Alcohol abuse is a major public health issue in the UK, with significant health, economic, and social consequences, at an estimated cost of £21 to £52 billion annually. Hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions exceed 1 million per year.
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the Chief Medical Officers recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units per week on a regular basis. If you regularly drink this amount, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days. Drinking heavily once or twice a week increases the risk of death from long-term illnesses, accidents, and injuries. The more you drink on a regular basis, the higher your risk of developing a range of health problems, including cancers of the mouth, throat, and breast. Cutting down the amount you drink can be achieved by having several drink-free days each week.
Are you concerned about your drinking habits?
Drinkaware's Drinking Check is an alcohol self-assessment tool that can help you determine if the amount you drink could be posing a serious risk to your health. The tool is used globally by medical professionals to check for signs of alcohol harm and dependence. To learn more about Drinking Check, visit Drinkaware's website.
Consider giving Dry January a try and see the many benefits it can bring.
Your skin may become brighter, your wallet fuller, and your days busier. You may also notice that you feel more energized, your mind calmer, and your mornings fresher. Research conducted by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal found that taking a month off from alcohol can lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, lower cholesterol, and decrease levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.
The true benefits of Dry January come after the month is over. It can help people develop healthier drinking habits year-round. According to research conducted by the University of Sussex, over 70% of people who participated in Dry January with the help of Alcohol Change UK's Try Dry app or coaching emails were still drinking more healthily six months later. This positive change can also lead to an increase in overall well-being.
Advice to reduce risk:
Plan: before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you're going to drink. This could include planning when you will stop drinking, and also planning what types of drink you will have, e.g. spirits, beers.
Set a budget: Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol. For example, taking cash and only spending the cash you have available to you.
Let them know: Let your friends and family know you're cutting down and explain why it's important to you, so you can get support from them. For example, asking friends and family to not offer to buy you any drinks, or refrain from pushing you to drink more once you have decided to stop for the night.
Take it a day at a time: Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success. This could include having one less pint, or one less day drinking each week.
Make it a smaller one: You can still enjoy a drink but go for smaller sizes. Try bottled beer instead of pints, or a small glass of wine instead of a large one. Or aim for spritzers instead, so the alcohol content is reduced.
Have a lower-strength drink: Cut down the alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength (ABV in %). You'll find this information on the bottle. There are also 0% drinks available to support with cutting down.
Stay hydrated: Have a glass of water before you have alcohol and alternate alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks. For example, ordering a lemonade when out with friends or family, in between alcoholic drinks.
Take a break: Have several drink-free days each week. It is also important to remember that whilst the recommended amount is 14 units per week, that these are ideally spread across a few days.