Alcohol: Our Favourite Drug
Alcohol is our favourite drug. Most of us use it for enjoyment, but for some of us, drinking can become a serious problem. In fact, alcohol causes much more harm than illegal drugs like heroin and cannabis. It is a tranquilliser, it is addictive, and is the cause of many hospital admissions for physical illnesses and accidents.
Problems with alcohol
Many of these problems are caused by having too much to drink at the wrong place or time. Alcohol affects your judgment, so you do things you wouldn't normally think of. It makes you less aware of risks and so more vulnerable. You are more likely to have fights, arguments, money troubles, family upsets, or spur-of-the-moment casual sex. Alcohol helps to cause accidents at home, on the roads, in the water and on playing fields
Alcohol is addictive. Some warning signs are:
Dealing with alcohol problemsIf you are worried about your drinking or a friend's drinking, tell them - they need to make changes as soon as possible. It is much easier to cut back before drinking problems damage your health than it is once they are out of hand.
Keep a diary of your drinking - you may be surprised by how much you really do drink and this can give you the motivation to cut down. It helps if you can talk your plans over with a friend or relative. Do not be ashamed to tell someone. Most real friends will be pleased to help - you may find they have been worried about you for some time.
If you find it hard to change your drinking habits then try talking to your GP or go for advice to a local alcohol organisation. If you feel you cannot stop because you get too shaky or restless and jumpy when you try to cut down, your doctor can often help with some medication for a short time. If you still find it very difficult to change then you may need specialist help.
We all find it hard to change a habit, particularly one that plays such a large part in our lives. There are three steps to dealing with the problem:
You may find that you have been using alcohol as a way of handling stress and worries. A psychiatrist or a psychologist may be able to help you find ways of overcoming these worries that do not involve relying on drink. Groups where you meet other people with similar problems can often be very helpful. There are self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or those run by professionals at an alcohol treatment unit.
How much alcohol is too much?
Some drinks are stronger than others. The easiest way to work out how much we are drinking is to count "units" of alcohol. 1 unit is 10 grammes of alcohol - the amount in a standard pub measure of spirits, a half pint of normal strength beer or lager, or a small glass of wine. If a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman will have a much higher amount in her bodily organs than the man. So, unfair as it may seem, the safe limit is lower for women (14 units per week) than for men (21 units per week).