For many people, sharing an alcoholic drink with friends and family is one of life’s great pleasures, and a key feature at most social gatherings and celebrations. Alcohol is everywhere, from restaurants to bars, to supermarkets and shops on every street corner. It’s no secret that regular drinking isn’t the healthiest choice. If you’re one of many adults who can drink in moderation, enjoying the occasional glass of wine with friends, this doesn’t pose a problem. There won’t be significant negative affects on the body. But if you’re one of those Britons regularly drinking to excess, the dangers far outweigh the perceived ‘fun’. Alcohol can be a poison, and is one of the most addictive liquid drugs available in society today. If you feel your habit is becoming damaging, it’s worth reading this article to find out more about cutting down your intake, stopping drinking altogether, and seeking professional help.
Government guidelines from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers advise both men and women to not regularly drink more than 14 units a week. These 14 units of alcohol equate to roughly six pints of beer or six 175ml glasses of wine. It is also encouraged to have alcohol-free days every week, where there is no alcohol consumed at all. This can provide relief for the liver and digestive system, which can become irritated by frequent alcohol consumption. Ultimately, the more you drink the greater your risk of developing mental and physical health problems over time. If you are worried about your drinking or someone else’s, then the Providence Projects are here to help. Our private alcohol treatment clinic on England’s beautiful south-coast, has been running since 1996. You can call us today on 0800 955 0945 for free, confidential advice and support. Our phone lines are open 24/7 to answer your calls.
Excessive Alcohol: The Harms
Alcohol can be a poison, and the physical and mental dangers of drinking to excess are serious. High-risk drinking has nearly doubled since lockdown first begain, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The rate of people drinking ‘high risk’ amounts of alcohol had doubled from 10% in February 2020 to 20% in June 2020. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of developing serious health conditions. These include:
- Increased risk of pancreatitis
- Heart disease
- Various cancers
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver damage and liver disease
- Poor sleep hygiene
Alcohol & Mental Health
The impact of alcohol on the brain is significant. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it impacts negatively on the way we think, feel and act – and can have irreversible effects on our long-term mental health. When we have a drink, we feel relaxed. This is due to the chemical changes taking place in the brain – alcohol suppresses parts of the brain, and can damage the neurotransmitters which help transmit signals from one neuron or nerve in the brain to another.
The more we drink, the greater the impact on brain function. Over any significant period of time, this will affect our mood and general mental health and wellbeing. With increased alcohol consumption usually comes more frequent negative emotions and low mood. Alcohol can lead to aggression and anger in some people, and severe anxiety and depression in others. There is little to no evidence to suggest that drinking alcohol improves mental health whatsoever.
Drinking in large amounts on a regular basis has been associated with psychological symptoms, such as agitation, depression and anxiety. If low mood is already an issue for you, alcohol will surely only make things worse. It is often difficult to separate the two or to know which comes first; does excessive drinking cause symptoms of depression, or does a depressed mood make one more inclined to drink more? We do know for certain that alcohol has an effect on the chemical systems in our bodies used to regulate our mood and serotonin levels. That’s why many people experience low mood and anxiety after a heavy drinking session and when they are hungover. Anyone suffering from depression who seeks relief in the form of anti-depressants or other medication, should not mix these with alcohol. They simply won’t work. If you can manage to cut down your alcohol intake, or stop altogether, then medication is often a useful tool in managing depressive symptoms, when prescribed by a doctor or medical professional.
Drinking alcohol can also increase anxiety levels, especially if the individual is already prone to worry and anxiety. If you are drinking to de-stress, relax or relieve anxiety, why not try other, healthier methods of relaxation? These include meditation, yoga, or a group exercise class. Breathing techniques can also prove helpful when you’re feeling worried.
Cutting Down: The Benefits
Are you worried about your alcohol intake? Feel like things are getting out of control, or that when you really want to stop drinking, you find you can’t? If you think you may have a drinking problem, chances are you probably do. Admitting things are getting out of control requires much bravery, honesty and courage. The sooner you seek help for your problem the better. Perhaps you don’t want to stop drinking completely, or are afraid you won’t be able to have fun without it. The opposite is true. By ditching the booze, or at least reducing your intake, you will experience so many improvements to your physical and mental health. These include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved mood
- Better sleep hygeine
- Improved digestion
- Skin clears up
- Liver begins to repair
- Brain function increases
- Improved concentration
- Weight loss
- Healthier cardiovascular system
- Reduced risks of cancers
- Healthier finances
- Improved blood pressure
- Better relationships
- Greater productivity at work
How do I reduce my alcohol consumption?
Whilst we all know that alcohol isn’t the healthiest option, actually reducing our intake or going sober is a far more difficult thing to do. It is by no means impossible however. It requires determination, commitment and honesty to change your drinking habits, and to put yourself back in the driving seat. More often than not, we realise we have become a slave to alcohol, reaching for another glass of wine when we don’t want one, or saying yes when really we want to say no.
In order to successfully give up alcohol or reduce the amount we take, it can be helpful to set some small, realistic goals that we can stick to on a daily basis. Over time, the progress will be clear to see!
Stick within healthy limits
That means having no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread evenly over a few days. Aim to drink less than this if possible!
Practice having alcohol-free days
Having a few days where you consume no alcohol at all each week, is a great way to give your liver and body a break, and a chance to repair any damage.
Reserve alcohol for meals
Allowing yourself only to drink alcohol at mealtimes can provide a good framework to stick within – meaning you can only drink a certain amount of alcohol for a certain length of time. Goals such as this drinking with food make it less likely that you will consume too much, and you are far more likely to sip slowly if alcohol is consumed as an accompaniment to a nice meal.
Take your health seriously
Your health is your wealth. Our bodies are incredibly complex, powerful mechanisms, but they also need to be treated with care, love and respect. To avoid any lasting physical health problems, listen to your body and report any issues to your doctor or medical professional.
If you can’t cut down, admit you may have a problem
If you try to control or reduce the amount of alcohol you take, but find you cannot, it may be time to acknowledge your addiction to alcohol. Symptoms include drinking in secret, drinking on your own, or regularly drinking more than you intend to. You may want to stop, but once you start drinking find you cannot. If you need more and more alcohol to get drunk and feel the effects, you may have an alcohol problem. Why not speak to your GP, a trusted friend or family member, or seek advice from a support and recovery group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Providence Projects is here to help. Our private alcohol rehab is based in Bournemouth, only a short walk away from the south-coast’s beautiful stretches of beach and coast line. It is the perfect place to start your recovery. Our residential rehab programmes are bespoke and tailored to the needs of the individual. Our expert team of therapists and medical professionals have been helping recovering addicts and alcoholics since 1996, and we remain committed to providing affordable, quality care and addiction treatment to those who need it. Call us today on 0800 955 0945 or fill out our quick and easy contact form and we will be in touch shortly.