Introduction

For many of us, drinking with friends and family is one of life’s pleasures. But for some people, their drinking can lead to longer-term health problems. If you regularly drink more than the recommended daily amount, it can cause health risks that you can’t see.

In January 2016 the recommendations for levels of drinking changed. The Chief Medical Officer reported that there is now stronger evidence of the risks of cancers, especially breast cancer, which increases directly in-line with the consumption of alcohol.

Know Your Units

Here’s a visual guide to how much alcohol there is in some popular drinks. You can refer back to it later when you’re working out how much you usually drink. And it’ll probably come in handy in the future too.

Many manufacturers now put the number of alcohol units on bottles and cans, so this can be a useful reference. Of course with mixed drinks like cocktails it can be hard to keep track of what you’re drinking – you can always ask the person serving you if you’re not sure.

Drinking at home

At home it can be much more difficult to keep track of how much you’re drinking than when you’re out. There are no measures, you’re probably much more generous than bars or pubs are, and you can top up your glass at any time.

Keep it in mind – that vodka you just poured might be a quadruple measure rather than the single measure you’d get in the local pub.

Units

Why Cut Down?

All types of alcohol can cause cancer

The new guideline on alcohol consumption warns that drinking any level of alcohol increases the risk of a range of cancers including:

Mouth

Mouth

Breast

Breast

Bowel

Bowel

Stomach

Stomach

Liver

Liver

So how do you know if you’re drinking at harmful levels? We will help you find this out and provide useful advice to help you cut down. You’ll discover how many units of alcohol there are in your drinks so you can be informed about your drinking levels.

Alcho-inforgraphic

Just remember

  • The visual guide gives examples, but many popular drinks are stronger.
  • Some pubs serve spirits in 35 ml measures rather than 25 ml, so you might be drinking more than you realise.
  • Glasses and bottles come in different sizes so this is going to affect the number of units you’re drinking.

So what did you drink last week?

How much did you drink last week? Have a think about it – maybe you spent a few evenings in the pub, and on some days you had drinks at home. Use the drinks calculator tool to add up your drinks this week.

Please be honest with yourself – to get the best advice to look after your health it’s important to be as accurate as you can. Also, if last week was unusual for you – e.g. you drank much more or less than usual – write down what you’d drink in a normal week.

So what did you drink last week?

Which category are you?

Then to see if your goals are realistic, give each one a score from one to ten.
1 – I’d be really lucky to achieve this / 10 – I know I can do this

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Your Total for the week:

If its 14 units or under

There are no safe levels when drinking alcohol however you are currently drinking within the guidance of up to 14 units a week. If you continue to drink within the units you will have a lower risk of getting an alcohol related medical condition.

If it’s 15 units or over

You are over the recommended limits of 14 units, if you continue to drink at this level you will increase your risk of over 60 medical conditions. Please read on to find out how you can reduce your intake.

To help you work out if you’re drinking more than is good for you on a regular basis, why not download a mobile units calculator. You can download it free of charge by visiting www.nhs.uk/alcohol .

Drinking within the recommendations

  • Men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. Ideally, this should be spread evenly over three days or more.
  • Drinkers should limit the amount they consume on single occasions, and intersperse drinking alcohol with eating food and drinking water.
medical

Should I try to cut down my drinking?

Are you surprised or even shocked to find yourself over the recommendations, you might need to lower your alcohol intake and so reduce the current risk of harm to your health. Carry on reading to be taken through a 6-step plan to help you reduce your drinking.

By the way, most people just need to cut down their drinking, but there are people who need to stop completely. Please take a look at the information below before you move on to the 6-step plan.

Drinking within the guidelines?

If you’re in the lower risk category, you probably don’t need to take any action, unless you have good reasons to cut down yourself or you are drinking the full 14 units all in one go.

