Alcohol Abuse - Giving Up Alcohol - How To Stop Drinking
Most people enjoy drinking alcohol, and within most societies that's quite normal. However, there often comes a point in a person's life when they think about how much they're drinking and whether they should stop. But, how much is too much alcohol?
On the one hand, there's a simple answer to this question. The 'safe' number of units for a man is 3-4 a day, whilst for a woman, it's 2-3 units. However, this doesn't factor in any 'days off' in the week, so that your liver can take a rest.
The real questions about what is a safe amount should include:
How much do you drink (how many units)
How long have you been drinking (most children are introduced to alcohol in the home)
What is your pattern of drinking (any days off? Binge drinking?)
Alcohol Abuse - Giving Up Alcohol - How To Stop Drinking
There is good evidence to suggest that people who are considered 'social' drinkers are now developing liver disease. These are people who drink within the 'safe' guidelines of 2-3 units a day for a female, but maybe they have 'no days off,' or maybe they've been drinking for a long period of years, and that consistent intake of what is a very pleasurable poison takes it's toll.
Here in the UK, we used to be a nation of beer and tea drinkers. If guests came to the home, there would be a cry of 'put the kettle on' and we'll have a nice cup of tea. Possibly the men would have a glass or two of beer. Couples might visit the pub occasionally, but the pub was no place to take the kids. Drinking in this way it was very difficult to get anywhere close to the weekly number of alcohol units that can cause physical damage. OK, there were always problem drinkers, but not on the scale that there are today, and 'ordinary' social drinkers did not develop liver disease.
Something changed. At some point over the last two decades we began to develop a taste for stronger and stronger alcohol. When guests arrive at the home we're much more likely to offer them a glass of wine than a cup of tea, and families can now afford to have wine with dinner most evenings. It has become socially acceptible to drink much more, and it's very easy to drink up to and beyond the safe limits.
What is A Unit of Alcohol
A small glass of wine is one unit, BUT small means 125ml, which constitutes the old fashioned Paris glass (shaped like a small goldfish bowl), pubs no longer serve this size. A small glass of wine from a pub is 175ml - already just over 2 units. A large glass is 250ml, or three units.
Many red wines are left on the vine longer now to develop a really full bodied flavour, and consequently a high alcohol content. Traditionally, wine would have a strength of around 8-10%, but it's not uncommon for white wine today to be up to 13% and red wine to be as strong as 15% (I've yet to see 16% without it being a fortified wine, one which has spirits added).
Beer used to be around 4-5%, but strong lagers and bitters are now up to 6%, so a pint of beer can equal three units.
Taking this into consideration it's easy to see how social drinking can provide liver-curdling amounts of alcohol very easily.
The length of time a person has been drinking must also be taken into consideration. Most drinkers have their first taste of alcohol in the home as a child, possibly on special occasions such as Christmas, or celebrations, and often a 'weak' or watered down version of an adult drink, in order to get children used to drinking sensibly.
There is no evidence that this type of exposure helps kids to drink sensibly, and I wonder if you substitute the word alcohol for heroin, whether the scenario would still seem as sensible. - "There you go kid, have half a wrap of heroin. You're gonna be offered it when you're older, so we want you to learn about it in the safety of your own home."
Alcohol Abuse - Disease Progression
Some of those kids who were exposed to alcohol at an early age will progress to being alcohol abusers quite quickly, often by the time they are in their teens. The majority will just become social drinkers over a long period of time - still a big risk.
Think I'm exaggerating? Let me tell you a little story:
Alcohol Abuse - My Story
Until I was five and a half years old, my life was that of every other kid. My parents were kind, caring and we did normal family stuff. They got me ready for school in the mornings, brushed my long, blonde hair and made sure I ate well. My experience of alcohol was that my Dad occasionally went to the pub, and sometimes we had a drive out to a pub as a family, and while my parents were drinking indoors I sat in the car with a packet of crisps and a bottle of coke (this was acceptible in 1960's UK). When I reached five and a half that all changed; my parents took on a traditional village pub.
