mind body and soul.  




Alcohol Misuse
NHS Direct Online Health Encyclopedia

Having a drink now and then does not harm your body. However, social drinking can, for some people, lead to heavier drinking which can cause serious health problems. It is often very difficult to tell the difference between alcoholism, alcohol abuse and alcohol problems. A person who has abused alcohol in the past does not necessarily have alcoholism, for example.
Stay healthy with this safe drinking guide

The first steps are to acknowledge that the problem exists, to accept it, and to seek help. One of the aims of treatment is to promote stronger motivation for the exercise of such control as the drinker has.
Community services for treating alcohol problems are widespread. In some of these services, the emphasis is on group therapy, along supportive or other therapeutic lines. In addition, a range of skilled medical and psychiatric staff often provide one-to-one counseling or other treatment.
Problem drinkers attending such units receive specific treatment, not only for the alcohol dependence, but also for any associated nutritional or other secondary effects.
The problems associated with alcohol are varied. People who drink heavily can experience social, psychological and health problems as a result. Some people can become dependent on alcohol, either physically or psychologically.
Hazardous alcohol intake means drinking heavily enough to cause harm in the future. Harmful alcohol intake means that drinking is already causing harm.
Someone with alcohol dependence:
* has a strong desire to drink alcohol,
* has difficulty controlling their use of alcohol,
* persistently uses alcohol despite being aware of the harmful effects,
* shows increased tolerance for alcohol, and
* when without alcohol shows signs of withdrawal.
The terms problem drinker and excessive drinking are also often used. Binge drinking is defined as drinking eight or more units of alcohol in one session if you are a man, and more than six units in one session if you are a woman. Studies are starting to reveal that drinking a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time may be substantially worse for your health than frequently drinking small quantities.
Binge drinking is becoming a big problem in the UK. Teenagers as young as 16, admit to binge-drinking and around 40% of patients admitted to A&E are diagnosed with alcohol-related injuries or illnesses.
Research has shown that a very high percentage of adults in the UK (over 90% of men and 86% of women aged 16 years or over) drink alcohol.
Sensible drinking limits are defined as no more than 21 units a week for adult males and 14 units a week for adult females. To reduce health risks from drinking, this should be spread over the week, 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units a day for women. A review in 1995 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Physicians and GPs, recommended that these limits remain unchanged.
One unit is defined as 7.9g of pure alcohol (also known as ethanol). However, because alcohol is a liquid, it is easier to measure it by volume, and one unit is 10ml of alcohol. This is roughly equivalent to half a pint of beer, cider or lager, a 25ml (pub) measure of spirit such as vodka, whisky or gin, a 50ml (pub) measure of fortified wine such as port or sherry, or a small (125ml) glass of wine.
Different drinks have different amounts of pure alcohol in them because they contain other ingredients such as water, sugar or fruit juice. Each drink has a different quantity of Alcohol by Volume (AbV) so one unit can be found in different measures, depending on the type of liquid.
The number of units can be worked out from the percentage AbV, which equals the number of units of alcohol in a litre of the liquid. For example, many wines in pubs and restaurants are likely to be around 12% (note that the unit above is based on a wine with 8% AbV). A litre of wine at 12% AbV equals 12 units. An average bottle contains 75cL, which is therefore 9 units (75% of 12). If 6 glasses are poured, each will contain 1.5 units. Alternatively, multiplying the %AbV by 10 gives the number of millilitres of alcohol in one litre of the drink.
The quantity of alcohol in a persons bloodstream (or Blood Alcohol Content) is used to measure their level of intoxication (drunkenness). It is calculated in milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The UK BAC limit for legal driving is 80mg/100ml.
Women have a lower tolerance of alcohol than men. This is because they are often smaller and lighter, their bodies contain lesswater and their metabolisms are different.
Excessive drinking can affect your physical and mental health, and your work, social and personal relationships. You are also more likely to find yourself in dangerous situations if you have been drinking a lot, as alcohol affects your judgement and you may do things that you would not consider doing when sober. A recent report showed that a quarter of all young prisoners had been drinking when they committed their crime.
Health risks associated with heavy drinking include:
* liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver),
* alcohol-related anaemia and nutritional disease,
* chronic calcifying pancreatitis,
* heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy), and
* alcoholic dementia.
Heavy drinking also increases the risk of high blood pressure, cerebral haemorrhage (stroke), coronary heart disease and heartbeat irregularities. People who drink large amounts of alcohol over long periods of time are also at much greater risk of liver damage. This may lead to alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Psychiatric disorders are also more common in people who drink more than 10 units a day. They include:
* depression,
* suicide and attempted suicide,
* personality deterioration,
* sexual problems,
* delirium tremens
* hallucinations without the other symptoms of delirium tremens, and
* memory loss.
If you answer Yes to two or more of the following questions, you need to think about your alcohol intake:
* Have you ever thought you should cut down on your drinking?
* Have other people ever annoyed you by commenting on your drinking?
* Do you ever feel guilty about the amount of alcohol you are drinking?
* Have you ever taken a drink in the morning to relieve the symptoms of alcohol (commonly known as hair of the dog or an eye-opener)?
If you answer Yes to three or more of the following questions, you should consider seeking help from your GP who will be able to refer you to a specialist:
* If you are a man, are you drinking more than 50 units of alcohol a week?
* If you are a woman, are you drinking more than 35 units a week?
* Do you have a strong desire or need to drink alcohol?
* Do you have difficulty resisting the urge to drink, stopping drinking, or controlling the amount you drink?
* Does your behaviour change or do you feel differently if you cant get a drink?
* Do you drink to relieve or prevent those feelings?
* Do you seem to be able to drink more than most other people around you (higher tolerance to alcohol)?
* Does the desire to drink, or the effects of alcohol stop you taking part in your other interests and pleasures?
* Do you still drink, despite knowing about the harmful consequences?
Getting help
If you would like help or further information about alcohol, you can ask your GP, or contact any of the following organisations:
* Drinkline0800 917 8282 (Mon-Fri 9am-11pm, Sat/Sun 6-11pm)
* National Drugs Helpline (Department of Health) on 0800 776 600
* Alcoholics Anonymous - local numbers are in the phone book or on their website.
Colchicine for alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver fibrosis and cirrhosis (Cochrane Review). Rambaldi A, Gluud C. The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002. http://www.update-software.com/abstracts/ab002148.htm
S-adenosyl-L-methionine for alcoholic liver diseases (Cochrane Review). Rambaldi A, Gluud C. The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002. http://www.update-software.com/abstracts/ab002235.htm
Antibiotics for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in cirrhotics (Cochrane Review). Soares-Weiser K, Brezis M, Leibovici L. The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002. http://www.update-software.com/abstracts/ab002232.htm
Chinese medicinal herbs for asymptomatic carriers of hepatitis B virus infection (Cochrane Review). Liu JP et al. The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002. http://www.update-software.com/abstracts/ab002231.htm
Emergency sclerotherapy versus medical interventions for bleeding oesophageal varices in cirrhotic patients (Cochrane Review). D'Amico G et al. The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002. http://www.update-software.com/abstracts/ab002233.htm
Opioid antagonists for alcohol dependence (Cochrane Review). Srisurapanont M, Jarusuraisin N. http://www.update-software.com/abstracts/ab001867.htm
Interventions for preventing injuries in problem drinkers (Cochrane Review). Dinh-Zarr T et al. The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002. http://www.update-software.com/abstracts/ab001857.htm
Support organisations
The information below has been added to the NHS Direct Health Encyclopaedia as part of a pilot project to make data used by NHS Direct call centres available to the public on our website. If you have any feedback relating to this pilot please contact us.
National Association for Children of Alcoholics
Helpline: Mon Tue Fri 10am-7pm, Wed Thu 10am-9pm, Sat 10am-3pm (answerphone available)
The Association provides information, advice and support to children of alcoholics and to professionals who deal with children of alcoholics. NACOA provides a listening service, a website, responds to emails and letters and sends out information packs.
Referral: Self.
Cost: No charge for information. 20 annual membership fee.
There is a complaints procedure.
* http://www.nacoa.org.uk/
* Helpline : 0800 358 3456
Institute of Alcohol Studies
General Number and Reference Library: Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.00pm
IAS is an educational body which aims to increase the knowledge of alcohol and the social health consequences of its misuse. Also encourages and supports the adoption of effective measures for the management and prevention of alcohol related problems. The IAS publishes fact sheets, a quarterly magazine and other publications on alcohol-related issues. The IAS Library is a specialised reference library which collects information on alcohol related issues from a wide variety of sources.
Who for: General public.
Referral: Self.
Cost: No charge.
* http://www.ias.org.uk/
* General Number : 01480 466766
* General Number : 01480 497583
* Reference Library : 02072224001
Al-Anon Family Groups UK and Eire
Helpline: 365 days, 10.00am-10.00pm
Al-Anon is worldwide and offers understanding and support for families and friends of problem drinkers, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not. Alateen, a part of Al-Anon, is for young people aged 12-20 who have been affected by someone else's drinking, usually that of a parent. The confidential Helpline provides details of meetings throughout the UK and Eire. Meetings held throughout the UK.
Who for: Families and friends of problem drinkers.
Referral: Self or any method.
Cost: No charge.
Access: Meeting held at various locations.
Information is available in large print and other languages on request.
There is a complaints procedure.
* http://www.al-anonuk.org.uk/
* Helpline : 020 7403 0888
* Helpline : 020 7378 9910
Alcohol Concern
Switchboard: Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.00pm Information Line: Mon-Fri 1.00pm-5.00pm
Alcohol Concern is the national agency on alcohol misuse. The service works to reduce the incidence and costs of alcohol-related harm and to increase the range and quality of services available to people with alcohol-related problems. Details of local alcohol services are available.
Who for: Mainly professionals, but provides local service information to the public.
Cost: 100 membership fee
* http://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/
