This week is Alcohol Awareness Week and this year’s theme is change.
Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help.
Paul Counter, an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Cutting down on alcohol consumption and taking a few days off a week from alcohol can be a really good way to reduce your risk of developing serious health issues such as heart conditions and liver disease.
You may need help if:
- you often feel the need to have a drink
- you get into trouble because of your drinking
- other people warn you about how much you're drinking
- you think your drinking is causing you problems
A good place to start is with a GP. Try to be accurate and honest about how much you drink and any problems it may be causing you.
If you have become dependent on alcohol, you will have found it difficult to fully control your drinking in some way. You'll probably need some help either to cut down and control your drinking or stop completely, and also some plans to maintain the improvement after that.
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.
Mr Counter added: “Too often we don’t think about alcohol when it comes to protecting our health. We are encouraging people in Cumbria to rethink their attitude towards alcohol and to consider ways to cut down.
“The last few years have seen more people drinking at risky levels which, over time, will increase people’s risk of developing cancers such as breast and bowel cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as potentially adding to anxiety and depression.”
What is the guidance?
- The Chief Medical Officer’s guidance is that men and women are safest not to drink more than 14 units per week.
- The guidance states that a good way to cut down on alcohol consumption is to have several drink-free days each week.
- 14 units of alcohol is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or six medium glasses of wine. However - just one pint of strong lager or a large glass of wine can contain more than three units of alcohol.
If you have become physically dependent and need to stop drinking completely, stopping overnight could be harmful.
You should get advice about this and about any medicine you may need to do this safely.
The sorts of withdrawal symptoms that suggest you may need medicine include:
- anxiety after waking
- sweating and tremors
- nausea or retching in the morning
- seizures or fits
Cutting down or stopping drinking is usually just the beginning, and most people will need some degree of help or a long-term plan to stay in control or completely alcohol free.
Getting the right support can be crucial to maintaining control in the future. Only relying on family, friends or carers for this often is not enough.
Ask a GP or alcohol service about what longer-term support is available in your area.
Self-help or mutual aid groups (groups such as AA or SMART Recovery groups) are accessible in most areas.
Useful contacts for alcohol problems
- Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its "12 step" programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups.
- Al-Anon Family Groups offers support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they're still drinking or not. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and can be attended by 12- to 17-year-olds who are affected by another person's drinking, usually a parent.
- We Are With You is a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse. If you are over 50 and worried about your drinking, call 0808 8010 750
- Adfam is a national charity working with families affected by drugs and alcohol. Adfam operates an online message board and a database of local support groups.
- Alcohol Change UK – has supportive information and is the organisation who introduced Dry January
- The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned about their welfare. Call 0800 358 3456 for the Nacoa helpline.
- SMART Recovery groups help people decide whether they have a problem, build up their motivation to change, and offer a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery.
Caring for an alcoholic? Find out where you can get support.
Find out more about treatments for alcohol dependency