‘Tis the season to be jolly’ ….. but not for everyone

Parties, nights in, nights out, catching up with family and friends – Christmas and New Year are difficult times of the year for those trying to avoid alcohol as it tends to be available everywhere.

Whether it’s the works night out or even being at home, this can be a busy social and sometimes stressful season for some.

The majority of people drink alcohol to enjoy themselves. When someone starts drinking; he or she feels relaxed, confident, happy and sociable. The pleasurable effects of alcohol in moderation are undeniable.

However, many people drink alcohol to alleviate feelings of stress, but did you know that aside from the physical harm, too much alcohol is actually more likely to make your stress levels worse and lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, rather than relieving them?

Drinking alcohol slows reflexes, reduces coordination, increases negative thinking, causes poor judgement and impairs memory.

Alcohol is a depressant, and drinking too much over a long period of time can be both a cause and/or a symptom of a mental health problem.
In addition to alcohol dependency, heavy drinking can also lead to irrational and impulsive behaviour.

Alcohol misuse can also have a range of negative impacts on people other than the drinker, for example physical violence including domestic, road traffic accidents, relationship problems, financial difficulties.

There are strong links between alcohol misuse, self-harming behaviour and suicidal thoughts. Alcohol misuse has also been linked to self-harming behaviour amongst misused by young people; it critically impacts on their mental wellbeing, compared with those young people who did not drink.

To reduce your alcohol risk, both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week, which is the equivalent of six pints of beer or six glasses of wine or 14 shots.

If you do plan on drinking it is advised to spread this evenly across the week rather than ‘saving up’ drinking alcohol for one session. It is also advisable to have at least several alcohol-free days each week.

Cutting down on drinking alcohol offers many benefits to your physical and mental health and wellbeing – this includes the short term benefits of better sleep, improved concentration, weight loss, having more money, and not having a ‘fuzzy head’ or hangover the next day.

Longer term benefits are even better as you reduce your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, liver cirrhosis damage and cancers, such as throat, liver and bowel.
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy and to keep the very real risks to your baby to a minimum, the Scottish Government advice is to avoid alcohol altogether.   If a woman drinks alcohol whilst pregnant she passes alcohol from her blood through the placenta to the developing baby, which can result in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Alcohol can also interfere with prescribed medications, so make sure you check with your GP or pharmacist if it is safe to drink alcohol with any drugs you are taking.  Ignoring this increases the risk of injury and accidents.

Setting personal goals and making changes gradually to your drinking is more realistic and likely to become part of your everyday life choices.

Remember that by making these small changes today, it could ensure you lead a longer healthier happier life. You never know, you may decide to keep going forward with the new you – looking better, sleeping better and most importantly, feeling better. Be your best self!

There are many ways you can reduce your drinking, such as eating a meal before you start drinking and make sure you drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks between alcoholic drinks.

Other tips include not pouring such big measures if you are drinking at home or at a friend’s house. You could invest in a drinks measure or obtain a free drinks measure by contacting your local Outer Hebrides Alcohol & Drug Partnership.

Don’t forget to check the strength of your alcoholic drink as most drinks labels contain the alcohol percentage (abv) and how many units the bottle contains; this will help you monitor what you are drinking.

You can also keep track of the number of alcohol units you have drunk and their calories by visiting the Drinkaware website at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/tools/app and downloading their Track and Calculate Units App.

Alcohol misuse is a major public health issue and causes high levels of harm to individuals, their families and relationships.

Symptoms of alcohol dependence can include difficulty in controlling drinking, and continuing to drink despite clear signs of the harm it causes. This is not always visible to family and friends, but issues to spot are whether a person is unable to socialise without having a drink or spending lots of money on alcohol.

If asked about it, the person may be irritable and defensive about their drinking, and may even miss days at work or education because of their heavy drinking.

Some people are able to cut down on their drinking by themselves, or with the support of a friend or family member. Others can go to their GP who will offer advice or direct them to appropriate counselling or local treatment services that can help.
If you are concerned about someone’s drinking you can access information and support to help them recognise and make changes to reduce the risk of alcohol harm, to themselves, their family and friends.

For further information or details of local alcohol and drug services please visit: www.outerhebadp.com

Let’s enjoy the Festive Season, but do you need to change your relationship with alcohol?

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