Alcohol – Know the Risks

Drinking alcohol in excess amounts can have a number of consequences, including reckless driving, regretful actions and raging hangovers. Alcohol can also have a signifiant impact on your health, especially if you drink regularly and in excessive amounts. 

But what’s considered “excessive”? According to the NHS, regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week risks damaging your health. This is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine. 

Although 14 units of alcohol is the recommended weekly limit, there is no “safe” drinking level. Having less than 14 units of alcohol a week is considered low-risk drinking. No matter how little alcohol you consume in a week, there is always a risk of damaging your health. However, the less you drink, the lower the health risks. That’s why it’s important to keep your drinking habits to a minimum.

What does alcohol do to your body?

Alcohol can have both short-term and long-term effects on your body. You are probably more familiar with some of the short-term effects of excessive drinking, including: 

  • dehydration
  • nausea
  • slurred speech
  • blurred vision
  • getting in accidents resulting in injury (causing death in some cases)
  • misjudging risky situations
  • losing self-control, like having unprotected sex or getting involved in violence
  • hangovers with headaches and nausea

After a long period of time, drinking alcohol on a regular basis can have a significant impact on your body and mind. The type of illnesses you can develop after 10 to 20 years of regularly drinking more than 14 units a week include:

  • cancers of the mouth, throat and breast
  • stroke
  • enlarged heart
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • brain damage
  • damage to the nervous system

Aside from causing physical health issues, alcohol is also strongly linked to declining mental health and self-harming habits, including suicide. The good news is, you can reduce your risk of developing these health issues by practicing low-risk drinking habits.

Tips for ‘low-risk’ drinking

With these risks in mind, there are several ways to help reduce your risk of damaging your health while drinking alcohol, especially in a single session. Use these tips to minimize your risk of drinking too much too quickly.

  • Drink slowly. Try limiting yourself to one drink per hour.
  • Drink water. Between sips of alcohol, take sips of water to minimize your risk of dehydration,
  • Drink with food. Try not to drink on an empty stomach, as this raises your blood alcohol content more quickly.
  • Set a budget. Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol. Doing so helps limit your intake.
  • Choose lower-strength drinks. Check the bottle to see how strong the alcohol is (ABV in %).

Benefits of drinking less

As many negative effects alcohol can have on your body, there are just as many benefits in cutting down your alcohol habits. When you start drinking less, you’ll start to feel better in the mornings, feel less tired throughout the day, get better sleep and feel more energetic. You might even notice that your skin and physical appearance starts to improve when you cut down on alcohol. 

Since heavy drinking is strongly associated with depression and anxiety, drinking less alcohol can also help boost your mood. You’ll also find that your body will become stronger and less fatigued, strengthening your immune system. In the long run, drinking less can also help you make better decisions and less impulsively or irrationally.

Get the alcohol support you need

Overall, the benefits of drinking less alcohol or completely cutting it out of your lifestyle can positively transform your health. As you begin improving your drinking habits, it’s important to have a strong support system around you, whether that means friends or family.

If you feel like you’ve become dependent on alcohol, it may be time to seek professional help. A good place to start is with a GP. The GP may suggest different types of assessment and support options available to you, such as from local community alcohol services. You can also ask about any free local support groups and other alcohol counselling that may suit you. Looking for more alcohol support and resources? Visit the NHS website earn more about alcohol support services, alcohol detoxification and other treatments for alcohol dependency.