Christmas Is Coming…
…And the goose is getting fat as the old saying goes. However, it is also a time for celebrating, which often involves drinking lots of alcohol.
The theme of this month’s healthy living newsletter is alcohol awareness. What are the dangers of alcohol misuse and the risks associated with it? What is a safe amount of alcohol to drink? Are you drinking too much? What help is available for those who are concerned about their levels of alcohol intake?
What Is Alcohol Misuse?
Part of alcohol awareness is knowing how much alcohol you are drinking. The NHS recommends that men should not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day and women should not regularly drink more than 2 -3 units per day. A unit is 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about half a pint of normal strength beer or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine contains 1.5 units.
Regularly means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week. It is recommended that both men and women should have at least two alcohol free days each week. Your health is at risk if you regularly exceed these daily limits.
What Are The Risks?
Alcohol is a powerful chemical that can have a wide range of adverse effects on almost every part of your body. It is associated with both short term and long term effects. Assuming you have normal tolerance to alcohol, the short term effects are:
After 1-2 units your heart rate speeds up and your blood vessels expand, giving you the warm, sociable and talkative feeling associated with moderate drinking
After 4-6 units your brain and nervous system start to be affected, particularly the area where judgement and decision making occurs, making you more reckless and uninhibited.
After 8-12 units your reaction times will be much slower, your speech speech will begin to slur and your vision will lose focus.
After 10-12 units your co-ordination will be highly impaired, placing you at serious risk of having an accident, becoming violent, being robbed or having unprotected sex.
If you drink more than 12 units you are at high risk of developing alcohol poisoning, especially if you drink lots of units over a short period of time.
Long term alcohol misuse effects can include:
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Liver cancer
- Mouth cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Breast cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Sexual problems such as impotence
Am I Drinking Too Much Alcohol?
You could be misusing alcohol if:
- You feel you should cut down on your drinking
- Other people have been criticising your drinking
- You feel guilty about your drinking
- You need a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover
It is important to apply alcohol awareness to people you know as well as to yourself if friends or family have a problem with alcohol.
Someone you know may be misusing alcohol if they regularly exceed the recommended daily limit of alcohol, they sometimes can’t remember the night before or they miss appointments or work because of being drunk or hungover.
If you have concerns about yourself or someone you know then it is important to seek help.
Alcohol awareness is not just knowing how to spot the danger signs, but also knowing where to seek help if you identify a problem.
If you are concerned about your (or someone else’s) drinking, a good first step is to contact your GP. You can also take the FAST (Fast Alcohol Screening Test) online or contact on of the charities:
If you are aiming to moderate your drinking you may be asked to keep a ‘drinking diary’. On a daily basis you would make a note of all the alcoholic drinks you have had, what time you had them, where you were and how many units you drank. If you are unsure how many units you drank you can use the NHS Unit Calculator).
If you would like to chat to one of our pharmacists about any of these issues then please call into any of our pharmacy branches and ask to speak to a pharmacist. Advice is absolutely free and no appointment is necessary. If you would prefer you can talk to the pharmacist within the privacy of one of our private consultation rooms which we have in each pharmacy branch.
Alcohol Awareness Week 2015
This year, Alcohol Awareness Week takes place from November 16th to November 22nd.
Call into any of our branches to find out more, or visit the Alcohol Awareness Week web page by Alcohol Concern.
If you are concerned about your drinking levels, take advantage of Alcohol Awareness Week to start resolving any alcohol issues you may have.
- What is a unit of alcohol?
- How much is that as a normal drink?
- And what about wine?
- What are the recommended limits?
- What happens if you regularly drink more than this?
- Name 2 short term health risks
- Name 2 long term health risks
- How could I tell if I was drinking too much alcohol?
- At what level are you at risk of alcohol poisoning?
- What is a drinking diary?
[expand title=”Quiz Answers”]
- 10ml of pure alcohol
- Half a pint of normal strength lager or a single measure (25ml) of spirits
- A small glass (125ml) is 1.5 units
- 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units per day for women
- Your health will be at risk
- Alcohol poisoning, injuries needing hospital treatment, violent behaviour, unprotected sex, loss of possessions
- Heart disease, stroke, liver disease, liver and bowel cancer
- You feel you should cut down, other people criticise your drinking, you feel bad about your drinking, you need a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or cure a hangover
- If you have a normal tolerance to drink, more than 12 units
- It is somewhere you can record on a daily basis how much you have had to drink, at what time and where