Oh go on then… just one more! Advice on how to reduce drinking

Oh go on then… just one more! Advice on how to reduce drinking

Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?

Have people 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 (Eye opener)?

Well, according to the CAGE questionnaire, if you’re scoring 2 or above, your drinking is excessive and problematic. 

One of the most common questions I get from patients, family and friends is, ‘do I drink too much?’

Excessive drinking can lead to problems such as digestive issues, disturbed sleep, headache, lethargy, substance misuse, hazardous sexual behaviour, injuries and even violence. In the long term, problematic drinking can spark dependence, mental health problems, liver problems, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. 

In a recent publication by the WHO* (not to be confused with the band!), 1 in 20 deaths are alcohol related. In fact, 24% of adults in the UK regularly drink over the recommended guidelines for safe drinking. Socialising is an important part of our lives but sometimes ‘a few drinks after work’ can lead to excessive drinking in the long term. 

New advice from the department of health states that unit guidelines are now the SAME for men AND women. Both are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week, no more than 3 units in any one day and to have at least two alcohol-free days per week. Pregnant women, or women trying to conceive, should not drink alcohol at all. If they do choose to drink they should not drink more than 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk.

A question I get asked a lot is, ‘how quickly is alcohol removed from the body?’ Well, in general, alcohol is removed from the bloodstream at the rate of about a unit per hour. However, this can vary from person to person depending on age, size, how much food you’ve eaten etc. My advice would be if you’re driving and you don’t want to put yourself or others in danger – don’t drink. 

A common problem for many is not knowing how much alcohol their drinks actually contain. To keep it simple, a unit of alcohol is 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about:

Half a pint of regular beer, larger or cider

Half small glass of wine 

single (25ml) measure of spirits

small glass of sherry 

single (25ml) measure of aperitifs

Surprising right? In fact, in a recent poll by the British Heart foundation, only 1 in 8, that’s 12% of people correctly identified the units of alcohol presented to them in different drinks. What’s particularly concerning is that 54% of these people actually underestimated the number of units. So be careful of how many units are in your ‘couple of glasses of wine in the evening with dinner!’

But isn’t alcohol good for you? Does a drink a day keep the doctor away? Anecdotally, some studies have suggested that drinking a small amount of alcohol actually protects the body against conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Confused? Well, in actual fact the evidence for this theory is rather uncertain and the risks of drinking most likely outweigh any potential benefits.

On a more positive note, trends ARE changing. In recent years, the overall amount of alcohol consumed in the UK, the proportion of people drinking and the amount people report consuming has fallen. This trend is especially profound amongst younger drinkers. It’s thought that an increase in the popularity of healthy lifestyles and wellness has led to this. 

In a nutshell, if you think your drinking habits are a problem – my advice would be to make a concerted effort to CUT DOWN. Pay a visit to your GP to discuss options. After all, prevention is better than cure.

*World Health organisation