Know your alcohol limits during the festive season

Tuesday, 5 December 2017 – Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement
Know your alcohol limits during the festive season

With the Christmas party season in full swing the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people to be mindful of their alcohol intake.

Many people do not realise that alcohol is a powerful drug and we need to be careful how we use it. Drinking too much can seriously affect our health.

The PHA’s Drugs and Alcohol lead Michael Owen said: “Christmas is a great time to relax and meet up with family, friends and work colleagues to celebrate, but it is also very easy to overindulge.

“Excess alcohol intake can spoil the holiday for not only you but also for your family and friends. We are asking that if you are planning on drinking alcohol over Christmas, set some limits and keep an eye on how many drinks you are having.

“The alcohol guidelines recommend that both men and women drink no more than 14 units per week. If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more. You can't ‘save up’ your units for a particular day or a party.” 

Here are some tips for managing your drinking:

• Eat before or while drinking and avoid salty snacks, which make you thirsty.

• Be assertive – don’t be pressured into drinking more than you want or intend to.

• Know your limits and stick to them.

• Stay busy – don't just sit and drink. Dance or have a game of pool if you're at a pub.

• Try not to confuse large measures of alcohol with standard measures, eg a glass of wine served at a party or at home may be much larger than the standard 125ml.

• Keep track of your drinks and don't let people top up your drink until it's finished.

• Try alternating alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks. Add plenty of mixer to your drinks to make them last longer.

• Avoid rounds, ‘shouts’ and kitties – drink at your own pace, not someone else's.

• Drink slowly – take sips, not gulps.

Michael continued: “Binge drinking can have a major impact on your physical health, causing damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. Drinking too much can also affect our judgement, leading us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do and that we might regret later. These can include unplanned sexual activity, fighting, or spoiling events for you, your family and friends.

“It can also have a major impact on your wellbeing; being hung over you can make you feel anxious and low. Some people may already feel down over Christmas and drinking can make this worse. It is therefore important that people understand their drinking behaviour and explore their relationship with alcohol, whether it’s a positive or negative one so that they can enjoy the Christmas holiday.”

To find out more about alcohol, or to get help from a professional – either for yourself, or someone you care for or are concerned about – visit www.drugsandalcoholni.info You can also download the 'Know Your  Units' app which helps people understand units and how to keep a watch on their drinking. The APP features a unit guide and a virtual bar where users can total up their planned or actual drinks for the day/night and check whether they are keeping within the alcohol guidelines. 

More information on looking after your mental health and the support which is available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info   

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info