Alcohol is undeniably an integral part of today’s society: we use it to socialise, celebrate, to console and comfort, to relax and to cope. Drinking is socially acceptable, legal and, often, encouraged. Yet alcohol is also the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, beating heroin and crack cocaine into second and third place. Alcohol is often considered a harmless drug, but when you think about the damage not only to the drinker, but also to friends, family and wider society, the results are unsurprising. The figures speak for themselves – one person in the UK dies every hour as a result of alcohol, that’s over 20 people per day.
Why do people drink every day?
The effects alcohol has on a person’s mental and physical health should not be underestimated. It’s true that some people can drink moderately, enjoying a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday night or after a long day at work to unwind. Others, however, simply cannot stop. If you’re regularly reaching for a drink, alcohol can quickly become a coping mechanism, a way to shut off difficult and painful emotions and to get through the day. It becomes a form of escapism. And when that occasional indulgence becomes something more frequent, even an everyday occurrence, you may have a problem. Remember, the disease of alcoholism is progressive, and that first glass of wine can quickly turn into a bottle, then two, and so on.
Alcohol consumption can have a detrimental impact on physical health and wellbeing. Even moderate drinking is associated with certain adverse effects. The more alcohol an individual consumes, the greater and more harmful the effect it has on their system.
Liver: Alcohol is mainly metabolized in the liver, so it’s at particular risk of damage. If you are drinking excessively on a regular basis, your chances of developing a fatty liver, cirrhosis and cancer are significantly heightened. Ultimately, if the liver cannot perform its functions to keep the body alive, multiple organ failure and death will occur.
Pancreatitis: Heavy drinking can cause both acute and chronic pancreatitis – a painful inflammation of the pancreas that often requires hospitalization.
Brain: Heavy alcohol use can shrink your brain, changing the cell structure over time and your ability to learn, think and control body movements and body temperature.
Heart: Increased risk of heart failure, strokes and high blood pressure are all associated with heavy drinking.
Cancer: Alcohol use, like tobacco, has consistently been linked with many cancers. It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink – wine, beer or liquor. The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk, particularly over a long period of time.
– Mouth cancer
– Throat cancer
– Oesophageal cancer
– Breast cancer
– Bowel cancer
– Liver cancer
– Colon and rectum cancer
– Stomach cancer
– Pancreas cancer
If you are planning to quit drinking, ensure you start your alcohol detox in a safe environment. Physical withdrawal symptoms can last between 12 to 48 hours after your last drink. However, there are many physical benefits to alcohol addiction recovery.
Whilst the physical health risks of drinking are well known, the very real consequences on mood and mental health are less widely discussed. These are severe and they’re getting worse. Over the last 10 years, the number of people admitted to hospital with alcohol-related behavioural disorders has risen by 94% in the 15-59 age bracket, and by 150% for the over 60s.
Alcohol is a depressant, and there is a strong link between heavy alcohol use and depression. Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – the chemical that your body uses to regulate mood. Initially, taking a drink can make you feel relaxed and lower your inhibitions, but in the long term it has the adverse effect and can exacerbate low mood. It is difficult to know which comes first: whether people drink because they’re depressed, or become depressed because they’re drinking so much.
Anxiety is something we all feel from time to time and is normal, such as before a big exam or job interview. But those who experience prolonged and intense periods of anxiety on a regular basis may be suffering with an anxiety disorder. Individuals may resort to drinking to unwind and quell their anxiety. Such attempts usually backfire, as despite alcohol’s initial relaxing effect, it will increase anxiety a few hours after consumption.
Stress is an increasingly common factor in why people drink regularly, using it as a coping mechanism for life and its difficulties. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, slowing your heart rate and breathing at first, and relieving feelings of worry or stress. But at some point after a few drinks, treating stress with alcohol will actually make your problems worse. Alcohol consumption makes you less inhibited and more emotional, or emotionally unstable, and instead of “calming your nerves” it does the opposite.
It should be clear by now that heavy alcohol consumption poses a serious risk to your physical and mental health, and can quickly lead to physical dependency. As current NHS guidelines stand, men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, the equivalent of around 6 pints of beer or 7 glasses of wine. Yet these figures do not offer an accurate or realistic picture of the current situation. Drinking to excess is a widespread problem in this country. A recent global study found that Britons get drunk more than any other nation in the world. On average respondents reported getting drunk 33 times in the last year, a figure which was 50 times that in the US and 48 times in Canada. It’s worth pointing out that the Global Drug survey comes during a general downward trend in drinking levels in the UK, particularly among young people. However, those who are drinking are doing so in a more harmful way.
Learn more alcohol facts and statistics here.
Alcoholism & Rehab
Even if you don’t drink every day, consuming alcohol on a regular basis or engaging in binge drinking can, at some point, lead to physical dependency. Using alcohol to relieve stress, deal with feelings of social anxiety or other difficult emotions, may indicate that the psychological or emotional dependency is already present.
Start your recovery with alcohol rehab
Are you worried you’re drinking too much? Want to stop but don’t know how or where to begin? If you think you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, or is physically dependent, a residential stay at a private rehab clinic is your best chance at a long-lasting recovery. Here at the Providence Projects in Bournemouth, we know what you’re going through, we understand your desperation and the feeling that the vicious cycle of alcoholism will never end. We’re here to tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Help is available and it is possible to recover and to live a life clean and sober.
The benefits of sobriety are limitless: there really is no downside to freeing yourself from alcohol’s unrelenting grip, as you start to feel better physically and mentally, and develop new healthy habits which will enrich your life in recovery. To find out more about alcohol treatment programmes we have on offer, please call today to speak to one of our expert team of addiction counsellors on 0800 955 0945, or fill out our contact form. Help is available and you don’t have to suffer on your own anymore.
David Nutt, Leslie A King, William Saulsbury, Colin Blakemore, ‘Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse.’ https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)60464-4/fulltext#secd7839412e1116
Alcohol Change, ‘The Alcohol Change report’, https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/files.alcoholchange.org.uk/images/AC-Lauch-report-online.pdf?mtime=20181114152753
Global Drug Survey, 2019, https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/wp-content/themes/globaldrugsurvey/results/GDS2019-Exec-Summary.pdf