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Moderating alcohol consumption

Safe Limits

  • Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week (and no more than 4 units in any one day). 21-50 units/week increases your risks and over 50 units/week is harmful
  • Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (and no more than 3 units in any one day). 14-35 units/week increases your risks and over 35 units/week is harmful. Pregnant women should consume no more than a couple of units a week

In general, the more you drink above the safe limits, the more harmful alcohol is likely to be. Also, binge drinking can be harmful even if the weekly total does not seem too high. Be ware too that alcohol can interact with some medications such as aspirin, antibiotics, antihistamines, antidepressants and sleeping pills.

Know Your Units

A unit is a standard measure of the alcoholic content of drinks. It takes into account the strength of a drink (%ABV) and its quantity.

Health Risks

Many people who drink heavily are not addicted to alcohol and could probably stop if there was a will to do so. However, drinking heavily is a serious health risk and you are at increased risk of developing the following:

  • Hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • High blood pressure
  • Cirrhosis (liver scarring) - one in three long term heavy drinkers develop this
  • Impotence and reduced fertility
  • Obesity
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Some cancers (mouth, throat, liver, colon, breast). You are 150 times more likely to develop throat cancer if you smoke and drink
  • Accidents. Alcohol is a factor in 7% of accidental drownings and 40% of household fires. About half of all adults admitted to hospital with head injuries are drunk
  • Alocohol dependency (addiction)

Tips for reducing

  • Consider drinking low alcohol beers and try to avoid strong beers and lagers
  • Try alternating soft drinks with alcoholic drinks. Start drinking later in the day
  • Try changing your social routine. Try activities that don't involve drinking
  • Try to resist pressure from people who want you to drink more than you want to
  • If you eat when you drink, you may drink less
  • Keep a drinking diary for a week to give you an idea of how much you really drink

If you feel you have a problem with drinking that you cannot cope with alone your doctor or nurse can be a source of counseling or support.