Drinking alcohol is seen as a socially acceptable part of life. It features heavily in our culture and this is shown to be the norm in TV programmes such as Coronation Street and EastEnders where pubs are the central feature.
Drinking alcohol has some benefit, as it helps to lower the risk of having a heart attack. However, this amount is small. Drinking up to 2 units of alcohol daily may be beneficial. Any more and the risk of harm increases and any benefits are lost. This is when there is an increased risk of heart disease, some cancers and even liver disease. This benefit only applies to men over the age of 40 and to women after the menopause.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that drinking is good for you!
It is now recommended that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol in a week. There should be at least two alcohol free days and no more than 3 units should be drunk on any particular day.
If you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant you should not drink at all. If you do you, should not ‘get drunk’ and should not take more than 2 units on any 2 nights of the week. Regular harmful drinking during pregnancy may lead to a variety of disorders known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which range in severity from mild to severe and leads to physical and mental birth defects. Ask yourself: Is it worth taking the risk?
A unit of alcohol is approximately half a pint of regular strength lager/beer or a small measure of spirits. Don’t forget that the number of units increases with the strength of the drink. So, for example, a strong beer may contain a unit and a half in half a pint or to put it into perspective a pint of strong beer may contain over 3 units. So, whilst having fun and socialising just keep an eye on how much you drink.
If you drink above the safe recommended limits you should aim to cut down. Those that are harmful drinkers drink above the recommended limits, but are not addicted or alcohol dependent. Harmful drinking is where there is harm not only to yourself, but to others. Persistent, long-term drinking beyond safe limits causes damage. There are liver problems, mental health problems, high blood pressure, damage to nerves and impotence.
Alcohol dependence is characterised by preoccupation with alcohol, cravings, and the need for more and more alcohol. Continual harmful and hazardous drinking may result in alcohol dependence, which is more commonly known as alcoholism. To make matters worse there is an association between alcohol dependence and antisocial behaviour. Domestic violence and criminal activity are known associations.
Your GP is trained to help identify drinking that is likely to place you at risk of physical, psychological or social problems. This can be done simply by completing a questionnaire. So, if you have any questions or concerns about yourself or others just ask!