Some people need to stop completely

You may need to plan to stop drinking completely if:

  • You have a health problem, like liver or heart disease.
  • You commonly have memory blackouts, so you can’t remember things that happened when you were drinking.
  • People who are pregnant or trying to conceive.

If you have answered yes to any one of these you should seek professional help for your drinking, speak to a GP or nurse for advice.

You should stop drinking completely if:

  • You are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant.
  • You are taking medication that doesn’t mix with drinking (ask your doctor)
  • You think your life would be better if you didn’t drink at all

Medical warning

If you have physical withdrawal symptoms (like shaking, sweating or feeling anxiety until you have a first drink of the day), you should take medical advice before stopping completely – as it can be dangerous to do this too quickly without proper advice and support.

6 Step Plan

In our 6-step plan, we’ll give you ideas on how to drink less and reduce the risks without missing out on the fun you have with family and friends.

Step 1

Think of some good reasons to change.

Step 2

Set your goals.

Step 3

Know when you might slip up.

6 Steps

Step 4

Plan now for the times you might slip up.

Step 5

Find support if you need it.

Step 6

Stick to your goals.

The 6-step plan

You now know quite a lot about the effects of alcohol and the problems it can cause to your health and personal life. And hopefully you’ve made a decision to try to cut your drinking to within the recommendations. The 6-step plan can help you to cut down. It won’t always be easy. However, thousands of people like you have succeeded – and feel much better for it.

1

Think of some good reasons to change

There are plenty of good reasons to cut down your drinking – here are some examples, and you can probably think of more

Good reasons to drink less

  • You’ll have more time for things you’ve always wanted to do.
  • You’ll save a lot of money.
  • You’ll feel happier.
  • You’ll be less likely to have arguments with those around you
  • You’ll sleep better.
  • You can have a positive influence on your children’s own view of alcohol and the choices they make.
  • You’ll have more energy.
  • It can help you lose weight.
  • Your memory of a night out will be better.
  • You’ll be less likely to develop high blood pressure.
  • You’ll be less likely to develop serious health problems such as heart and liver disease.
2

Set your goals

If you want to drink less, you need to set yourself goals. Your ultimate goal is to be drinking within the recommendations– but we know it might take a bit of time to get there. So first things first. Make a plan for the next four weeks and set goals you can stick to. Choose your goals from one or more of these boxes.

Then to see if your goals are realistic, give each one a score from one to ten.
1 – I’d be really lucky to achieve this / 10 – I know I can do this

I will not drink more than the recommended units this week.

If I am on a night out I will drink water between alcoholic drinks.
I will have 2 alcohol-free days a week.

I will decide how much I’m going to drink before I start drinking.

I will take up a new hobby or activity to do at the time I usually drink most.

Your Result

Can you stick to your goals?

Look at your goals again. If you’ve scored any of them at five or lower, think about changing them for goals you’re more likely to achieve. Your goals should help you make a good start at drinking less, and they should be realistic too.

So for the next four weeks, try and stick to your goals. We recommend you use the Unit Tracker you can download it from www.nhs.uk/tools/pages/drinks-tracker.aspx

3

Know when you might slip up

No matter how much you want to change your drinking habits, there will be times when it’s easy to slip up and drink too much. It might be on social occasions, or when you’re stressed, everybody’s different.

Think for a moment about the last few times you were drinking too much. Where were you, who were you with and what were you feeling? Here’s a list of times we can all relate to.

  • When your boss is buying the drinks after work.
  • When you’re meeting new people in social situations and feel nervous.
  • When you’re celebrating at a party or club and people are encouraging you to have more.
  • When you’ve had a hard day and you feel like you deserve a treat.
  • When you’re out with your mates and you’re supposed to keep up with them.
  • When you need to relax and having a few drinks feels like the fastest way to do it.
  • When you’re watching TV and you don’t really notice what you’re drinking.
  • When you’re lonely or depressed and you think you might as well have another one.
4

Plan now for the times you might slip up

Thinking about these times means that now you know when you’re most likely to drink beyond your goals. So work out in advance how to cope.

