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Are you drinking safely? A realistic guide to safe drinking

Are you drinking safely? A realistic guide to safe drinkingOur aim is not to spoil your fun nor to over dramatise the dangers but to be honest about alcohol and the short and long term effects.
In a commercially driven world we are surrounded by adverts encouraging drinking. There has been an increased number of different brands of Gin and Vodka in the shops recently with attractive shaped bottles with eye-catching labels and images of happy couples enjoying a drink. They never show a picture of someone vomiting in the gutter or legless by the pool because the reality is that there is a down side which goes beyond the morning hangover.
If you want to continue to enjoy those sundowners you may be interested in reading this article rather than dismissing it as yet another sermon on the evils of drink. Trust me it’s not about that. It’s about a realistic view on drinking alcohol in it’s many guises.

Alcohol is a drug which relieves anxiety, lifts inhibitions and it is pleasantly, mildly euphoric but when used to excess it is dangerous and causes misery, illness and death. Is it a friend or foe? Surprisingly alcohol is not particularly addictive; unlike for example cocaine or heroin and for the vast majority of people who drink, it does not become a problem. However, alcohol abuse and dependency are real issues for about 8% of the adult population with significant consequences for themselves, their families and society as a whole.

Safe Drinking
Over 90% of the adult population are not dependent on alcohol but nevertheless may have problems from drinking too much or inappropriately. A proportion will go on to drink more and eventually lose control so alcohol has an ability to slowly cause addiction over many years. The UK Government has produced guidelines on sensible drinking.

The unit system introduced by the British and other Governments gives a fair estimation of how much is drunk and how safe it is. The limits are: 14 units per week for both men and women. These unit limits are based on sound medical research and it is now deemed relatively safe for most men and women to drink up to 3 units a day for 5 days a week with 2 days a week abstinence. These 2 days of abstinance are important for the liver to ‘rest’ from being overworked processing the toxins from drinking alcohol. The liver’s role is not just a filter for alcohol but an important processing unit for everything we eat and drink that is absorbed into the blood.

OK, occasionally we may drink a unit or two over the recommendations. Let’s not beat ourselves up when this happens but when it happens frequently we really should look at our drinking habits and make some changes. No drinking is risk free but we can minimise the risks by keeping to the guidelines.

What are ‘units’ of alcohol?
Calculating the amount of units you are drinking is easy. A fairly accurate guide is one litre of the alcoholic beverage is equal in units to the percentage alcohol of the drink. One litre of beer of 4.6% alcohol is 4.6 units; one litre of Gin at 40% alcohol is 40 units. Spirits are sold in the UK in 25 ml measures and there are 40 measures in a litre bottle. Therefore 1 single measure of spirit is equal to 1 unit of alcohol. Simple isn’t it?
But be careful when the drink is poured from the bottle and not measured. A double or triple measure isn’t unusual. The average man or woman can safely drink 14 single measures of spirits, 1 litre of wine or 4.5 litres of beer per week.

The unit system is only a guide and does not represent a definition of when drinking is acceptable on health. For some people, just a couple of drinks triggers a change in personality, affecting relationships and to drink even a single alcoholic drink before driving always impairs performance and judgement. Alcohol affects our perception and after an alcoholic drink our perception of our ability is always greater than reality. For these people, avoiding alcohol altogether is probably the best policy.

The setting and time of drinking is also important when assessing safety. Be aware drinks poured at home or in the homes of friends and family are almost inevitably larger than those in bars and restaurants.

Tips for safer drinking

If you are drinking more than you should, the following tips might be helpful:

• Only drink in social settings and never to self-medicate stress, anxiety, mood or to unwind
• Space your drinks out over time. It takes approximately one hour for the body to process one unit of alcohol
• If you are thirsty have a soft drink first before an alcoholic one.
• When drinking wine with a meal always drink water as well and alternate between the two.
• Don’t allow someone to “top-up” your glass – always wait until your glass is empty. This way it is easier to monitor how much you have drunk.
• Switch your usual drink to one with less alcohol in it.
• Avoid the quick drink after work or at lunchtime
• Have at least two alcohol free days
• Take up a new interest, sport or just go to the cinema if you find most of your social life is involved around drinking.
• Drinking longer drinks - beer rather than spirits and drinking more slowly.
• If you drink at home, buying beers and wines with lower alcohol content could make a great difference.
• Buy smaller glasses for the home or buy a drinks measure.
• Keep a supply of non-alcoholic alternatives for drinking at home and entertaining.
• Tell others you are cutting down and avoid rounds.
• Finding other ways of relaxing - exercise or relaxation techniques for example.
• Avoid drinking on an empty stomach and make sure someone else is driving.
• Never drink alone and if you are meeting-up with someone for a drink, wait until they arrive before you order your first alcoholic drink.

What is binge drinking?
People who binge-drink often run greater risks to health and damaging consequences to others by the very nature of the illusion that they can’t be ‘alcoholics’ because they don’t drink every day.

Binge drinking is a kind of purposeful drinking style and can be mistaken for social drinking since it is often done in groups. A binge on alcohol can occur over hours or last up to several days. It is difficult to quantify how much alcohol needs to be consumed in a short period of time for it to be classed as binge drinking but the general view is consumption of more than 6 units.

What are the effects of binge drinking?
Studies show that drinking a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time may be significantly worse for your health than frequently drinking small quantities. Most binge drinkers are not familiar with the risks associated with binge drinking. Heavy regular binge drinking is associated with adverse effects on neurologic, cardiac, gastrointestinal, hematologic, immune, musculoskeletal organ systems as well as increasing the risk of alcohol induced psychiatric disorders. Immediate and delayed recall of verbal and visual information is impaired.

Sudden death
Binge drinking is also associated with strokes and sudden death. Binge drinking increases the risk of stroke by 10 times.

Acute hazards
The most common risk of consuming massive quantities of alcohol in a short period of time is a dangerously high blood alcohol level. The result is called alcohol poisoning (overdose), which can be fatal. Choking on (or inhalation of) vomit is also a potential cause of death, as are injuries from falls, fights, motor vehicle and bicycle accidents.

Alcohol suppresses brain function during intoxication; but upon withdrawal rebound effects occur leading to persisting impairments in verbal and nonverbal cognitive abilities as well as impairment of spatial orientation.
Binge drinking damages parts of the brain vital for you to perform at your best in whatever is your chosen profession.
The cost of binge drinking could be your life or your career. Is it worth it?

If you would like help or advice regarding your drinking habits please contact our team on:

T: [+351] 919 357 186
E: sallyvincent@novavidarecovery.com



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0 #1 eMBee 2017-05-14 12:45
Well done (Sally). Well thought out, non-onerous yet sufficiently and appropriately detailed. So easy to fall in to the habit (trap) of being ultimately unaware of volumes and potential dangers - especially with so many and such excellent offerings here. We find useful the simple expedient of aiming to have as many dry as drinking days in the month (potential defaults assessed in flagrante delicio, often thus avoided, and in any event not deemed arrestable offences!) useful. And surprisingly effective, especially when recorded (tactfully) AND COUNTED on our kitchen calendar. :-* :-*

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