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Alcohol advice

The effects of alcohol, minimising harm, cutting down drinking and intervention and treatment.

Alcohol misuse is directly linked to deaths from diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, lung and stomach issues alongside weight gain, infertility, mental health problems and some cancers. It is also associated with other causes of death including stroke and coronary heart disease.

The NHS recommended limits are 14 units a week, spread evenly throughout the week.

The alcohol you drink travels to your stomach. Unlike food, alcohol doesn't need to be digested and can pass quickly and easily into the bloodstream -in only a few minutes it travels to every part of the body.

As well as the recognised immediate effects of drinking too much like nausea, vomiting and hangovers, binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking over longer periods of time can affect you in many different ways. These vary from cancer, heart problems, liver, lung and stomach issues, weight gain, infertility and mental health problems.

Effects of alcohol

The effects of alcohol are felt in all parts of the body. The alcohol you drink travels to your stomach but, unlike food, alcohol doesn't need to be digested and can pass quickly and easily into the bloodstream. About 20% of the alcohol that enters the stomach is absorbed immediately and after entering the bloodstream the alcohol travels very quickly, in only a few minutes, to every part of the body.

Your brain will be the first part of the body to be affected and alcohol will dull the parts of the brain that control how your body works, affecting your actions and your ability to make decisions and control your actions. On average, it takes the liver about one hour to break down one unit of alcohol. Contrary to some myths, there is no way to speed up this process and only time will sober you up. For more information on the effects of alcohol, go to the advice section on Know Your Limits

Minimising harm

The Safer Derbyshire Partnership aims to minimise the harm cause by alcohol in a number of ways which are targeted both at adults and young people. These include educational inputs into schools, brief interventions and campaigns.

The extent to which alcohol influences criminal and violent behaviour within the night time economy in town centres is not conclusive but Home Office research indicates that in a community of 100,000 people each year, 1,000 people will be a victim of alcohol-related violent crime. The Government lists a reduction in alcohol-fuelled violent crime among its core priorities in its alcohol strategy.

Derbyshire Police, local councils and community safety partnerships also work closely with licensed premises including pubs, shops, restaurants and any other establishment with a licence to sell alcohol. This is to ensure alcohol is sold responsibly and in accordance with their licence conditions.

The public perceives underage drinking and drinking by young adults as an issue needing attention and there are links between high levels of youth alcohol consumption and other risk factors such as youth offending, teenage pregnancy and exclusion from school.

Cutting down: where to start

A good place to start is to work out how much you are drinking and cutting down doesn't necessarily mean stopping. Derbyshire Recovery Partnership can help you work out how much you are drinking and whether it's too much and it gives you some ideas on how to cut down.

If you want some advice, please access the website or contact Derbyshire Recovery Partnership tel: 0845 308 4010 or 01246 206514.

Alcohol intervention and treatment

Individuals who consume excessive amounts of alcohol may benefit from some kind of intervention or treatment, and might fall into four general categories of alcohol misuse. These have been identified by Models of Care of Alcohol Misusers (MoCAM) 2006. Individual drinkers sit within a number of different categories during their lifetime and may or may not choose to engage with treatment services. Categories are:

  • Hazardous drinkers are drinking at levels over the sensible drinking limits, either in terms of regular excessive consumption or less frequent sessions of heavy drinking. However, they have so far avoided significant alcohol-related problems.
  • Harmful drinkers are usually drinking at levels above those recommended for sensible drinking, typically at higher levels than most hazardous drinkers. Unlike hazardous drinkers, harmful drinkers show clear evidence of some alcohol-related harm. Many harmful drinkers may not have understood the link between their drinking and the range of problems they may be experiencing.
  • Moderately dependent drinkers may recognise that they have a problem with drinking, even if this recognition has only come about reluctantly through pressure, for example from family members or employers. The level of dependence of drinkers in this category is not severe.
  • Severely dependent drinkers may have serious and long-standing problems. This category includes individuals described in older terminology as 'chronic alcoholics'. Typically, they have experienced significant alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They may have progressed to habitual significant daily alcohol use or heavy use over prolonged periods or bouts of drinking.