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What is excessive drinking?

Drinking alcohol is an enjoyable part of many peoples’ lives – it’s a big part of socialising, and having a drink can be a pleasant way to relax after a stressful day. However, alcohol is both physically and psychologically addictive, and it’s quite easy to become dependent upon it. Dependency often leads to excessive drinking, which can be seriously damaging to your health and wellbeing.

Dependency on alcohol means that you cannot function normally without it. Perhaps you need a drink, rather than want one? Maybe you know that you drink too much and that this is damaging your health, your performance at work or your relationships? But despite all this, you can’t break the cycle and drink less.

Many people who are dependent on alcohol and drink a dangerous amount may not realise it. Pressure from demanding jobs and stressful family lives can lead people to drink excessively.

Our UK-based, GMC-registered GPs will review your online consultation details and drink diary, and if appropriate can provide a prescription for treatment to help reduce alcohol consumption, in addition to access to an online self-help programme.

What are the risks of excessive alcohol consumption?

Guidelines published in January 2016 make it clear than any consumption of alcohol on a regular basis carries health risks, principally an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and breast. The amount of risk associated with alcohol is directly related to how much you drink – the more you drink the greater the risk. Alcohol is one of the main causes of early death due to disease or injury. The amount of alcohol we consume is measured in units of alcohol – 1 unit equals 8 grams of pure alcohol. The NHS ‌ provide a useful tool to find out how many units common drinks contain.

Reduce your drinking

There are different risk categories associated with drinking alcohol:

  • Lower Risk Drinking – This is sensible drinking. This corresponds to drinking 14 units or less a week for adult men and women. It has been found that the majority of adults in the UK drink at this level. It is not recommended to drink all the 14 units over 1 or 2 days, but to spread them over 3 or more days. People who have 1 or 2 heavy drinking days each week increase the risk of death from long-term illnesses, accidents and injuries. Pregnant women are advised not to drink alcohol at all. You should limit the amount of alcohol drunk on any one occasion, drink slowly, alternate with water and eat while drinking. Guidelines on the amount of alcohol to consume in a single occasion are not provided at the moment as the harm varies a lot from person to person.
  • Increased Risk Drinking - This is hazardous drinking. This corresponds to drinking 22-50 units a week for adult men and 15-35 units a week for adult women. Drinking at this level will be harming your health and you may not be aware of it. The more you drink, the greater the harm.
  • High-Risk Drinking – This is harmful drinking. This corresponds to drinking more than 50 units a week for adult men and more than 35 units a week for adult women. It has been found that 6% of men and 2% of women in the UK drink at this level. If this is you, you need to lower your level of drinking.

What harm can alcohol cause to our health?

  • Obesity. Alcoholic drinks contain many calories. Did you know a large glass of white wine has the same number of calories as a Cornetto ice cream? Regular and heavy drinking is a major contributor to being overweight.
  • Depression, anxiety and sleep disorders
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Increased risk of a serious accident or being involved in violence
  • Impotence and infertility
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Liver, breast, mouth, throat and bowel cancer
  • Acute pancreatitis.

Many of these problems can go unnoticed until they are well advanced, irreversible and extremely serious, and can result in death. Indeed, in younger people (women under the age of 45 years and men under the age of 35 years), any level of alcohol consumption increases the overall risk of death in a dose-dependent manner – i.e. the more you drink, the more likely you are to die early.

How can I reduce my drinking?

Drinking too much is very dangerous and it can become an addiction. It’s important to realise that if you are drinking too much, there is help out there to support you. Excessive drinking can lead to a raft of problems including obesity and damage to your health and relationships.

The fact that you are reading this means that you think something might be wrong – so it’s important that you do something about it and here’s the good news: The vast majority of people who worry about their drinking manage to change their drinking habits. It requires courage and commitment, but the odds are in your favour if you try. Whether you are only slightly worried about your drinking or if you know that you have a more serious alcohol problem, it is possible to make a positive change to your drinking habits.

How can Pharmacy2U help?

There is a prescription-only medicine called Selincro (nalmefene) which is licenced for the reduction of alcohol consumption in adult patients who are having difficulty reducing their alcohol consumption. Selincro is a prescription-only medicine that affects the opioid receptors in your brain, and so reduces the pleasant feelings associated with drinking alcohol. Clinical trials have shown that people drink less when they take Selincro.

Selincro can be prescribed by the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor following an online consultation and the completion of a two-week drink diary. This is so that the doctor can see whether you are likely to be dependent on alcohol and determine how much you are drinking. If you know how much you have drunk in the last two weeks you can fill the in drinks diary in one go - you don't have to do it over two weeks. It is also essential that if you are prescribed Selincro you undertake a support programme to help you understand your drinking, its effect on your life and how you can change your drinking habits. If we prescribe Selincro we will provide you with access to an online self-help programme and it is essential you undertake that programme. It can be done discreetly in your own time.

If you have a drinking problem and are drinking too much, act now and take advantage of our Online Doctor service.