Many people in Northern Ireland drink alcohol without experiencing any problems. A couple of drinks can help us relax and meet new people or make a party or celebration more enjoyable.
While people may think alcohol helps them to cope with difficult situations and emotions, to reduce stress or relieve anxiety, alcohol is in fact associated with a range of mental health problems, including depression.
Alcohol has also been linked to suicide. The Mental Health Foundation reports that:
- 65% of suicides have been linked to excessive drinking;
- 70% of men who kill themselves have drunk alcohol before doing so;
- almost one third of suicides among young people take place while the person is intoxicated.
Excessive drinking can also disrupt normal sleeping patterns resulting in insomnia and a lack of restful sleep which can contribute to stress.
The four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have launched new Alcohol Guidelines.
Drinking guidelines have been developed for people over 18 years of age.
Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that:
- You are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level.
- If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more. If you have one or two heavy drinking sessions, you increase your risks of death from long term illnesses and from accidents and injuries.
Remember, for each unit you drink over the daily limit, the risk to your health increases. It's important to spread the units throughout the week – you can't ‘save up’ your units for the weekend or a party.
Advice on single episodes of drinking
The Chief Medical Officers advise men and women who wish to keep their short term health risks from a single drinking occasion to a low level that they can reduce these risks by:
- limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion;
- drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating with water;
- avoiding risky places and activities, making sure you have people you know around, and ensuring you can get home safely.
Advice on alcohol and Pregnancy
The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline is that:
- If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.
- Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.
Tips to enjoy alcohol sensibly
Always look after yourself and try to stick to the daily alcohol limits and the tips below to be able to enjoy alcohol sensibly.
- ever drink and drive;
- drink on an empty stomach;
- drink in rounds as this may speed up the frequency of your drinking pattern;
- leave your drinks unattended;
- participate in drinking games.
take sips rather than gulps;
alternate each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink eg water or a soft drink;
set yourself a limit and try to stick to it (refer to daily alcohol limits);
take frequent breaks from drinking to give your body time to recover;
tell friends and family where you are going and who you will be with.
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