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Do we drink too much? What really is a ‘safe’ limit? Should you be cutting down?

'Tis the season to be merry!

Christmas, birthdays, weddings, parties, celebrations, Fridays, bad work days or just any excuse – as a nation there is no doubt we drink too much.

Recommended guidelines by the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) state that ‘to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.’

In real terms that equates to:

  • 6 x 175ml glasses of 13% wine

  • 6 x pints of 4% beer

  • 5 x pints of 4.5% cider

  • 14 x 25ml glasses of 40% spirits

There are many health effects, both short and long-term, of consuming too much alcohol including alcohol poisoning, sleep deprivation, excessive sugar intake, dehydration, liver disease, aggressive behaviour, infertility, high blood pressure, IBS, mental health problems, circulatory and skin conditions to name a few. Plus the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat and breast increases the more you drink on a regular basis.


Just because you're not necessarily 'getting drunk' doesn’t mean you’re consuming alcohol at recommended levels. Frequent or heavy drinkers are known to develop a tolerance to the effects of alcohol. People often mistake tolerance as a good sign that they can drink more without it affecting them, but the reality is the more you drink the greater the health risks. Building up a tolerance is a warning sign!

If you’re considering cutting back or stopping drinking altogether, you are not alone! According to the Office for National Statistics, over 40% of adult alcohol abstainers in Britain did previously drink.

There are a number of self-help methods you can adopt to cut down your alcohol consumption. Try to give yourself several drink-free days a week or at least spread your drinking evenly over three or more days, rather than have one or two ‘binge’ days.  If you commonly drink with your partner, try to get them to join you in reducing your consumption together and provide encouragement for one another.

Changing your routines or habits can really help you address situations where you would usually drink. Consider altering the habit of ‘having a drink’ to a different habit; for example, have water or a soft drink with your evening meal or go for a walk after dinner rather than settle in with a bottle of wine. You will quickly feel the effects of cutting down such as a better night’s sleep, feeling brighter, fresher and generally more energetic  - with weight loss a real bonus! Plus, alcohol is a known depressant that suppresses ‘happy’ hormones, so your general outlook on life should improve!

There are many support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, charities such as Alcohol Concern and counselling services available to help so you don’t need to feel alone.


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