Keeping tabs on your intake can help you keep on the safe side of alcohol intake.
Knowing your limits
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. In real terms, this means blokes shouldn't exceed two pints of lager or beer, or three glasses of wine a day, while women should avoid going beyond a pint or a couple of glasses. 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 unsure whether you exceed your weekly unit allowance, try setting up a drinking diary for a while. Be sure to include every drink, the amount, the occasion, and where possible the alcohol by volume. Also make a note of whether you had a hangover and how that affected your day. That way you can build up a picture of your drinking habit, and work out whether things might be slipping out of control.
When it's time to cut down
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).
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.
If you've woken up to the fact that you need to cut down or quit, here are some tips to help:
- Equip yourself for withdrawal. If you're kicking a physical addiction, your doctor (GP) can help and advise you on keeping it together during the 'cold turkey' period; which can be really tough;
- Counselling can add extra help. Talking about your feelings can encourage you to come to terms with what led you into the addiction in the first place. It can also provide support as you break the habit;
- Overcome boredom by keeping busy. The more things you get going on, the less likely you'll lapse.
Vigilance is vital. Anticipate cravings, crises and weak spots by establishing a plan to distract you. These feelings will pass;
- Reach out for support from friends and family. They'll want to help, but you have to ask for it.
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