While alcohol is a source of pleasure for many, it is also the cause of significant individual, social and economic harm.
Alcohol is an addictive depressant drug and a major cause of illnesses such as liver cirrhosis, cancers, heart disease, and social problems including social exclusion, unemployment, homelessness, violence, disorder, health inequality, teenage pregnancy and accidents.
If we only ever drank it once or twice in a lifetime, alcohol would probably do us no significant harm. Most of us who do drink, however, do it a lot more often than that!
Keep to the recommended units
The standardised way to measure alcohol is in units. Keeping to the recommended units can help you reduce the risk of any long term effects on your health. One unit is 10 ml or 8 grams of pure alcohol – the amount of alcohol the average adult male can process within an hour.
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
There are lots of great tools to help you drink less. Try the One You FREE Days Off app to choose alcohol-free days each week, track your progress and see how much money you could save.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant
The Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.
Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink, the greater the risk. For further information visit NHS Choices.
In Leeds we have developed a local campaign called ‘No Thanks, I’m Pregnant’. The website has information about what harm alcohol can do to your baby, alcohol alternatives and campaign resources.
Top 10 Sensible Drinking Tips
- Count up how many units you’ve had over a few days. You’ll probably be surprised.
- Ditch big rounds: It’s easy to end up drinking more when you’re out in a big group. Pair off to buy drinks instead.
- Take a break: If you’ve had too much in one night, avoid alcohol for at least 48 hours.
- Take care at parties. Keep track of how much you are drinking.
- Eating will slow the alcohol absorption in your system.
- Say no to a top-up until your glass is empty. It’s difficult to know how much you are drinking if your glass is being topped up.
- Have a soft drink or water ‘spacer’ in between alcoholic drinks.
- When you’re drinking at home with friends and family, don’t pour much larger measures of spirits than you would get in a bar. Use an imaginary unit measure to help keep track (or even a real one).
- Plan how you’re going to get home before your night out. Take a cab or ask a non-drinking driver to collect you.
- Keep a drinks diary to keep track of your drinking at www.drinkaware.co.uk
Support for those with drinking problems
If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking call there’s lots of support available.
Forward Leeds is the alcohol and drug service in Leeds for adults, young people and families. It is a confidential service open 5 days a week Monday-Friday 9am until 5pm and late appointments are available. It helps everyone whose lives are affected by alcohol or drug problems.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
AA has over 60 years of experience with all kinds of drinkers in all phases of active alcoholism and recovery. The support AA offer is free. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
There are many groups in Leeds.
Tel: 0845 769 7555
Alcoholics Anonymous offers understanding and support for families and friends of problem drinkers, whether the drinker is still drinking or not.
Tel: 020 7403 0888
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call this free helpline, in complete confidence.
Tel: 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am – 8pm, weekends 11am – 4pm)