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Many of us enjoy having an alcoholic drink now and then and it can be an important part of socialising and celebrating. However, regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits of alcohol can put you at risk of developing serious health problems.
Hazardous drinking is drinking over the recommended daily or weekly limits of alcohol. This may happen due to ‘binge’ drinking, where a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a day – over 8 units a day for men and over 6 units a day for women. Hazardous drinking may not cause any obvious or immediate problems but it increases the risk of developing problems in the future.
Harmful drinking occurs when a person drinks over the recommended weekly limits of alcohol and experiences health problems directly related to their drinking. These health problems can include an alcohol-related injury such as a fall, high blood pressure, cirrhosis and heart disease. Many of these do no cause symptoms until they are quite advanced so you may be damaging your health without realising.
Alcohol misuse may also lead to an increased likelihood of falls, incontinence, cognitive impairment, hypothermia and self-neglect. These sorts of problems can often be missed as they may be regarded as signs of ageing. It is important to try and recognise how much you are drinking and if you think you are experiencing problems with alcohol it is very important to talk to your GP who will be able to offer you help and support.
If you go to your GP because you are concerned about your drinking, or you receive treatment for an alcohol-related injury or illness, the extent of your alcohol use is likely to be assessed. This is usually done through a question and answer assessment. You will be asked how often you drink, how much you drink, what you and those around you think about your drinking habits and how alcohol is affecting your life. It is important to be truthful in your answers. If you cannot remember or are unaware of how much you drink try and keep a diary of your drinking habits.
Treatment for alcohol misuse will vary depending on whether you need to cut down your intake or stop drinking alcohol entirely. Stopping drinking alcohol (often called abstinence) is usually recommended if you are dependent on, or addicted to, alcohol and will have the most health benefits. Abstinence is strongly recommended if you have health problems as a direct cause of drinking such as liver disease. Often people find giving up entirely is actually easier than trying to stay within the recommended guidelines. Counselling or guidance sessions are often offered to help with the process of cutting down or stopping alcohol intake as well as follow up sessions to monitor progress.
Changing your drinking behaviour can be very difficult especially if you have been drinking heavily for a long period of time. There are many organisations that can offer support to individuals, and their family and friends, through this process. See the useful links below.
Drinkline: 0800 7 314 314
Drink Smarter offer online information and a helpline for people in Scotland affected by alcohol problems.
Helpline: 0845 769 7555
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions
Helpline: 0141 339 8884. Open 10am-10pm, 365 days a year.
Al-Anon Family Groups is an organisation for the relatives and friends of alcoholics, who share their experience, strength and hope with each other in order to solve their common problems. Al-Anon has one purpose: to help the families and friends of alcoholics.
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