Am I drinking too much alcohol?
Recognise any of the following? Then its time to cut down.
- Drinking larger amounts to get the same effect
- Doing things when you’re drunk that you go on to seriously regret
- Missing an appointment because of a hangover
- Binge drinking (going without for some time, and then drinking excessively in one period)
How much alcohol is too much?
The amount of alcohol a person consumes is measured in units. Here are some rough examples of what makes up a typical unit:
- Half a pint of beer or cider = 1.5 units
- A small glass (125ml) of wine = 1.5 units
- A single measure of spirits (e.g. whisky, vodka, rum or gin) = one unit
As a rule, Government recommendations say that a man should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units a day and a woman should not regularly exceed 2-3 units a day. Why? Because the male body is made up of 66% fluid, compared to 55% for women. This means alcohol is more diluted in a man’s body than a woman’s. As a result, women tend to get drunk faster than men on the same amount of alcohol.
If you’re still unsure whether you exceed your weekly unit allowance, try setting up a drinking diary for a while, or using an app like the NHS drink tracker, to get an idea of how much you’re drinking.
How can I cut down on drinking?
Review your lifestyle
Identify those times and places when you’re most likely to reach for a drink. From the bar after work to the weekend with friends, if you know you’ll be tempted then think about steering clear. Alternatively, try turning up later than usual to minimise your drinking time, or kick off with a soft drink to stop you from feeling so thirsty.
Drink for the right reasons
Try to associate drinking with celebrations, or cultural and religious events, rather than a means of blotting out your problems or propping up your self-confidence. Also think of alcohol as something you do as a complement to another activity, instead of something you turn to for its own sake.
Binge drinking is dangerous, as your body can only process one unit of alcohol per hour. The more rapidly you drink the more intense the effects will be, but that doesn’t make the experience any more enjoyable. If you find it hard to apply the booze brakes, try putting your drink down more often. If it isn’t in your hand all the time, you’re less likely to drink it so quickly.
Learn new bar tricks
If you’re at the bar with a glass in your hand, try talking more. Use your mouth for something other than boozing and you’re less likely to fall down at the end of the evening. Eating can also have the same stalling effect – though be careful with salty snacks, as it could just stoke your thirst.
Know your limit
Before you start drinking, be sure you know when to stop. This can be hard when everyone else is boozing, but practise makes perfect. It also avoids bad hangovers.
Take a break from boozing
If you’re worried about drinking but don’t fancy quitting completely, then set aside an alcohol-free period every now and then. It might be one day in a week or a month, but even a temporary hop onto the wagon can be enough to keep the issue alive in your mind. Ultimately, the more switched on you can be about your alcohol intake the less likely it is that you’ll run into problems.
When it’s time to seek professional help
- Boozing in secret, or playing down how much you drink
- Thinking about alcohol a lot, and when you’ll next get a chance to drink
- Getting into trouble as a result of alcohol (such as causing accidents or arguments)
- Finding yourself in debt because of the amount you spend on alcohol
- Becoming anxious when you can’t get access to drink
- Thinking you need a drink to help deal with certain situations
- Evading questions about your alcohol intake, or feeling uncomfortable about responding at all
- Reacting angrily when people suggest you have a drink problem
Facing up to the fact that you may have a drink problem takes guts. It is perhaps the most courageous step you can take towards regaining control over your life. Help is out there too, from confidential telephone support to face-to-face counselling and more, but it’s down to you to ask.
Photo of girl holding a drink by Shutterstock
- Are you drinking too much? Drinkaware has a useful self assessment tool to help you discover if your drinking habits are healthy, or something to worry about.
- Drinkaware offers advice and information on alcohol and your drinking habits.
- Al-Anon provides support to anyone whose life has been affected by someone else's drinking.
- Addaction helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
Updated on 29-Sep-2015