* Information Line : 02079228667
* Information Line : 02079284644
* Information Line : 02079287377
* Switchboard : 02079284644
* Switchboard : 02079287377
Alcoholics Anonymous
Helpline: 365 days, 24 hours.
The AA is a voluntary fellowship of men and women who are alcoholics and who will help each other to become and stay sober, by sharing experiences and giving mutual support. There are over 3,000 groups throughout the UK dedicated to helping those with a serious alcohol problem achieve and maintain sobriety.
Who for: Anyone who has a problem with alcohol.
Referral: Self.
Cost: No charge.
Check with local meeting for access.
Some information is available in other languages.
* http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/
* Helpline : 0845 769 7555
Medical Council on Alcohol
Telephone: Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.00pm (answer phone available)
MCA aims to educate the medical and associated professions about the effect of alcohol on health. Provides information on alcohol related queries and acts as a consultative body for organizations and individuals on the medical aspects of alcoholism, runs seminars for medical and other health care students.
Who for: Medical professionals, the media, patients and their relatives.
Referral: Self.
Cost: Free information. 50 annual membership fee.
* http://www.medicouncilalcol.demon.co.uk/
* General Number : 020 7487 4445
* General Number : 020 7935 4479
Open: Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.00pm
Adfam is a national charity working with families affected by drugs and alcohol and is a leading agency in substance related family work. Adfam provide a range of publications and resources for families about substances and criminal justice. They also operate an online message board and database of local support groups that helps families hear about and talk to people who understand their situation. Adfam runs direct support services at London prisons for families of prisoners with drug problems that need to talk about prison and drugs. A list of publications is available via the website.
Who for: Families and friends
Referral: Self
Cost: No charge for family members
* http://www.adfam.org.uk/
* General Number : 02079288923
* General Number : 02079288898
Hope UK
Telephone: Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.00pm (answerphone available)
Provides drug and alcohol education and training for children and young people, and training for those who work with them. Also provides quality resources, speakers and training events.
Who for: Children, young people, parents, youth workers, teachers.
Referral: Self.
Cost: No charge for voluntary groups.
There is a complaints procedure.
* http://www.hopeuk.org/
* General Number : 020 7928 0848
* General Number : 020 7401 3477
National Teetotallers Register
Helpline: 7 days 9.00am-9.00pm
TT Register aims to offer initial help and information by correspondence exchange to people with alcohol related problems. Support is also offered for those wishing to sustain a 'stay-dry' lifestyle.
Please send SAE for further information.
* Helpline : 01323 638234
National Drinkline
Helpline: Tue Wed Thu 9.00am-11.00pm, Fri 9.00am- Mon 11.00pm, there may be charges for calls made from mobile phones.
The free confidential helpline offers information and advice on alcohol to anyone concerned or worried about there own drinking. Also offers support to family and friends by providing information on available support services. Self-help material can be supplied and if appropriate, referral to local alcohol advice agencies.
Referral: Any.
Cost: No charge.
There is a complaints procedure.
* Helpline : 0800 917 8282
Monday to Fri 9.00am-5.00pm
National Charity offering help and support to anyone affected by alcohol and non-medicinal drug use. Provides information and support for children, parents and carers and offers services for homeless drug users. Also provides information on detoxification centres and training to professionals.
Who for: Drug users and their families and friends.
Referral: Self or professional.
Cost: No charge.
There is a complaints procedure.
* http://www.addaction.org.uk/
* General Number : 020 7251 5860
* General Number : 020 7251 5890
Turning Point HQ
Telephone: Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.00pm
Turning Point is a social care organisation working with individuals and their communities across England and Wales in the areas of drug and alcohol misuse, mental health and learning disability. Drop in drug and alcohol services are held in various locations.
Who for: Ages 16 and over.
Referral: Varies depending on service.
There is a complaints procedure.
* http://www.turning-point.co.uk/
* General Number : 020 7702 2300
National Drug Prevention Alliance
Telephone: Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.30pm
Aims to help all relevant community and professional groups and individuals involved in reducing levels of drug and alcohol abuse and other related behaviours. Clearing house for access to expertise, advice services, policy and strategy development.
Who for: Anyone.
Referral: Self.
Cost: No charge.
* http://www.drugprevent.org.uk/
* General Number : 01753 677917
* General Number : 01753 677917
Helpline: 7 days, 24 hours (there may be charges for calls made from mobile phones) The helpline does not operate Christmas Day and Boxing day. Operates 24 hours on all other days.
Frank is a confidential drugs helpline which provides confidential advice, information and support to anyone concerned about drug and solvent misuse. The helpline is manned by trained specialists who can signpost callers onto local support services.
Who for: Anyone.
Referral: Self.
Cost: No charge.
* http://www.talktofrank.com/
* Helpline : 0800776600
Go to the page level navigation
Last Updated: 05/12/2005 09:27:08

© Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO, 2005

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the controller of HMSO and the Queens Printer for Scotland.



health and fitness


Click Here To Get Great Deals on Fitness Equipment