Drinking Alcohol Responsibly

Today’s lifestyle places us in situations where alcohol is freely available.  To many of us drinking can be associated with fun, celebrations and all round general socialising.  However, we all need to learn just how dangerous it can be to our health and general well being if we fail to follow the suggested government guidelines.

We as adults fully realise the implications from excessive drinking.  Treated responsibly alcohol is associated with enjoyment and common knowledge of over drinking and inappropriate consumption can, as we know, lead to health and social problems for individuals and society.

The younger generation is fast making the UK one of the worst countries for binge drinking, and the hospitals along with police stations are showing this only too well every Friday and Saturday nights.

Ambulance and hospital emergency departments are being overstretched to breaking point with a 50% rise in alcohol related cases last year alone.  Extra police force have to be put on patrol every weekend to cope with the ever increasing disheveled men and women fighting and collapsing in doorways and benches; some of who are far too drunk to know their own name or where they are.

New Years Eve 2007/2008 celebrations have gone on record as being one of the worst recorded cases of call-outs to the London Ambulance Service (LAS), who astonishingly dealt with 1,825 calls, peaking at over 500 calls an hour between 2am and 4am. This is typically the time when night clubs close and the masses emerge onto the streets, all fighting to get taxi’s home and have that famous kebab.

These drunken ‘louts’ are putting the emergency services under increasing pressure and could be delaying the treatment of patients with potentially life threatening emergencies.

LAS spokeswoman Gemma Gidley said: "People need to think about the real consequences of drinking so much that they require treatment."

Adults, Drinking and Knowing your Limits

Anyone over the age of 18 is allowed to buy and consume alcohol legally but so many underage drinkers are falling by the wayside that the introduction of pointing out the ‘dangers of alcohol’ into our schools timetable is maybe way overdue?

In the UK the amount of alcohol in any drink is measured in units and one unit is equal to 25ml of alcohol.  Guidelines laid down from the Government suggest that men consume four units a day while women should consume no more than three units of alcohol per day.

Women & Alcohol

Just one more fact that makes it easy for us women to quote the saying ‘it’s a Mans’ world’ is the unequal measurements of units between the opposite sexes!

Women are affected differently when drinking and we can expect significantly more alcohol-related impairments than men when we drink comparable amounts.

  • We as women carry more body fat than the average male and since our body fat contains less water, we have the added difficulty of our bodies having to work and cope much harder with the dilution of alcohol.
  • On average, women are smaller than men and equivalent doses of alcohol produce much higher levels of alcohol concentration in our bodies.
  • Hormone levels fluctuate along with rising estrogen levels when taking birth control pills or other medications that contain estrogen, and will cause the stimulating effect to set in at lower levels of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).
  • Women have a much faster absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and their metabolic rate is much slower.
  • Females are more prone to alcohol liver disease in a much shorter time period as well as a lower level of daily drinking.
  • More women die from cirrhosis of the liver than men when connected to alcohol.
  • A metabolizing enzyme which helps the body get alcohol out of our body system is called dehydrogenase.  This is lower in women and much of the drink that enters the bloodstream is pure alcohol.

Control, Know and Recognise your Limits

  • Do not feel pressured.
  • Just say ‘no’ – you don’t have to explain your reasons.
  • Volunteer to be a designated driver.
  • Don’t drink just because others are!
  • Do NOT mix alcohol with drugs or any medication.

If you know you are going to be at a celebration and would like to enjoy your drink without having to contend with a hangover the next day: there are a couple of ways you can control yourself. 

  • For every alcoholic drink you have, follow it with a glass of water or a soft drink.
  • Make sure you eat before you go out, and while you are out.
  • Have a coffee or two half way through the night.
  • Stop drinking alcohol when you know you are still in control.
  • Drink slowly and never drink just to get drunk and be one of the ‘in’ crowd.
  • Do not play an active role in any drinking game.

Keeping lively instead of just sitting and drinking all night, this will help to maintain your activity and could help in you drinking less and making you more aware of your level of intoxication.