We moved to our new home at the begginning of the six-week summer school holidays. Running a traditional pub at that time, meant that opening hours were very lax. The local 'Bobby' would warn my parents if his Sergeant was coming through the village and they needed to stick to opening times, but this was infrequent, so the pub was pretty much always on the go.
The Cycle of Alcohol Abuse
By the end of the six-week summer holiday, my father drank a crate (24 bottles) of Double Diamond (strong beer for those times) a day and my Mum drank a bottle of gin a day (luckily we didn't have litre bottles in the 60's!). My parents drank alcohol first thing in the morning. My Mum took a lot of 'naps' in the afternoon.
Mum always managed to cook a meal in the evening and my parents ate this in shifts to keep the pub running. Other meals were whatever I took from the fridge, or more often crisps and chocolate from the bar, as I was always 'in the way' and it was easy to pay me off with treats.
More worryingly my bedtime drink became a bottle of stout, as someone told my Mum it was good for you, which then became two bottles of stout. Treatment for a belly ache was a pint of bitter. So, you could say I began drinking at the age of five and a half, when I was drinking on a daily basis!
No-one brushed my hair, or made sure I washed. I ran wild over the village all day, until late evening (my Dad whistled for me to come in to eat the evening meal). I did not have to change my clothes. I did not have to brush my teeth. Bedtime stories stopped. I became terrified at night in bed. I started pushing two armchairs together in the kitchen to sleep on, until my parents closed up shop in the small hours. On my first morning at my new school, to find may way there I was told to "follow those boys next door" - well you can guess how that went.
My parents' hygeine standards dropped dramatically - no-one washed up, or cleaned the house. Papers piled up everywhere. Dirty plates were simply rinsed and re-used. I kept myself entertained in the evening watching TV and by playing with the mice that came out of the walls.
My parents earned lots of money, and drank most of the profits.
My parents became violent. There were rows between them which ended in physical abuse. I saw my Mum attack my Dad with the carving knife on more than one occasion.One night she threatened to kill him with the axe when he was asleep, so as soon as they'd finished fighting and all was quiet, I unlocked the door, ran down the yard in the dark and buried the axe in the garden (using a spoon to dig with!). My Dad was furious the next day when he had to chop the wood for four coal fires and the axe was no-where to be seen.
My mother became violent towards me and my half sister. There was daily violence in the household, and as kids we walked on eggshells, so as not to be noticed.
My half sister came to live with us when she was 17. Within weeks she was a heavy drinker, and her alcohol problem continued until she died at the age of 36. I was working in the Emergency Room, tending the walking wounded, whilst unbeknown to me my sister was being resusced in the room next door.
- Alcohol - Live Well - NHS Choices
Introduction to alcohol articles and videos. Binge drinking, liver damage, alcoholism, drinks calculator, recommended alcohol limits, rehab and more.
By luck, we moved away from the pub when I was 13 years old. I did all the teenage drinking and student drinking that society finds acceptible, but now, I drink very little.
I include the above simply to show how quickly the disease develops - literally within a matter of weeks - and the effects it has on those around the drinker(s).
Lovely, Lovely Beer
How do I Know If I Have an Alcohol Problem
Many people think they are safe, social drinkers and that they can't be at risk from alcohol, because they don't fit with their idea of what an alcoholic should be like. They may say:
I can't be an alcoholic because I always drink socially.
I cant' be an alcoholic because I never drink in the mornings/during the day/until after 6pm/8pm
I can't be an alcoholic because I only drink at weekends.
I can't be an alcoholic because I don't drink alone.
Well, guess what, you can have any of the drinking patterns above and still be abusing alcohol!
There are some great questionnaires designed to help someone to assess whether their drinking is dangerous - check out the link in the boxes - take the test and see. No-one knows the answers except you,
Nine Types of Drinker
The NHS Choices site lists what researchers consider to be the nine types of drinker. Are you one of these?
