Experiences withAlcohol misuse
Low-risk drinking advice
To keep your risk of alcohol-related harm low:
- men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis
- if you drink as much as 14 units a week, it's best to spread this evenly over 3 or more days
- if you're trying to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, it's a good idea to have several alcohol-free days each week
- if you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant, the safest approach is to not drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum
Regular or frequent drinking means drinking alcohol most days and weeks.
The risk to your health is increased by drinking any amount of alcohol on a regular basis.
Am I drinking too much alcohol?
You could be misusing alcohol if:
- you feel you should cut down on your drinking
- other people have been criticising your drinking
- you feel guilty or bad about your drinking
- you need a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover
Someone you know may be misusing alcohol if:
- they regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week
- they're sometimes unable to remember what happened the night before because of their drinking
- they fail to do what was expected of them as a result of their drinking (for example, missing an appointment or work because they're drunk or hungover)
Treating alcohol misuse
How alcohol misuse is treated depends on how much alcohol a person is drinking.
Treatment options include:
- counselling – including self-help groups and talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- detoxification – this involves a nurse or doctor supporting you to safely stop drinking; this can be done by helping you slowly cut down over time or by giving you medicines to prevent withdrawal symptoms
There are 2 main types of medicines to help people stop drinking.
The first is to help stop withdrawal symptoms and is given in reducing doses over a short period of time. The most common of these medicines is chlordiazapoxide (Librium).
The second is a medicine to reduce any urge you may have to drink. The most common medicines used for this are acamprosate and naltrexone.
These are both given at a fixed dose, and you'll usually be on them for 6 to 12 months.
Signs of alcohol misuse include feeling like you drink too much, needing to drink regularly, and other people criticising your drinking.
Treatments for alcohol misuse include counselling, talking therapies and medicines that reduce your urge to drink or help with withdrawal symptoms.
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