#Alcohol #HarmReduction #AlcoholAwarenessWeek

Drinking & Alcohol HarmI’m certainly not telling you to give-up drinking, that’s actually your choice and, I have no desire to be a kill-joy but… it’s getting towards that time of year again!

According to official Govt statistics; around 20 people die every day as a result of their drinking. Despite some downward trends in various areas of these statistics (over recent years), Adult Drinking Habits suggest that way too many of us are still… Drinking Without Thinking!

In 2017, a total of 7,697 people died from alcohol-specific causes in the UK, equivalent to 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population. The latest figure is the highest rate since 2008 when the rate was recorded as 12.7 alcohol-specific deaths per 100,000. (Source ONS)

But the harms associated with alcohol are not necessarily inevitable… when you choose to make some [healthy] decisions and choices around the regularity of your drinking and the quantities you choose to drink.

Every year thousands die as a direct result of their drinking. Despite our improving health as a nation, liver disease is one of the very few conditions that is increasing in prevalence… There are an estimated 600,000 dependent drinkers in England alone – people who are in a relationship with alcohol that is bringing them and their families ill-health, conflict and pain. Four in five of them are receiving no treatment. (Alcohol Change Report)

In the last Alcohol Change Report, Professor Alan Maryon-Davis (Chair of trustees and a past president of the UK Faculty of Public Health) said; “Looking at alcohol in the UK today, it is easy to think that the future looks bleak” (read more) …but it doesn’t have to be!

Many people do drink too much, without realising that fact. But this can and does have negative impacts for their health, both now and in the future; alcohol overuse is linked to mental health problems, liver disease, seven forms of cancer and more. Often, the question many of us have is; how confident can I be that my drinking is healthy or unhealthy? All alcohol consumption carries some level of risk however; you can check how ‘healthy’ your drinking is (or not) with the quick quiz provided by Alcohol Change.

Promoting Healthy Changes

Alcohol Awareness Week is a campaign run by Alcohol Change in the UK. It’s a chance to get us all thinking about our drinking habits. This year the theme is Alcohol & Me, running from 11-17 November 2019. It’s a week of awareness-raising, campaigning for change (read more).

Dry January is the UK’s one-month booze-free challenge that helps millions reset their relationship with alcohol every year. (Sign up Now!)

Becoming Sober

I’ve written before about our increasingly Sober Trends and how more people are becoming Sober Curious, even lately within the drinks industry.

Writing in the Alcohol Change Blog, Emily Syphas of Sober & Social offered some tips on staying sober at events. Syphas acknowledged the worrying fact for many; not drinking can/does still carry a great deal of stigma, amongst some social groups. That said, it is possible to deal with those issues successfully, when you choose not to drink. Start by recognising “potentially triggering or difficult social situations” and start by trying to get yourself into a positive mindset.

The rise of the sober curious: …critical thinking from the casual drinker, asking us to consider, and maybe even dismantle the societal expectations and calcified habits that lead us to reach for a drink whenever the opportunity presents itself. (The Guardian)

Christmas is Coming, The Goose is Getting Drunk

Are you looking forward to the (almost constant) seasonal party that kicks in any time from now (Oct/Nov), as many do whilst anticipating the end of year festivities? Will you be doing the usual ‘New Year Resolution’ after your over indulgence during those festivities?

You might be worried about how you can stay alcohol-free at events, over the festive period, or perhaps at any other time. You might even be considering having a go at Dry January, after your latest seasonal excess. Why not download the Dry January app and Try Dry ?  It will help you keep track of your time off drinking… and it’s free!

Help & Support

Becoming ‘sober curious’ is a good first stage in the process of change, for anyone who might be wanting to adopt some healthy behaviours, around their habitual alcohol consumption.

Thankfully today, there is a myriad of available support, some good, some not so good and some snake-oil salesmen an women.

You can gain support from the ever-growing reading list of ‘self-help’ books like; The Sober Diaries, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, Sober Curious, The Sober Revolution (Women Calling Time on Wine o’clock) or, The Easy Way To Control Alcohol, to name but a few.

You could try watching some YouTube clips, or listening to a ‘Sober’ Podcast. There are numerous self-help communities online like Club Soda and Soberistas, along with mutual-aid support groups like the secular, science-based SMART programme.

Visit SMART Recovery

Sober Curious or Decided to Quit?

Whatever choice you are making, and whichever type of support you choose to engage with, always remember; what you see is not always what you get. Not all are equal and not all will be efficacious for you, or suit your needs… ‘Horses for Courses’ and all that.

The rise of sober curious: People on social media who focus on the sunniness of sobriety may not resonate with those recovering from alcohol abuse, but their message that life is enjoyable without drinking could be contributing to younger generations’ disinclination to begin drinking at all. (The Guardian)

But, even if you do consider that your drinking has become problematic, that shouldn’t also dictate that you hastily dive headlong into your nearest Alcoholics Anonymous group.

Despite how the media tend to portray and label any problematic drinking, the local AA Meeting is not necessarily your de facto destination. A lifetime of AA meetings might have worked for many people in the past however; few alternatives existed and societal expectations were different.

Times and people have changed since the prohibitive temperance of AA was invented and increasingly, people are looking for support that is far less prescriptive and/or dogmatic. If you are in need of some help, you need to decide on the most effective and appropriate form of support [for you] and make your informed choice.

Important Disclaimer

Trying to change any ‘excessive’ drinking habit on your own can be very dangerous.  Stopping drinking, or cutting back too quickly, from heavy alcohol consumption, an addiction or physical alcohol dependency, can lead to seizures or, in extreme circumstances, death and isn’t recommended. It probably also won’t be very easy!

If your drinking fits the above circumstances and you are resident in the United Kingdom; I strongly suggest and recommend that you seek professional help and support.

Consult your medical practitioner (GP) or, one of the locally commissioned Addictions Services. These exist right across the country and are usually listed on your Local Authority website, or that of the local NHS Trust. You could also try a quick Google Search for Addiction Services in your local always remember…  caveat emptor!

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