De-Stress Drinker: Who hasn't done this in their drinking career?
Conformist Drinker: Those who drink to belong and to have structure in their lives.
Boredom Drinker: Typically males age 30-50, who drink to pass the time.
Depressed Drinker: Those who crave comfort from alcohol, often drinking alone and heavily. However, this is a double edged sword, as alcohol abuse can cause depression.
Re-Bonding Drinker: Who drinks to keep in touch with others, typically most evenings.
Community Drinker: Those who drink to belong - often lower middle class males or females who drink in large friendship groups.
Hedonistic Drinker: Those who crave stimulation and attention, often drinking 3-4 times a week.
Macho Drinker: Those who almost live in the pub. They are mainly men and may use their drinking to control others.
Border Dependents: Those who drink regularly every day, or evening, weekdays and weekends.
Drinkers can move from one category to another throughout their career.
Health Problems Caused By Drinking Alcohol
Unfortunately the first time a drinker has an inkling that anything is wrong is usually when they visit their family doctor for another reason. Liver damage is a 'silent disease' unnoticed until severe damage has occurred.
Lets start with the worst - Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD). This may include:
Fatty Liver (where fat is deposited in the liver, leading to inflammation. This is reversible if a drinker quits drinking alcohol)
Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver, from chronic inflammation. This may only be partially reversible, or not at all and may lead to death)
Oesophageal varices (essentially varicose veins in the gullett from 'back pressure' of blood flow due to cirrhosis. These can rupture and cause severe bleeding or death)
A threefold increased risk of Cerebro-Vascular Event - A 'stroke'
Increased risk of heart disease
High blood pressure
Stomach problems such as ulcers
Risk of acute alcohol poisoning
Increased risk of violence or accident
Mental health problems including depression
Thinning of the Bones
Facial thread veins
Reddened, dry skin
The good news is that most of these symptoms can be reversed if a drinker quits, and cirrhosis may be reduced to some extent if caught in time.
Benefits of Drinking Alcohol
It eases social relationships
There is evidence that two units a day may offer a small protection against heart disease to men and post-menopausal women.
How To Stop
GET SOME HELP
The site in the link box has loads of information about stopping drinking, and agencies who can help you with quitting. Don't worry that your problem isn't 'bad enough'. If your alcohol drinking is a problem to you, then it's a problem - GET SOME HELP
One of the most well known self-help groups has to be Alcoholics Anonymous, their groups are free to join, and you can just go along to meetings.
Find another counsellor - there are numerous agencies listed in the Yellow Pages, such as AdAction. Or find a private counsellor. It will cost, but not as much as a lifetime of alcohol abuse will cost.
See your family doctor. they are not there to judge you, but to help. you should have blood tests taken, and possibly a liver scan. Your doctor can then decide whether or not to refer you to a specialist liver doctor.
They may also be able to help with the alcohol withdrawal process. Certainly, whilst quitting alcohol you will need extra vitamins, vitamin B compound and Thiamine, which your doctor can prescribe.
If you are a heavy drinker you may feel physical withdrawal effects from quitting, so it's important for your safety that these are dealt with correctly. Your doctor may want to treat you in hospital on a quick detox programme, which involves a few days treatment with a reducing dose of a drug such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium), to ease the body's dependence on alcohol, and to manage your symptoms, which can range from the unpleasant to the serious.
There is a list of withdrawal effects below.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Hallucinations - Tactile, where you feel things crawling on your skin. Auditory, where you hear things. Visual, where you see things, or a combination of all.
This collection of symptoms used to be called delirium tremens, or the DT's, and it's really important that they are managed medically. so GET SOME HELP
For most of us, alcohol is a pleasurable thing, but it's soooo easy to drink over the recommended number of units.
If you're worried about your health and alcohol, then click on the link and take a questionnaire, then check out some of the info about stopping.