Choose three situations when you’re most likely to slip up – for instance at a party, after a stressful meeting at work, or going to watch the football.

Then look at the ideas on how to deal with them – you can probably think of more ideas that would work for you.

Ways to cope

  • Switch to low-alcohol lager.
  • Stick to single shots of spirits.
  • Drink white wine and soda (spritzers) rather than just white wine
  • Have a soft drink before each alcoholic drink.
  • Replace alcohol with your favourite soft drink.
  • Eat a meal before drinking.
  • Pace yourself at celebrations, sports events and leaving dos.
  • Delay the time you start drinking.
  • After work, play football, join a gym or go to the cinema instead of the pub.
  • Practise how to say no to alcohol when it’s offered to you.
  • If you’re going out with people who drink heavily, try to avoid buying in rounds (you could always get the first round and then opt out).
  • Let your friends, family and work colleagues know you’re cutting down and ask them to be supportive.
  • If you’re stressed, chill out by going for a walk instead of drinking.

Every day, think about the times you might slip up. Then imagine yourself using your coping strategies to deal with them. Do you feel that one or two of them won’t work? Then change them for better ones.

5

Find support if you need it

Some people find it easier to change their habits if they’ve got someone to talk to. So if you think it’ll help you, ask someone for support.

Choose someone you can talk to easily, be honest with and get advice from when you need it. It could be your partner, a friend, a colleague or someone else you know who wants to cut down their drinking. Don’t be scared to ask – they’ll probably be pleased to help. For further support see the bottom of this page.

6

Stick to your goals

Enjoying alcohol is a part of many people’s lives, and sometimes it’s hard to break the habit of drinking too much. But just reading this means you’ve already taken a step towards lowering your level of drinking, so well done.

If you take it seriously, the 6-step plan really can help break the habit and change your level of drinking. But you’re only human – there’s likely to be the odd setback along the way, so don’t be discouraged if you have a bad day, or even a bad week! Start the 6 steps again if you need to – just take it one day at a time, and gradually it will get easier

Your Email

Enjoy a healthy lifestyle and lower risk drinking

If you drink less, your lifestyle will have changed for the better and you’ll have more time and energy for the things and the people you love. Of course your ultimate goal is to be in the lower risk drinking category. So after following the 6 steps for four weeks, have a look at how you’re doing. You may want to update or change your goals, to help you get closer to achieving lower risk drinking.

Nobody’s perfect – if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

Medical warning

Important – If you have physical withdrawal symptoms(like shaking, sweating or feelings of anxiety until you have a first drink of the day), you should take medical advice before stopping completely – as it can be dangerous to do this too quickly without proper advice and support.

Finding it tough?

There’s always local help available

  • Atlantic Recovery Centre Substance Misuse (18 years old and over), Substance Misuse (Drugs and Alcohol) treatment service for adults 18+ in Dudley, including support, information, advice and treatment to enable people to move out of addiction and into recovery.
    Atlantic House,

    Dudley Road,
    Lye,
    STOURBRIDGE,
    West Midlands.
    DY9 8EL
    Telephone 01384 426120
    Fax: 01384 895130
    Website: http://www.cri.org.uk
  • Telephone 01384 426 120
  • Visit www.letstalkdrink.com
  • SWITCH - YOUNG PERSONS SPECIALIST DRUG AND ALCOHOL SERVICE Substance misuse (Drug and Alcohol) services for young people up to the age of 18 including support for families as part of a recovery orientated service.

    SWITCH
    1 Castle Street,
    DUDLEY,
    West Midlands.
    DY1 1LA

    Telephone 01384 241440
    Website: http://www.cranstoun.org/
  • For young people (under 18 years old) visit: www.thinkalcohol.com
  • There is also www.nhs.uk/alcohol which is a national website with lots of information on alcohol.