaction.org.uk
Drinkline If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call this free helpline, in complete confidence. They can put you in touch with your local alcohol advice centre for help and advice. Tel: 0800 917 8282 (24 hour helpline).
Counselling Directory counselling-directory.org.uk/alcohol.html
The effect of alcohol on mental health
Time to get support?
© 2000 Alcohol in Moderation. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.