Cut Down Your Drinking

Understand that by taking this course, you are taking a very encouraging step towards positive change. Throughout the course, it's important that you offer yourself praise and acknowledge your achievements as you progress through the modules and complete each chapter. Making changes isn't easy but will pay-off in the long-term!

Hazardous drinking is a pattern of alcohol use that may result in physical or psychological harm, including such things as alcohol dependence/addiction. Excessive alcohol use can also have a detrimental effect on the ability to manage long-term health conditions and put us more at risk of fatal health problems and diseases.

Some facts

  • In 2017 in Great Britain, there were 8,600 drink-drive casualties and 5,700 drink-drive accidents. In the long-term, these figures have been falling since 1979 from a peak of around 31,000 casualties and 19,000 accidents.

  • Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and depression.

  • In 2017 in Great Britain, an estimated 29.2 million adults (57% of the population) drank alcohol in the week before being surveyed. Around 10% drank on five or more days in the previous week.

  • In England, there are an estimated 589,101 dependent drinkers (2016/17), of whom 81.7% are not accessing treatment.

  • Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year-olds in the UK, and the fifth-biggest risk factor across all ages.

How heavily do you drink?

Using the information below, determine which risk category you fall under. Although this may be an uncomfortable exercise to complete, it will enable you to set effective goals and acknowledge your current level of risk when it comes to how heavily you drink. If you fall into a higher risk than you expected, do not worry. At least you have recognised this and are now able to set a goal to fall into a lower risk category. Whether you're a casual drinker who wants to cut down or someone who drinks heavily, the first step towards cutting down or quitting is recognising how much you are drinking and the risk level this presents.

Lower-risk drinking

  • Men: 3-4 units of alcohol each day (less than 2 pints of beer or 2 glasses of wine).

  • Women: 2-3 units of alcohol each day (about a pint of beer or glass of wine).

HEALTH CONSEQUENCES

Drinking less than 2 pints of beer a day for men and a pint of beer a day for women is not generally associated with health risks. However, a lot of alcoholic drinks contain a lot of calories, causing weight gain. Drinking late at night is associated with poor sleep hygiene because although it might cause a sensation of sleepiness, it prevents us from entering quality restorative sleep, causing us to feel less refreshed upon awakening.

Moderate-risk drinking

  • Men: more than 4 units of alcohol each day (more than 2 pints of beer or glasses of wine).

  • Women: more than 3 units of alcohol each day (more than a pint of beer or glass of wine).

HEALTH CONSEQUENCES

If you are drinking more than the equivalent of 2 pints of beer (for a man) or 1 pint (for women) each day or most days, you are considered to be at moderate risk for developing future health problems. Short term effects include changes to the brain and nervous system function, leaving decreased muscle coordination, slowed reaction times, slurred speech, and blurred vision. Judgment can also become impaired. This is why decisions made after drinking are often not good ones, and recklessness can occur.

If you are drinking the equivalent of 4 pints of beer in one sitting, your liver cannot remove all of the alcohol overnight.

High-risk drinking

  • Men: Over 50 units of alcohol each week (22 pints of beer or 20 glasses of wine).

  • Women: Over 35 units of alcohol each week (16 pints of beer or 14 glasses of wine).

HEALTH CONSEQUENCES

High-risk drinking is associated with considerably higher risks to your health and wellbeing.

Short-term effects include significant loss of muscle coordination, sensory impairments, and judgment. Drowsiness occurs due to the depressant effects of alcohol on your nervous system.


Because the liver cannot filter all of the alcohol out, your body will attempt to remove it through your urine, which will leave you dehydrated, with a headache. Additionally, your digestive system can be upset, this will increase the likelihood of you experiencing nausea, indigestion, diarrhoea, and vomiting. If you are drinking the equivalent of 5-6 pints of beer in one sitting, you are at considerable risk for developing alcohol poisoning where the consequences can be fatal.

Binge-drinking

  • Men: 8 units of alcohol in a single session (within a short time period).

  • Women: 6 units of alcohol in a single session (within a short time period).

HEALTH CONSEQUENCES

Drinking very heavily in one sitting (binge-drinking) is not recommended. This can make us impulsive and take risks that we wouldn't usually take. If the drinking is heavy enough, it can depress your nervous system to the point that breathing stops. Without immediate life-saving assistance, the consequences can be fatal.

So that you can allow your body some recovery time, it is recommended to avoid drinking for 48 hours if you have been drinking heavily.

Using the goal setter tool, set a target of how much you would like to reduce your drinking by for a specific date. If you aren't sure yet do not worry, you can always change this goal at a later time.


Alcohol units

Later on in the course, we'll be asking you to keep track of your drinking using a diary. Before you do this, it's important to be aware of how many units of alcohol you are consuming when you are drinking alcohol. Some guidance is shown below.


Click to download Alcohol Unit Chart

Calculate your alcohol unit and calorie intake by visiting https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/understand-your-drinking/unit-calculator.

Looking ahead

Just by completing the first chapter of this course, you have taken an excellent step towards cutting down your drinking. Below are some of the benefits of cutting down alcohol.

  • The amount of money you will save.

  • The calories you won't be taking in.

  • The change in your relationships.

  • The health benefits.

  • How refreshed and energised you will feel.

  • The sense of accomplishment you will feel.

  • The decreased risk of health problems.

  • The better management of existing health problems.

  • The amount of years cutting down drinking may add to your life.

Using the journal tool, list the benefits of cutting down your alcohol and the things you can potentially look forward to once you have cut down or stopped drinking.

Journal

Use your private Journal to note down what you have been up to and what you've been going through.

Weigh up the costs and benefits of reducing your alcohol intake by using the Cost-benefit Analysis template, which can help make you feel more motivated.


Click here to download an example of a Cost-benefit Analysis

Helpful links

  1. Alcohol unit and calorie tracker https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/

  2. Drinking app https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/tools/app