We all recognise that alcohol, when used in moderation, is an important part of our social interaction, responsibly enjoyed by most people. You may not pay too much attention to how much alcohol you drink or whether you’re sticking to the unit guidelines – but it’s probably a good idea to find out! Drinking too much alcohol can influence your health, social life and personal safety.
It's a good idea to ask 'What's my relationship with alcohol?'
The Change4Life website provides lots of practical advice for keeping track of your alcohol consumption and handy tips for cutting down.
What effect can too much alcohol have?
Alcohol is a casual factor in more than 60 medical conditions including mouth, throat, stomach and liver cancers, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and depression. In 2011 there were 8748 deaths directly related to alcohol in the UK and just under a quarter of all deaths among 16-24 year olds are alcohol related.
What's the picture in Suffolk?
- Almost a quarter of people aged 16+ in Suffolk were estimated to be drinking at increasing or higher levels in 2008/09
- An estimated 94,395 adults binge drink in Suffolk
- 852 Suffolk resident adults attended treatment for alcohol misuse in 2012/13
- There were 16,515 hospital stays for alcohol related harm in Suffolk in 2011/12
What's your relationship with alcohol?
Most of us drink it; most of us enjoy it; but have you ever stopped to think about what makes for a ‘healthy’ relationship with alcohol?
Alcohol is cheaper than it’s been for decades, and is more available than ever. It’s also ingrained in our culture, from close associations with big events, to celebrations such as birthdays and weddings.
The harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption are increasingly evident. This is particularly the case in our high streets, pubs and clubs. Trends such as ‘pre-loading’, which sees people drinking before a night out, are more prevalent and we increasingly see stories of anti-social behaviour fuelled by excessive alcohol consumption, and the implications for people’s safety and health.
There are also hidden implications of alcohol abuse which can have damaging effects on families and relationships. From domestic abuse, to older people drinking to excess behind closed doors, it’s an issue that cannot be ignored
Keith is 53 and has drunk heavily most days for 30 years whilst holding down a job with the council. When he took up the offer of early retirement, his drinking began to increase. With time on his hands and away from a daily routine he lost his sense of purpose and started to feel down. Keith wants to get back into work but needs alcohol to gain the confidence to attend interviews and afterwards he spends long afternoons in the pub to recover.
Recently Keith bumped into an old friend who used to have a drinking problem. Keith has realised that his problems are more than just physical addiction and that his relationship with alcohol is more about the emotional side of his life.
Keith and his friend now see each other on a regular basis and he has cut down on the amount he drinks.
Claire is 21 years old and works in an office. Despite her income Claire can’t afford to pay a childminder and relies on her mum to look after her son. Although money is tight Claire enjoys going out. This usually starts at a friend’s house and this makes the night a lot cheaper and last longer. Sometimes nights out end badly with Claire becoming upset about her relationship with her ex-partner who used to hit her when he was drunk.
Claire has since moved in with her mum to get away from him but he says he wants her back. Claire is unsure what to do as she wants her son to have parents that are together.
Claire would like to have a better relationship with her own dad but he only calls her when he has been drinking.
Michael is 23 and works in a shop in the centre of town. He finds work boring and lives for the weekend. This often starts early with evenings at his friends’ houses, saving money on bar prices by drinking cheap supermarket vodka and wine before leaving the house.
On more than one occasion, Michael and his friends Adam and Matt have been refused entry to local bars and pubs because he is already judged to have had too much to drink. By the time he has bought more drinks, the end of the night can often end with complete loss of orientation, sickness and an expensive taxi ride home, which negates any money saved at the start of the night.
A few months; ago, Michael and another friend were picked up by a night time police special constable for disorderly behaviour, but were let off with a warning on this occasion. More often than not, he ends up relying on his friends to make sure he gets home from a night out.
Where can I get support if I'm worried about my drinking?
Turning Point provide alcohol and substance misuse support and treatment in Suffolk for adults and young people.
Support is also available online at NHS Choices.
Don't Bring the Pub Home: Even Good Parents Make Bad Decisions
Did you know that 1 in 11 children in the UK are living in a family where there is an alcohol problem, while around 30% of children under the age of 16 years old live with at least one parent who is a binge drinker?
- 20% (103,064) of people in Suffolk are drinking at a level which increases the risk of damaging their health and 35,398 people (6% of the county’s population) are drinking at very heavy levels, significantly increasing their health risk.
- 266 people died in Suffolk in 2012 from alcohol related causes
- In 2012/13 alcohol-related healthcare costs in Suffolk were an estimated £33.5m, equating to £56 per adult