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Alcohol Awareness Week

Many of us enjoy a glass of wine with a meal or a cool beer on a summer evening. However, over time some people become addicted to alcohol and this...

Many of us enjoy a glass of wine with a meal or a cool beer on a summer evening. However, over time some people become addicted to alcohol and this can lead to health problems, financial difficulties and relationship breakdown. It also brings huge social costs placing significant pressure on the NHS, the emergency services, police, and workplaces. Alcohol Awareness Week, coordinated by Alcohol Change UK, is a chance for the UK to get thinking about drinking. This year it runs from the 3rd to 9th July. It’s a week of awareness-raising and campaigning for change. Each year, over 5,000 public health teams, workplaces, GP surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals, charities and other community groups across the country sign up to take part (1).

The Costs of Alcohol

The total social cost of alcohol to society is estimated to be at least £21 billion each year. As individuals we spend a whopping £50,000 on average on alcohol over the course of a lifetime.
Since the onset of the covid pandemic alcohol related death rates have increased to the highest level since records began. Millions more people are suffering from worse mental and physical health as a result of drinking.
We can all take steps to make a change. With support and prevention, we can save lives and save money.
Signs You Need Help
You may need help if:

  •  you often feel the need to have a drink
  •  you get into trouble because of your drinking
  •  other people warn you about how much you're drinking
  •  you think your drinking is causing you problems

If any of these apply to you go and see your GP and have a frank and honest conversation about how much you drink and any problems it may be causing. Your GP may suggest assessment options, local support groups and alcohol counselling services.

How Much Are You Drinking?

Knowing the number of units of alcohol you are drinking can help. With so many different drinks and glass sizes it's easy to get confused about how many units are in a drink.
Using units is a way of representing a drink's alcohol content – usually expressed as alcohol by volume (ABV). ABV is a measure of the amount of pure alcohol as a percentage of the total volume of liquid in a drink. You can find the ABV on the labels of cans and bottles, sometimes written as "vol" or "alcohol volume".

For example, wine that says "12% ABV" or "alcohol volume 12%" means 12% of the volume of that drink is pure alcohol.
One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is about the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink, as well as its alcohol strength.
See the bottom of this page for how to calculate the number of units in a drink.

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level:

  • men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • aim to have several drink-free days each week.

Tips for cutting down

  • Make a plan – set a limit on how much you are going to drink.
  • Set a budget – decide how much you can comfortably afford to spend on alcohol.
  • Tell friends and family – avoid people who are not supportive.
  • Cut back a little each day – this might be easier and more sustainable.
  • Have smaller drinks – use smaller glasses and sip slowly.
  • Have lower-strength drinks – get to know the alcohol volume of drinks.
  • Stay hydrated – drink water before you have alcohol and alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Have several drink-free days each week – aim for 3 or 4 alcohol free days a week.

Maintaining the Changes

Getting the right support can be crucial for maintaining health in the long term. Only relying on family, friends or carers is often not enough. Support groups can help you stay in control or completely alcohol free.
Benefits of cutting down
The immediate effects of cutting down include:

  • feeling better in the mornings
  • being less tired during the day
  • better looking skin
  • feeling more energetic
  • better weight management

Long-term benefits include:

Better Mood - There's a strong link between heavy drinking and depression. Hangovers can leave you feeling anxious and low.
Better Sleep – Although drinking may help you fall asleep it can disrupt sleep patterns and stop you sleeping deeply. Cutting down on alcohol can lead to better quality sleep.
Improved Behaviour and Better Mental Health - Drinking can affect your judgement and behaviour leading to aggression, memory loss, depression and anxiety.
Reduced Risk of Many Diseases – including many types of cancer, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
Stronger Immune system - Regular drinking can affect your body's ability to fight infections.

Nutritional Support for Cutting Down Alcohol

Keeping blood sugar levels stable is key for dealing with any addiction. Including protein and fibre with meals and snacks helps with this. The following nutrients from Tom Oliver Nutrition can help with various aspects of health while you are cutting down or cutting out alcohol:

  • Multi Vitamin/Mineral – Tom Oliver’s range includes multis for men and women. These will give you a base level of a wide range of nutrients needed for health.
  • Vitamin C – alcohol may deplete vitamin C. Vitamin C is needed for the immune system which is often compromised in those who drink.
  •  Vitamin D – may be depleted by chronic alcohol use. Vitamin D is needed for immune health, cardiovascular health, brain health and blood sugar control.
  • Magnesium – often depleted by alcohol. Magnesium can be relaxing to the nerves and muscles so take in the evening to aid sleep.
  • Protein Powders – Tom Oliver’s range includes vegan and whey protein powders. These can be included with meals or as meal or snack replacements to help keep blood sugar stable. This can reduce cravings and keep you on an even keel.

How Many Units of Alcohol in Different Drinks

You can work out how many units there are in any drink by multiplying its ABV (measured as a percentage) by the total volume of a drink (in ml) and dividing the result by 1,000.

  • strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = units
  • For example, to work out the number of units in a pint (568ml) of strong lager (ABV 5.2%):
  • 5.2 (%) x 568 (ml) ÷ 1,000 = 2.95 units
  • A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units.
  • A single shot of spirits (25ml at ABV 405) contains 1 unit.
  • A pint of strong lager contains 3 units. A pint of lower-strength lager has just over 2 units.
  • Or use Alcohol Change UK's unit calculator

Evidence of the protective effects of moderate drinking is less strong than previously thought.
1. www.alcoholchange.org.uk

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