From happy hour to binge-drinking while watching Netflix, there are countless opportunities for us to booze on a regular basis. Unsurprisingly, experts are warning that millions of us are overdoing it – even the Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated that alcohol causes much more harm than illegal drugs like heroin and cannabis.
Not only can heavy drinking devastate our livers, bones and brain cells, it also increases the risk of depression, divorce and redundancy. What’s even more concerning is that it could be more difficult to cut down or quit than we think.
Size Up Your Drink
This graphic by DrinkAware explains the UK’s guidelines for drinking. They explain that the alcoholic content in similar types of drinks varies a lot, and just one pint of strong lager or a large glass of wine can contain more than three units of alcohol.
On a bottle of wine or a can of lager and you’ll see either a percentage, followed by the abbreviation ‘ABV’ (alcohol by volume), or sometimes just the word ‘vol’. Wine that says ‘13 ABV’ on its label contains 13% pure alcohol.
The Warning Signs
So how would you know if you’re drinking way too much than you’re supposed to? The Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced a list of classic symptoms that show your drinking has stepped up to a worrying level.
These include regular use of alcohol to cope with anger, frustration, anxiety or depression — instead of choosing to have a drink, you feel you have to have it, such as to help you feel more confident. Aside from that, your drinking also affects your relationships with other people – you become gloomy or aggressive around them when you go out drinking.
On top of that, when you start hiding the amount you drink from friends and family — you know things are bad. You stop doing other things to spend more time drinking as these other things become less important to you than alcohol. You carry on drinking even though you can see it is interfering with your work, family and relationships.
Heck, even when your drinking behaviour makes you feel disgusted, angry, or suicidal, you still choose to carry on in spite of the problems it causes. Sometimes, you even start to drink earlier in the day or need to drink more to get the same effect like you used to.
What’s worse, heavy drinkers will start to feel shaky and anxious after drinking the night before and they also get ‘memory blanks’ where you can’t remember what happened for a period of hours or even days. Like being roofied, only you did it to yourself with a hella lot of alcohol.
How To Curb Your Excessive Drinking Behaviour
Set yourself a target to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Avoid high-risk drinking situations and work out other things you can do instead of drinking. Opt for lower-strength options, such as 4% beers or 10% wines. Involve your partner or a friend who can help agree a goal and keep track of your progress.
Alcohol addiction is also a mixture of genes and environment. If the atmosphere is there – perhaps a job with a heavy drinking culture, the problem can develop. So choose your hangout buddies wisely. If needed, you should avoid hanging out with your heavy drinking pals and save yourself.