Alcohol should be avoided if:

  • You are driving
  • You are pregnant
  • Taking any type of  medication

Knowing and Understanding Alcohol Poisoning

Too much alcohol in too short a period of time can also result in alcohol poisoning that slows your body’s processes to such an extent that it can lead to death

If you feel that anybody in your group has had too much too drink, don’t think that just putting them to bed will help them ‘sleep it off’.  Look for any signs that may show they could have alcohol poisoning.  If someone passes out and will not respond to attempts to wake them, it is very possible they are suffering from alcohol poisoning.

Some of the signs to look for are:

  • Unconscious or semi-consciousness.
  • Slow respiration (breaths) of eight or less per minute or lapses between breaths of more than eight seconds.
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin. In the event of alcohol poisoning, these signs and symptoms will most likely be accompanied by a strong odour of alcohol. While these are obvious signs of alcohol poisoning, the list is certainly not all inclusive.

Appropriate Action if you Suspect Alcohol Poisoning.

  • If you encounter a person who exhibits one or more of the signs and symptoms and you are worried; do what you would do in any medical emergency - call 999 immediately.
  • While waiting for the ambulance, gently turn the intoxicated person on his/her side and maintain the position by placing a pillow in the small of the person's back. This is important to prevent aspiration (choking) should the person vomit.
  • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
  • If a person appears to be "sleeping it off" it is important to realise that even though they seem to be semi-conscious, alcohol already in the stomach may continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. The person's life may still be in danger.
  • If you are having difficulty in determining whether an individual is acutely intoxicated, contact a medical professional immediately - you cannot afford to guess.

Alcohol Does Not Help Solve Problems

There have been times when probably some of us at one time or another have ‘reached for the bottle’ when we feel we have had a bad day, the family is getting to us, there is not enough days in the week and have that general all round feeling that we are carrying the world on our shoulders when nobody understands us!

Alcohol may make the ‘problem’ seem easier or help us push it to the back of our minds for a short while, but reality comes back short and sharp soon afterwards and we can either pick ourselves up and find a better solution, or we can begin the downward spiral of despair by drinking!

  • Alcohol does not relieve depression - it makes it worse.
  • Tolerance is the lessening of the effectiveness of alcohol after a period of prolonged or heavy use.
  • Tolerance means you may not feel the same effects of alcohol as you continue to use it, but your blood alcohol concentration level may remain high.

Depression and Alcohol

  • One third of suicides are associated with alcohol misuse.
  • Approximately 10% of youths are now experiencing poor mental health and this coincides with a high risk for alcohol abuse
  • Ages 16-24 coincides with the peak years for onset and intensification of the most common mental health problems among youth - including alcohol abuse.

Our Bodies and Alcohol

  • Alcohol goes directly to the bloodstream, which is why it affects every system in the body.
  • Excessive drinking can decrease the amount of testosterone in a man's body and cause impotence.
  • Alcohol is a nervous system depressant.
  • Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine, and less rapidly from the stomach and colon.
  • A pulse rate lower than 40 is a medical emergency. Call 999!
  • A respiration (breaths) rate lower than 8-10 per minute is a medical emergency. Call 999!
  • A daily glass of wine will add 10 pounds per year.
  • The peak Blood Alcohol Level occurs 60 to 90 minutes after ingestion when the stomach is empty.
  • The presence of food in the stomach slows the rate of alcohol absorption. However the amount of alcohol absorbed remains unchanged.
  • Vomiting is part of the automatic defense system of the body activated to prevent more alcohol from being absorbed.
  • When a person's blood alcohol level ranges from .02 g/100ml to .08 g/100ml he/she usually has a change in mood and may have trouble interpreting what he/she sees and hears.
  • Birth control pills slow down the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body

The Dangers of Alcohol

Alcoholism is an illness which lasts a lifetime and there is no cure.  The hardest part of being an alcoholic is admitting it yourself and seeking help to cope with the struggle of maintaining a normal life and eliminating yourself off the high risk factor list.

Other dangers of excessive drinking and chronic alcohol abuse are:

  • Chronic alcohol use can damage the frontal lobes of the brain.
  • Chronic alcohol use can cause an overall reduction in brain size.
  • More than half of current drinkers have a family history of alcoholism.
  • Pregnant women who drink risk having babies with fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Babies born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have: smaller heads and brains, some degree of mental retardation, poor coordination, hyperactivity and abnormal facial features.
  • 10% of alcohol health care costs are for care of fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Binge Drinking is more common in men than in women. (New statistics are now showing that women will soon overtake men at binge drinking).
  • High blood pressure.
  • Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Sleep Apnea.
  • Severe Acid Reflux.

