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How much should I be drinking?

how much should i be drinking

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Alcohol related illness and death has risen dramatically in our society over the last few decades and in 2010 over one million people went to hospital in the UK for an alcohol related condition or injury. Short term affects include alcohol poisoning, leading to vomiting, fitting and injuries from falls. Long term affects include heart disease, strokes, liver disease and cancer.

Although people appear to have different tolerances to alcohol, concern from medical circles about the long term dangers has led to strong recommendations about safe levels of alcohol being consumed. Do you ever ask yourself ”How much should I be drinking?”

How we measure the amount we drink

Alcohol is measured in units. One unit is about half a pint of normal strength lager, a small glass of wine or a single measure (25 ml) of spirits.

For women it is recommended that no more than two to three units a day are drank and for men it is no more than three to four. It is also recommended that men and women have alcohol free days each week. This translates into a maximum of one and a half pints of  normal strength lager for a woman and two pints for men. If you are drinking stronger lagers, beers or ciders you will need to reduce the quantity in order to stay within the safe drinking limits.

Why do we drink alcohol?

Alcohol is such a common feature of socialising that it is easy for people to develop dependence on it without realising. Many people unconsciously use alcohol to help them relax, feel more confident, forget about stress and to mask feelings of worry, anxiety or depression. A niggling feeling that your drinking habits may be unhealthy can be easy to ignore as it goes away once you’ve had the first drink. However, it’s really important to be honest with yourself to avoid the dangerous and potentially fatal affects of too much alcohol.

If you are aware of feeling guilty about the amount that you are drinking or if your friends have suggested to you that it may be a good idea to cut down, then it is time to face up to the possibility that your drinking has got out of hand. Similarly if you ever feel that you need to drink in the morning in order to steady nerves or deal with a hangover then the signs that you are drinking too much are clear.

Be honest with yourself

Sometimes it is possible to be honest with yourself and stick to a decision to cut down. Understanding why you drink and finding other ways of meeting those needs is an important step in breaking the cycle. Putting other things in place such as increased exercise, healthy eating and leisure activities that don’t revolve around alcohol are also very supportive steps that you can take to maximise the chances of staying committed to long term sensible drinking.

how much should i be drinking

Help and support

If you have tried to reduce and found yourself unable to do so there are plenty of ways that you can get support to help you change your drinking habits. A visit to your doctor can be a good step. They may be able to refer you for counselling from the surgery and they will also be able to talk you through options of other support such as specialist groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or local alcohol support agencies that also run groups or offer one to one counselling. If your drinking is more serious and you and your doctor feel that you would benefit from intense therapeutic treatment they may be able to help you to think about  spending some time in an alcohol rehabilitation centre.

When people make changes to patterns in their lives they often go through a process of taking two steps forward and then one step back. If this happens to you whilst you are addressing changing your drinking, try to remember that this is a natural process and that change is rarely linear! Each time something happens to cause you to drink more than you intended, use the experience to reflect on what you still have to learn about your relationship with alcohol and you can then move forward again with renewed determination and understanding. If this is happening a lot for you, it could be a very supportive step to find a counsellor who can be alongside you to make the changes that you want to make.





About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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