WE know the huge harms of drinking – cancer, heart disease, accidents and addiction.
However, we’ll use any excuse to defend our boozing habits, from stress-relief to a little confidence boost.
Alamy“Wine is good for me” is a common excuse for lovers of the tipple[/caption]
The pandemic has changed heavy drinkers’ habits for the worse, research from the University of Sheffield warned last week.
The effect is between 1,830 and 25,192 deaths over the next 20 years, depending on how quickly drinking habits return to pre-pandemic levels.
Colin Angus, senior research fellow who led the University of Sheffield study, said heavy drinkers may have taken to home-drinking more during lockdown, and when pubs and bars reopened, they carried on with both.
A glass of wine in the evening to “relieve stress” seems harmless – or that’s what you feel safe believing.
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Prof Angus and other experts revealed to The Telegraph the common dangerous lies we tell ourselves about our drinking:
1. Red wine is good for me
You may have heard red wine is good for you – but take it with a pinch of salt.
Colin Angus said most studies that have found benefits of the compound resveratrol in red wine, including for the heart, have been on mice.
They are given huge doses that would be the equivalent of a human drinking a “swimming pool of red wine”.
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“So it’s nonsense,” said Prof Angus. “Drink red wine if you like. But don’t drink it because you think it’s any better for you. It really isn’t.”
2. I don’t get drunk
Being “drunk” is not always the issue when it comes to heavy drinking, experts explain.
As well as potential short term consequences, such as injury, alcohol has long-term effects on the body that contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer, Prof Angus said.
He added: “Whether or not you have a tolerance for alcohol makes no difference to that. In fact, if you’ve got a high tolerance you probably got it through drinking a significant amount, so you’re probably at increased chronic risk.”
3. I’m better company when I drink
Many people feel more confident once they’ve had a drink or few.
Sadie Boniface, head of research at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “Alcohol lowers your inhibition, so you probably do feel more gregarious and comfortable with a drink or two in you.
“But it also impairs your judgement.
“It may be that you feel you’re better company, but you’re just not as good a judge as you usually might be.”
Sandra Parker, an alcohol-free coach and founder of Just The Tonic Coaching, previously told The Sun: “It’s a bit of false confidence because the more you drink, the less aware you are of how you’re coming across.
“Actually you probably feel more anxious the next day because you can’t remember exactly what you said.
“You’re less likely to be tactful, or to leave when you want to leave.”
4. I only drink the good stuff
Whether it’s a cheap can of lager or pricey vintage wine, alcohol is alcohol, Ms Boniface said.
All alcoholic beverages are made with ethanol, an intoxicating ingredient that will give you a hangover and lead to addiction.
5. A glass a day won’t hurt
Experts say to keep drink to 14 units a week, which is technically a tipple a day, to keep the health risks to a lower level.
Therefore, while a glass a day is within guided limits, it is not harmless.
Boniface said “a glass” may be a 175ml (medium) wine in the pub, which is 2.2 units.
But “when you drink at home, there’s no guarantee you will pour 175ml, especially if it isn’t your first glass”, she said.
6. It helps me unwind
There’s no doubt a tipple at the end of the day helps us to relax, said Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK.
But he said: “One of the most interesting findings is that when people sit down in the pub with friends at the end of the day with a non-alcohol beer, the effect is almost identical.
“The mental trigger, the decision to unwind, is by far the biggest factor, as opposed to the alcohol itself.”
What’s more, the after effects of alcohol can make you feel far from relaxed.
Alcohol changes chemicals in the brain which at first, loosen your inhibitions and feel happy, but the next morning can leave you in the pits of “hangxiety”.
Are you drinking too much?
HERE are some signs you’re drinking too much alcohol, according to the NHS:
You feel you should cut down on your drinking.
Other people have criticised or commented on your intake.
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.
You are unable to remember what happened the night before.
You fail to do what’s expected of you the next day, such as work or keeping an appointment.
Rehab clinic Delamere says it is fairly easy to self-diagnose alcoholism if a person is honest about their drinking and asks themselves the following questions:
When you drink are you able to stay in control of the amount of alcohol you consume and drink in moderation?
If you want to stop or reduce your drinking are you able to, and able to maintain it?
Answering “NO” to both of these questions indicates that a person is suffering from an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), over which they have no control.
If you’re concerned about your drinking or someone else’s, a good first step is to see a GP, the NHS says.
They’ll be able to discuss the services and treatments available to you after assessing your drinking habits using screening tests.
Treatment usually involves counselling and medicine that helps you to slowly cut down on drinking and avoid withdrawal symptoms.
There are also a number of charities, support groups, and private clinics to help.
7. A drink helps me to sleep
A night cap may help you drift off, but regardless of whether you got a long sleep, it won’t be a good one.
Sandra said: “Alcohol will help you sleep, but it doesn’t allow you to have a good quality night’s sleep.
“Often you wake up during the night, you might feel dehydrated, you can’t get back to sleep. Even if you don’t wake up, it’s not good quality sleep.”
Mr Piper said when people take part in Alcohol Change UK’s Dry January challenge, they always report having more sleep.
8. I don’t drink every day
Whether you enjoy one drink a day or binge at the weekend, the risks are the same – although it is recommended you spread units out over a week.
Mr Piper said if you drink 14 units a week, every week, you stand a one per cent chance of dying from alcohol [-related causes].
This rises to four per cent if you drink 28 units, and up to 10 per cent with 42 units a week (around 14 large glasses of wine a week).
“You stand a pretty good chance of being one of those people who dies of cancer, strokes or heart disease,” Mr Piper said.
“You’re throwing the dice, regardless of whether that’s spread over three or seven nights a week.”
9. I’m retired
Retired and with no work responsibilities – how bad can half a bottle of wine in the evening be?
Unofruntaley, the effects of ageing – “hardening and furring up of the arteries, weight gain and Type 2 diabetes” – can be exacerbated by drinking too much in your 60s, Dr Sarah Brewer previously told The Sun.
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“Long-term excessive drinking is linked with four particular types of liver damage: Fatty degeneration, inflammation (hepatitis), formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) or even alcoholic cirrhosis – a serious condition in which the liver shrinks.”
While there are dangers of drinking at every age, when you’re older, the impact of decades of booze have started to accumulate, Prof Angus said.
Where to get help
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline if you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking. Call 0300 123 1110
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group
Al-Anon Family Groups offers support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned about their welfare. Call 0800 358 3456
SMART Recovery groups help people decide whether they have a problem, build up their motivation to change, and offer a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery