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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.

8th January 2016 the UK Chief Medical Officers changed their guidelines for low risk drinking..... Click here for up to date information

‘The importance of drinking patterns as well as drinking volumes is underlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) who recommend that responsible drinkers should spread the number of units they drink throughout the week, with one or two alcohol free days per week'.

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
If you feel your drinking levels are creeping up and you’re drinking too much too often, a good way to ‘test’ yourself, is to try and have alcohol free days from time to time. This can help you recognise if you are becoming psychologically – or physically dependent on alcohol. If you promised yourself to cut out alcohol for a few days and you don’t or put it off, then it may be time to seek help.

In England, 6% of men drink more than 50 units per week and 3% of women 35 units or more. Drinking ithis heavily can lead to long-term health risks such as cancer and mental health problems. 
Down size you glass
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.
Why not try the UNIT CALCULATORS to see how many units your favourite drinks contain? Or download an app for your phone

sensible drinking man

 

 

nhs calc

iphone drinking app

iphone drinking app

Make a lower alcohol choice
The amount of alcohol in drinks can be confusing, so keep an eye on how many units are in your drink. Most drinks carry unit icons on the packaging or back labels to help you keep a tab on your intake. To give you an idea, a glass of wine can contain anything from 1.5 units for a small glass of sparkling wine at 11%, to 3 units for a 250ml glass at 13.5%. Maybe try a lower alcohol beer, there’s a great choice at below 4% now.. and the alcohol free beers taste good too!

Pace yourself
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
If possible, try and drink with food, or eat before you drink. Alcohol is absorbed much quicker into the blood stream on an empty stomach and you tend to drink faster.

Read our advice on what to do is someone has drunk too much and 'it all goes wrong'

What to do if you got drunk

Hangover

Top tips for the morning after

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.
  • Never ever do hair of the dog - youll just prolong the agony.
  • Have 48 hours without alcohol if it was a heavy session.
  • And next time, either refrain from drinking or set a clear limit before the party and stick to recommended guidelines.Follow our top tips and you wont suffer again.

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

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.

Addiction means that you can no longer cope without alcohol. Without alcohol you feel sick and have withdrawal symptoms, which include trembling, shivering, feeling nauseous and even vomiting. These withdrawal symptoms make it very difficult to overcome addiction and specialist help and support is needed.

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.
Tel: 0207 553 7640 adfam.org.uk

 

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
Disturbed sleep and getting agitated and anxious are likely to be the first noticeable effects too much alcohol has on your mental health and wellbeing. But heavy drinking can lead to work and family problems, which in turn can lead to isolation and depression. Drinking heavily also slows down your brain function, affecting things like concentration and memory.

Time to get support?
If you have any concerns about your drinking, speak to your doctor or call a professional helpline such as Drinkline – open 24 hours 0800 917 8282. They can also give you the contact details of alcohol services in your local area.

© 2000 Alcohol in Moderation. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Disclaimer