Dr. Phelan By General Practitioner Published:

Help to reduce drinking in Alcohol Awareness Week

Most of us like a drink. Whether it’s a Friday night pint with friends or a bottle of wine over dinner, alcohol is an accepted part of our socialising.

But do you know how much you’re drinking and what the safe level of alcohol consumption is?

Know your limits

There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink, but both sexes should never drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread over three to four days.

The number of units in a drink is based on alcohol strength and size of drink. For example a pint of 3.6% ABV beer contains 2 units of alcohol, but the same amount of high strength (5.2%) beer contains 3 units.

Alcohol and your body

If you continually drink too much alcohol, you will put both your health and personal safety at risk.

Regular heavy drinking can increase your risk of developing a wide range of cancers and is a risk factor for liver disease, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and depression, amongst others.

Alcohol is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death in the UK, after smoking and obesity.

Are you drinking too much?

More than nine million people in England drink more than the recommended weekly limit. Many are unaware that they are drinking too much.

If you feel you should be cutting down or people have criticised you for the amount you drink, you might need to cut back.

Warning signs of drinking too much and becoming dependent on alcohol include needing a drink first thing in the morning, drinking to steady your nerves, regularly being unable to remember what happened during a drinking session, and failing to do something as a result of drinking – like going to work.

Cutting down and cutting out

Use a drink tracking app or drink diary to track how much you are drinking.

Regularly drinking a little too much can be easily solved with lifestyle changes, like using smaller glasses, interchanging each alcoholic drink with a soft drink and choosing lower strength drinks.

You should have at least three alcohol-free days a week.

Being dependent on alcohol – alcoholism – is a much more serious issue. This kind of dependent drinking can severely affect your health, work, life and relationships.

A dependent drinker may be able to tolerate levels of alcohol that would seriously harm or kill some people; they may be in denial about how much they drink.

Help to reduce drinking

If you’re concerned about your or someone else’s drinking, see your GP. They will be able to discuss what treatments are available and refer you to the correct services.

Charities such as Alcohol Concern or Alcoholics Anonymous can provide confidential advice and support.

You may not be an alcoholic, but regularly drinking over the recommended amount can do serious harm, so make sure you’re drink aware.

Dr Alexandra Phelan is a working NHS GP and member of the Pharmacy Online Doctor service. Visit www.pharmacy2u.co.uk/onlinedoctor/ for further information.

Alcohol Awareness Week runs 14-20 November