Safer drinking

In England, around 1 in 4 adults say they regularly drink more than the low-risk alcohol limit of 14 units per week.

Many people see themselves as social drinkers or casual drinkers, which might include a glass of wine after work, a tipple with friends at the weekend or a drink to celebrate an event. The moment when casual drinking becomes problem drinking isn’t easy to define, but when alcohol starts to have a negative impact on your health or personal life, it becomes a problem. Signs that you could have a problem with alcohol might be:

  • You find it difficult to stop drinking once you’ve started.
  • You plan social events or activities around alcohol.
  • The amount you spend on alcohol makes is affecting your financial situation.
  • Your drinking has caused you to behave in ways you regret or has led to arguments with family and friends.
  • Alcohol is impacting on your mental health.

Having a problematic relationship with alcohol isn’t the same as alcohol dependence. But over time, it can cause many of the same risks to your health. Recognising these risks now could help you to change your behaviour before long-term damage is done.

Make gradual, long-term changes

If you think you have a problematic relationship with alcohol, there are lots of things you can do to try and reduce your drinking.
Change your routine. If you’re used to drinking after work, try to fill your time with something else, such as a walk, visiting friends or going to the gym.

  • Talk to someone about it. Your friends can support you and encourage you to make safer choices.
  • Try having more drink free days throughout the week.
  • Set a strict drinks budget.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake by drinking lower strength drinks, including low alcohol and alcohol free options. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water, mocktails or soft drinks.
  • Keep track of you units with these tools and trackers from Drinkaware.

Health risks

Over time, heavy drinking can cause problems for your physical and mental health. Studies show that alcohol misuse can significantly increase your risk of:

  • Seven types of cancer – including bowel, head and neck, liver, breast and oesophageal cancer
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Infertility
  • Alcohol acquired brain injury
  • Dementia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mental ill health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty eating and sleeping well

Drinking heavily can also cause some people to behave in ways they later regret. Some people find that drinking alcohol makes them feel relaxed and confident, others might experience low moods or depression, and some people become more agitated.

  • We’re more likely to misinterpret behaviour and misread social cues after drinking.
  • Drinking to excess increases your likelihood of being involved in a confrontation, as well as being a victim.
  • Data from the National Crime Survey shows that up to 39% of victims of violence believed the perpetrator to be under the influence of alcohol.

If you think you’ve got a problem with alcohol and need support, contact your GP or one of our local substance misuse clinics.