Alcohol and The Law

  • You are not allowed to buy alcohol for anybody who is under 18 years old.
  • Selling alcohol to under 18’s is illegal.
  • If you are caught drinking in a public place, police have the right to confiscate alcohol.
  • Aged 16 and 17 year olds can be given beer, wine or cider while eating in a restaurant if accompanied by an adult.  They can not buy it themselves.
  • Last but not least, drinking and driving!  Keep well within the limits laid down and better still, don’t drink at all while driving.

If you do decide to ignore the law, you should be aware that the penalties are as follows:

  • If you're convicted of causing death by careless driving, you could face 14 years in prison, be banned from driving for at least 2 years and have to take an extended driving test.
  • If you drive or attempt to drive while above the legal limit or if you’re unfit through drink, then you’ll get 6 months in prison, plus a fine of £5,000 and a one-year ban from driving.
  • If you're in charge of a vehicle while over the legal limit or unfit through drink, you face 3 months imprisonment, a ban from driving and a fine of £2,500.
  • Refusing to provide a breath, blood or urine sample will land you with 6 months imprisonment plus a fine of £5,000. You'll also be banned from driving for at least 12 months.

 Alcohol and Miscellaneous Facts

  • Alcohol is a depressant as well as a local anesthetic, a chemical solvent and an irritant.
  • A 12oz glass of beer, a 5oz glass of wine and one 1.5oz spirit has the same amount of alcohol.
  • Beverage alcohol is produced by fermenting or distilling various fruits, grains and vegetables. 
  • Most wine coolers and alcopops have the same amount of alcohol as 12 oz beer.
  • Alcohol can be found in many prescribed and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Poor judgment is a natural outcome when the brain is influenced by alcohol.
  • One half of car accidents are associated with alcohol misuse.

Educate Yourself to Know and Understand Alcohol

For more information on responsible drinking, including a real brands unit calculator and other useful hints and tips visit www.drinkaware.co.uk. Where you will can use the calculator to work out your drinking ‘habits’ and find further information.  Some simple and basis suggested guidelines are:

  • Remember that not all drinks are the same and check the alcohol content of your drink.
  • Enjoy your drink but be responsible with it.
  • One UK unit is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol – irrespective of the type of alcohol drink!
  • On average, your body takes 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol.
  • In England, 30% of men and 17% of women currently exceed their alcoholic limits.

A unit of alcohol is:

  • Half a pint of ordinary strength beer or lager
  • A pub measure of spirits
  • A glass of sherry or port
  • A small glass of wine (a large glass is 2 units)

The recommended safe limits for men and women are:

MEN - 3-4 units per day – no more than 21 units per week
WOMEN – 2-3 units per day – no more than 14 units per week.

How Do I Know If I Need Help?

We all know when we have had ‘one to many’ and during festive times such as Christmas or all those summer weddings we get invited to – we can go overboard from time to time!  Following guidelines and drinking in moderation; as well as being fully aware of the outcome that may be around the corner, is the first step to educating yourself to the dangers of over drinking.  Look at the following questions and see if you are in control!

  • Are you aware that you're now drinking more? If so, think about why this is.
  • Do you need time off work due to hangovers, or regularly have hangovers?
  • Do you use alcohol to block out feelings or thoughts?
  • Do you have arguments with friends and family while drinking?
  • Do you drink to cure a hangover?

If you are at all concerned with your drinking speak to your doctor and see if they give you advice or point you in the right direction for any help you feel you may need.

Drinking in Moderation Can Sometimes Be Healthy

t’s all not doom and gloom for those of us who certainly enjoy the odd tipple while relaxing after a hectic day and it can be a memorable celebration if we don’t go over the top with our alcohol consumption!

Red wine for one example has proven health benefits with lowering cholesterol, preventing cancer and heart disease as well as ongoing test that the red grapes used can help with the slowing down of teeth decay.

Any health benefits that can be gained from red wine will only help when taken in moderation, as with any alcohol.