It is normal and common for people to drink alcohol. It could be at social occasions or perhaps alongside a meal.
Did you know, however, that around 2.5 million people drink more than the recommended weekly intake of alcohol on their heaviest drinking day?
Alcohol problems can creep in without us realising. It starts as a social drink, moves on to being required to calm nerves, and ends up being needed daily to make it through life situations.
All of this can happen over a period of time so that it feels the norm with no big significant habit changes.When you look back at the level of alcohol you used to drink and compare it to the level now, you may realise it has become a problem.
When does alcohol become a problem?
The NHS recommends not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This is ideally over at least 3-4 days rather than in one go, and a few alcohol-free days are recommended. It’s useful to understand how many units of alcohol are in common drinks.
A 750ml bottle of wine (ABV 13.5%) contains approximately 10 units
- 1 pint of standard lager contains approximately 3 units
- 1 bottle of alcohol contains approximately 1.5 units
- 1 shot of spirits contains approximately 1 unit
You can use these measurements to compare your alcohol intake to the recommended levels for good health. If intake exceeds these amounts it is a good idea to cut back.
If you can’t cut back, this could indicate a problem with dependency on alcohol. You may notice that:
- you are hiding your alcohol intake
- you crave alcohol
- you are using alcohol for a purpose – for example, calming yourself or drinking to forget
- you use alcohol when you shouldn’t – for example, before work or driving
- your tolerance to alcohol has increased leading you to need more alcohol for the same effect.
- you have physical symptoms such as a redder face, poor balance and weight gain
- you are suffering memory loss and blackouts
- you can’t stop once you start
Can you stop or change?
As mentioned above, the NHS recommends no more than 14 units per week.
Occasionally going over this for example on holiday or over festive periods isn’t usually an indication of a bigger problem, but if you are regularly drinking more than 14 units, then it could be time to assess your drinking habits and if you have any of the symptoms above you may want to seek advice in regards to it.
If you consume over 14 units per week but believe you are in control of your drinking, there are ways to monitor and make positive changes to the situation. It can be helpful to keep a diary and log your alcohol intake.
Reflect on the entries and see if there was anywhere you could have cut back. Could you have drunk less alcohol on any of the occasions? Could you go for a drink after work just once a week rather than every night? Could you go to the cinema instead of a bar?
You may be noticing other problems in your life because of your relationship with alcohol. Commonly relationships are affected, and in many cases unfortunately domestic violence can become an issue.
If you don’t feel like you can take steps such as these to help yourself, then it may be better to reach out for advice and help. It’s important to acknowledge there could be an issue and that help is readily available.