Heavy drinking is closely linked with mental illness and can precipitate anxiety, depression, and accelerate or uncover psychiatric illnesses giving symptoms like hallucinations and hearing voices. Heavy drinking is also closely linked with self-harm. Did you know 65% of suicides are linked to excessive drinking?
Other hidden dangers of drinking alcohol include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, pancreatitis and reduced fertility.
With so many different drinks and glass sizes, keeping a track of how much alcohol is consumed can sometimes become difficult. Counting the units of alcohol you drink was introduced in the UK in 1987 to help people with this. One unit of alcohol equals 8mg-10mg of pure alcohol, which is the average amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. The following list shows you an approximate number of units in various beverages:
- Small glass red/white/rosé wine (125 ml, ABV 12%) – 1.5 units
- Standard glass red/white/rosé wine (175ml, ABV 12%) – 2.1 units
- Large glass red/white/rosé wine (250ml, ABV 12%) – 3 units
- Pint of lager/beer/cider – 2.5 units
- Can or bottle of lager/beer/cider – 2 units
- Alcopop – 1.5 units
- Single spirit – 1 unit
The recommended daily allowance of alcohol is no more than 2-3 units a day for women and no more than 3-4 units a day for men.
This does not mean that drinking this amount of alcohol is absolutely safe, but by keeping to the above limits, there’s only a low risk of causing harm in most circumstances.
Benefits of cutting down
There are more benefits of cutting down than you can immediately recount, but here are the most important ones:
- health benefits
- feel better in the morning
- have more energy through the day
- skin may start to look better
- stop gaining weight
- Feeling better. Alcohol is a known depressant. Drinking less alcohol will mean that you will notice a significant improvement in your mood.
- Time to do other things: You may find that you will have more time to do the other things you enjoy – spend time with friends and family, visit the cinema, read a book or others!
- Saving money: A pint of lager 4-5 times a week can cost you as much as £750 per year. That's alot of money you could save from cutting out the booze.
Tips on cutting down
- Make a plan – Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you are going to drink, and then keep to that limit!
- Set a budget.
- Make it a smaller one – Swap a double for a single, a bottle for a pint, or a small for a large.
- Pace and space – Sip slowly and enjoy the taste, space your drinks with a soft drink or water in between drinks.
- Take a break – designate two alcohol free days a week and stick to it.
Binge drinking is when a lot of alcohol is consumed within a very short space of time or more commonly, drinking to get drunk. The amount of alcohol you need to get drunk varies, but averages to about 8 or more units for men and 6 or more for women.
Binge drinking can make you lose control, make risky and hasty decisions, increase the risk of heart attack or you may also end up vomiting and if very drunk, you can choke on your vomit and suffocate.
The hardest step with alcohol is realising that you have a problem. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should speak to your GP or use the below contacts to get in touch with medical professionals:
- Have you ever felt like you should cut down your drinking?
- Have people ever annoyed you by criticising your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
- Your local GP (who may also be able to refer you on to a local community alcohol service)
- Drinkline – National alcohol helpline. If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence. Call 0800 917 8282 on weekdays between 9am – 8pm or weekends 11am – 4pm.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its "12-step" programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups. AA's belief is that people with drink problems need to give up alcohol permanently.
- Al-Anon Family Groups offer support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they're still drinking or not. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and can be attended by 12 -17-year-olds who are affected by another person's drinking, usually a parent.
- Addaction is a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities to manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse.
- Adfam is a national charity working with families affected by drugs and alcohol. Adfam operates an online message board and database of local support groups.
- The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned with their welfare. Call 0800 358 3456 for the Nacoa helpline.