How much alcohol is too much alcohol?

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To imbibe or not to imbibe… that is the question. A conundrum that’s all the more baffling given the massive contradiction we’re faced with this October. To go completely sober or drink everything in the sensory wonderland that is London Cocktail Week.

Either way, we’re faced with an extreme and extremes are dangerous. Why? Because the likelihood is you’ll get completely arseholed at your friends fireworks party satiating your thirst for alcohol that you haven’t touched for 31 days. Well done you. As for drinking whiskey for breakfast? Good luck getting that proposal out at 3pm.

Photo: @drinkupldn

We all know the 14 unit rule, yet research by Drinkaware has found that 10 million of us still drink above the guidelines (discounting post-millennials, obviously!). And 17 million working days are lost each year as a result of alcohol-related sickness.

“Unfortunately, too many of us find it difficult to keep to healthy limits”, explains Dr Gary Bolger, Chief Medical Officer at AXA PPP healthcare.

“Regularly drinking more than the daily guidelines can affect your health in many ways,” continues Dr Bolger. “Heavy drinkers increase their risk of developing high blood pressure, cancer (especially breast cancer and cancer of the gullet), liver and heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis.

Binge drinkers can also develop unpleasant short-term effects, such as sweating, shaking, bad skin, diarrhoea, blackouts and problems sleeping. And that’s as well as the long-term health problems.”

So when Sober October comes to an end, avoid the temptation to “make up for lost time” and instil some balance. Here are some tips to help you on your way…

1) Have a goal

Set yourself a goal – this could be stopping altogether or aiming to only have alcohol at the weekend. Decide on a start date and stick to it.

2) Eat something

Food can slow down the rate that alcohol is absorbed into your system. Before going out, eat a healthy meal with carbohydrate content to help prepare your stomach.

3) Downsize the supersize glasses

Opt for smaller measures. Choose a small (125ml) glass rather than a large (250ml) one for wine. If you’re drinking at home, buy smaller glasses for the house.

4) Stop the top-ups

Stopping topping up your glass before its empty can help you to keep track of how much you’ve had. Beware the over-vigilant host who won’t let your glass empty.

5) Avoid drinking home alone

When you pour your own measures rather than paying for measures individually, you may not notice how much you are drinking. Smaller (¼) wine bottle sizes are available (187 ml) and can help to cut down consumption.

6) Sip your soda from a wine glass

Drinking a soft drink from a glass you would usually fill with alcohol can be a great way to cut back without feeling like you’re missing out. When you’re trying to resist the pressure to have alcohol, get a drink that looks like it’s an alcoholic one or try having a shandy instead.

7) Weave in glasses of water

Paradoxically, alcohol dehydrates you so it’s important to drink water before you begin drinking and in between alcoholic drinks. People often guzzle the first drink because they’re thirsty. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks will not only help stop you getting too intoxicated, it will help reduce headaches and hangover symptoms the next day.

8) Know your units and monitor your intake

Keep a drink diary to help you to work out how much you’re drinking on a regular basis. Sites like this one by the NHS can help you work out the number of units in your drinks.

9) Understand your triggers

If you’re really trying to cut down on your alcohol intake, work out which situations you know will encourage you to drink and then look for alternatives – for example, if you’re going out with friends suggest the cinema instead of the pub.

10)  Be cautious

When going out for a drink, plan how you’re going to get home before you leave. Make sure you’ve got numbers for taxis and keep aside enough money to get home safely. On average, it takes about one hour for your body to break down one unit of alcohol, so if you’re thinking of driving the next day, be aware that you may still be over the legal limit. Your body breaks down alcohol at a rate of about one unit per hour – and there is no way you can speed up the process. Think about alternative methods of transport, or get a lift if possible.

By Hettie

Image: Watermelon Ball by @gvinegin_uk

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