Although smoking is the leading cause of death in terms of health risk behaviors drinking can also be extremely damaging to individual’s health especially in regards to excessive drinking. According to the World Health Organization there are 3.3 million deaths caused every year as a direct result of alcohol misuse. Alcohol can often cause death and disability early in life with individuals between the ages of 20-39, with 25% of all deaths being attributed to alcohol consumption.
The recommended safe number of drinks per week is 14 standard units of alcohol, this goes for men and women. There is still a lot of confusion amongst the general population as to what a standard unit is, so to clarify a standard unit is:
- 250ml or a half pint of beer or cider that is 4% alcohol
- 100ml (small glass) of wine that is 13% alcohol
- 35ml of hard alcohol such as whiskey at 40% alcohol
- 250ml of Alco pops at 4% alcohol
The dangers of excessive drinking:
As you know too much of anything can be bad for you but excessive alcohol consumption is related to numerous health issues as well alcohol dependency. The office of national statistics defines binge drinking as consuming 8 units for men and 6 units for women in a single session. Those who engage in regular binge drinking sessions are far more likely to suffer from falls, accidents and injuries than those who adhere to the recommended number of daily units.
The long-term health implications of dangerous drinking can be lethal for example liver failure, breast, mouth and other forms of cancers, high blood pressure, cardiac problems and mental health issues. These are only some of the health issues that can develop from chronic abuse of alcohol.
In regards to how alcohol effects the individual in the short term there are many health consequences associated with this health risk behaviour. The number of injuries suffered by individuals who drink excessively are far higher than those who do not, such injuries can involve falls, car crashes and fights. Excessive alcohol consumption can also result in alcohol poisoning and risky sexual behaviours such as unprotected sex. Alcohol poisoning can be lethal with risks of a heart attack, sudden stop in breathing, inhaling or choking on vomit, seizures and permanent brain damage. The health research board reported that in 2013 there were on average 88 deaths caused a month by alcohol in Ireland.
Alcohol can also be dangerous in regard to individual actions as many instances of fights and assaults are reported in younger populations due to drinking. Drinking is also responsible for causing 2 out of five road traffic accidents in Ireland. Alcohol also plays a major factor in terms of mental health problems with many individuals suffering from alcohol dependency as well as alcohol being involved in over half of all suicide cases in Ireland.
The economic impact that alcohol harm and injury causes Ireland is substantial with 1.5 billion euros in hospital discharges costs during 2012. That’s almost a tenth of the total public health budget of 2012.
Are you Alcohol Dependant?
This section of our blog just gives a bit of background on alcohol dependency and outlines some of the signs and symptoms associated with this disorder. We will also outline below what available services there are for those of you suffering with alcohol dependency and what is the best method to make a change. If you are exceeding your weekly recommended units don’t worry this does not make you alcohol dependant, however if you exceed your weekly limit of 14 units every day then it is likely you have a problem.
If you are alcohol dependant then drinking plays a large part of your daily life which can be demonstrated by the development of physical and psychological dependence. Alcohol dependency does not always involve excessive drinking as some individuals feel the need to have a drink at the end of the day but this being a daily routine and being a need rather than a want can lead to long term health consequences especially when drinking becomes habitual.
Signs and Symptoms:
- You often worry about where your next drink is coming from and you plan events with friends, family and work around alcohol.
- Once you start drinking you find it hard to stop and therefore continue to drink compulsively.
- Feeling the need to drink in the morning especially when it’s the first thing you think about when you wake up.
- Once you stop drinking withdrawal symptoms start to occur such as irritability, nausea, sweating and shaking.
Methods of treatment:
There are a number of effective methods that can be used to help individuals cut down on their drinking and help quit drinking all together. If alcohol dependency is causing you major health problems then it is of paramount importance that you quit drinking as soon as possible if not forever then at least until symptoms of whatever health problems have elapsed.
- Brief Intervention: This involves a short 5 to 10-minute-long counselling session and is used to help you identify risk factors while they drink. It can also be used to help you identify available local resources that can assist you in alcohol cessation.
- Moderation: This is a method of alcohol consumption reduction that can be used with or without help. This method involves sticking to the normal recommended weekly units of alcohol consumption. It does not aim to quit alcohol all together but to reduce your consumption to a safe level.
- Abstinence: This method involves cutting drink out of your life all together and is typically recommended to pregnant women and people with a chronic disease that is caused by alcohol consumption such as liver failure. This method is recommended if moderation has proved unsuccessful and while using this method you can avail to different alcohol cessation support services in your area.
- Medication: Different medication has been developed that can be prescribed by doctors if you are indeed alcohol dependant. There is a wide variety of medications available some such as Acamprosate. This helps prevent cravings and helps people who have relapsed from abstinence. There are other treatments such as Disulfiram which once taken causes the individual to experience nausea and vomiting if the individual starts drinking alcohol.
- Therapy: There are many different methods of therapy that can assist with alcohol dependency. Many individuals find self help groups and 12 step programs to be very effective at quitting drinking as they provide free emotional and social support amongst people with similar problems. Cognitive behaviour therapy has also proved to be a very effective method of quitting alcohol. It uses a problem-solving approach and focuses on changing individual’s thoughts and attitudes towards drinking by making you have more realistic thoughts and plans to stay away from drinking.
It is our hope that this post will help you or someone close to you to lower alcohol consumption if it’s at a dangerous or dependent level. There are many local community resources all over Ireland that can help you avoid or manage your drinking to a point where your health is no longer in danger.