How Does Alcohol Affect Us?
Alcohol can cause harm in three ways:
- When people get drunk they lose control and can become either aggressive or vulnerable.
- Alcohol can be a highly addictive drug and many adults in the UK have evidence of mild alcohol dependency and should cut down on their drinking before it progresses. People with severe alcohol dependency are often unable to stop drinking even though alcohol is ruining their lives.
- Moderate to heavy drinking over a number of years can cause damage to many vital organs such as the liver, brain, heart and pancreas, and can cause cancer.
If alcohol is affecting you then we suggest you find out a little more about how to drink safely .
How Do I Work Out How Much Alcohol I Am Drinking?
To help calculate how much alcohol there is in any particular drink most people talk about units of alcohol.
- 1 unit of alcohol is 10 mls of pure alcohol:
Originally this was the same as:
- A small glass of wine
- Half pint of normal bitter
- A single measure of spirits (25ml)
However over the years drinks have become much stronger.
- Most lagers or ciders are now 5% alcohol by volume, and a pint is 3 units.
- Pub glasses of wine are 175ml or 2.5 units, or even 250ml or 3.5 units.
- Even measures of spirits have often been increased from 25ml to 35ml or 1.5 units.
The alcohol content of some normal drinks is as follows:
- Can of lager or cider 2.2 units
- Small bottle of lager or alcopop 1.5 unit
- Pint of 5% lager 3 units
- Pint of very strong (8%) lager or cider 5 units
- Bottle of spirits 30 units
- Bottle of wine 9 units
Should I Try To Cut Down, Or Should I Stop Alcohol Completely?
Stopping alcohol completely is usually the best option if you are or have been alcohol dependent. Also, if you have a condition due to alcohol such as liver damage. Otherwise, reducing to a safe level of drinking is an option. (A note of caution: do not stop alcohol suddenly if you are alcohol dependent. Some withdrawal effects can be severe. It is best to cut down gradually and then stop, or see your doctor)
If you are trying to cut down, some tips which may help include the following:
- Try pacing the rate of drinking by including soft drinks with alcoholic drinks.
- Consider drinking low alcohol beers.
- Consider cutting back on types of social activity which involve drinking. Perhaps try different social activities where drinking is not a part.
- Reduce the number of days in the week where you go out to drink.
- Resist pressure from peers or friends who encourage you to drink more than you want to.
What Can Help Me To Reduce Or Stop Drinking Alcohol?
You have to be committed and determined to do this yourself. However, it can be difficult, and one or more of the following may help.
Accepting the problem
Some people can deny that they have a problem. They tend to believe that they ‘I can cope and ‘I will be ok’. Once you accept that you have a problem then you can take the next step to get help.
Talking through problems with a professional counselor or getting advice from a doctor. This method can deal with the main issues behind your drinking and to work on a plan on how to manage your drinking in the future.
Self Help Material
There are many leaflets, websites and books with information on how to help stop drinking or getting back to drinking normally. It is thought that 33% of people stop drinking or return to drinking normally without getting any help from professionals.
Treating other illnesses
You may see Alcohol as an quick answer to other problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems. But this is only short lived and can make the condition worse. If you have any of these underlying problems then please get in touch with your doctor.
Also known as ‘detox’ which is an option if you are dependant on alcohol. It involves issuing a short course of medicine when you stop drinking. A high dose of medicine on the first day is usually given then this is reduced each day over the next 5-7 days. The medicine helps your body adjust during this time and so determination to stop drinking is still needed. Also this determination will be needed after this period as you may still be tempted to drink so your commitment must be strong. The support from your GP, friends & family will be of great help during this time.
How Alcohol Affects The Body
When Alcohol enters the body most of the Alcohol goes to the small intestine. And from there is absorbed in to the blood stream. If Alcohol is taken regularly in large amounts it can have a damaging effect. On all parts of the body including
Esophagus – Cancer of the Larynx and Mouth
Heart – High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Heart Failure
Kidneys – Alcohol can cause kidney failure
Liver – Cirrhosis build up of scar tissue
Lungs – Pneumonia, Lung collapse, pulmonary infections
Pancreas – Trouble Digesting Enzymes
Reproductive System – Production of Sperm and Testosterone reduced
Small Intestines – Damage Stomach lining and Intestines can cause Gastritis
Alcohol And The Brain
Alcohol depresses the Nervous system and also destroys Brain cells and can cause problems with cognition and memory.
Some Signs Of Alcoholism
Irritable when not drinking
Reasons For Developing Alcoholism
There are many reasons why people become addicted to alcohol. Genetics can be a major factor also if somebody is suffering from mental ill health they may be using Alcohol to self medicate to try and control their illness. High levels of Stress, Financial problems and Relationship problems can also be a factor in developing Alcohol
Alcoholics Anonymous – www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
24 hour support for people with alcohol problems
0845 769 7555
West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse – www.wcada.org
Drugaid Cymru – Provides help and support for people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction – www.drugaidcymru.com or contact Methyr Tydfil / Rhondda Cynon Taf on Tel: 01685 721991
DAN 24/7 (All Wales Drugs and Alcohol Helpline)
A bilingual telephone helpline providing a single point of contact for anyone in Wales wanting further information and help relating to drugs and alcohol. The helpline will assist individuals, their families, carers, and support workers within the drug and alcohol field to access appropriate local and regional services Tel: 0800 6 33 55 88
National Drugs Helpline (Frank)
24 hour helpline for drug users, solvent users, their friends, families and carers. (Tel: 0800 776600)