Alcohol Awareness Week

Alcohol Awareness Week – Do I Have A Problem?

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer has provided guidelines on low-risk alcohol consumption. The guidelines provide a framework, based on the latest evidence, to help make informed choices about drinking.

The UK Chief Medical Officer recommends that men and women:

  • Should not to drink more than 14 units per week. 14 units mean roughly six pints of lager or one and a half bottles of wine A WEEK
  • Should spread alcohol consumption over three days or more during the week. NB. Saving your units up for a weekend “binge” is not a method of safe drinking.
  • Should have several alcohol-free days each week.

According to the UK Medical Officer drinking at this level is considered to be ‘low risk’

The UK Chief Medical Officer recommends that if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink at all.

According to Public Health England (PHE) there are 10.8 million adults in the UK that are drinking at levels that pose a risk to their health (harmful/hazardous drinking) and they estimate that 1.6 million adults may have some level of alcohol dependency, which the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) characterises by craving, tolerance, a preoccupation with alcohol and continued drinking in spite of harmful consequences. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines harmful/hazardous drinking as an average consumption of 21 drinks or more per week for men (or ≥7 drinks per occasion at least 3 times a week), and 14 drinks or more per week for women (or ≥5 drinks per occasion at least 3 times a week).

 

What Are Some of The Physical Health Consequences of Harmful Drinking?

Alcohol has been linked to over 200 diseases and health issues, including:

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Hepatitis
  • Gastritis
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Mouth cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Anaemia
  • Dementia
  • Seizures
  • Gout
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Anxiety

Researchers, psychiatrists, medical clinicians, therapists, and other addiction professionals in the US rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM V) to diagnose mental health disorders and is a useful benchmark for individuals to look at their own drinking behaviours. Alcohol abuse is referred to as “alcohol use disorder” and is further subdivided into mild, moderate, and severe classifications. For diagnostic purposes, DSM-5 provides health professionals with 11 potential factors involved in alcohol use. In a given 12-month period, if an individual has at least two of any of the 11 factors, the person is considered to have an alcohol use disorder. If 2-3 factors are present, the person is considered to have a mild grade alcohol use disorder. If 4-5 factors are present, the disorder is graded moderate. In the event that 6 or more symptoms manifest, the individual is deemed to have a severe alcohol use disorder. The following is the criteria used in DSM-5 for alcohol use disorder.

In the past year, have you:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
  2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
  4. Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  5. Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  9. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?

 

 

What Can I do?

If you, or someone you know, is scoring 2-3 or more from the above list then it is time to do something about their/your drinking.

However, suddenly stopping drinking altogether can cause serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, particularly if you or they are drinking heavily. Physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms that indicate an individual is drinking at severe levels include trembling hands, sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, confusion, fever, fits and even hallucinations. In some instance suddenly stopping drinking can lead to death. This being the case it is never advisable just to stop.

Dr. Sarah Jarvis is a UK GP, GP trainer, and a fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners. She is also a medical writer and broadcaster and has been on record as indicating that “psychological symptoms are very common, and not just if you’re a really heavy drinker. You can have short-term problems even with relatively low levels of alcohol consumption if you’ve become used to drinking really regularly.” Psychological symptoms can include irritability, poor concentration, feeling shaky, feeling tired, difficulty sleeping or bad dreams.

With Christmas and New year just around the corner, the propensity for drinking at hazardous and harmful levels are even more acute.

 

If you are concerned about your drinking or someone else’s then why not call a member of the Strong Hope team who can provide you with some free advice and information and to talk over your options. This is particularly important for those that are drinking dependently as they will most likely need a medical detox to help them stop drinking safely.

You can can get in touch with us here.

 

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