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Alcohol. Is it controlling you?

This year has been a tough year for some of us and when times get tough, levels of drinking alcohol can go up for some people. Recent surveys by Alcohol Change show that although some of us have stopped drinking completely, around 6% of us, 21% of the population, which equates to around 8.6 million adults, are now drinking more frequently.

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So how much are we drinking?

Some of us are drinking less or not at all, but a big proportion of the drinking population, 15%, said they have been drinking more per session. Although not everyone who drinks more often is also drinking more per session, the survey carried out, shows a high level of consistency; most people who are drinking more often are also drinking more on a typical drinking day, and vice versa.

Interestingly, it's people who were already drinking the least often who have cut down in the greatest number. Nearly half (47%) of people who drank once a week or less have cut down or stopped drinking, compared to just over a quarter (27%) of people who drank two to six times a week, and just one in five (17%) daily drinkers. What is most concerning is that nearly one in five (18%) daily drinkers, people who drink every single day, have further increased the amount they drink since lockdown began this year.

So why does it matter that drinking has increased?

Drinking habits tend to creep up on us, most people don't even realise that they are drinking more alcohol before it's become a hard habit to break. If people start drinking at more dangerous levels now, they can face the risk of immediate harm to themselves. For example, accidents, fires, even fights or arguments are more likely to happen when drink is involved.

But more crucially, increased alcohol consumption rising over the medium to long term can seriously affect our mental health and physical health. Mental health issues have been pushed to the front of our consciousness during lockdown, with some people really struggling to cope with the increased stress that has been part of this year. are particularly concerning during lockdown, when many of us are already under a great deal of stress.

What are the Societal impacts of increased drinking?

Alcohol can affect families and households when consumption increases. In the survey we found, 1 in 14 of the survey respondents felt that alcohol had made the tension in their household worse since lockdown. If this is applied to the UK adult population we can see that more than 3.5 million adults are living in households where alcohol has increased tension in the household.

These figures are even higher for households with children. One in seven people with children under 18 living in their household reported that alcohol had increased tensions, while only 4% felt alcohol had lessened tensions.

While these figures are likely to represent different levels of tension, it’s important to remember that in some households alcohol causes significant problems for all family members, especially children – and that lockdown is likely to make this far worse. There are over 200,000 children in England alone who live with an alcohol dependent parent or carer.

How can we manage drinking?

There are some really simple steps you can take to lessen your consumption of alcohol:

  • Taking drink-free days

  • Being careful with the amount of alcohol they buy

  • Stopping drinking completely for the lockdown

  • Seeking advice online

  • Attending remote support groups

  • Receiving remote 1-1 counselling

  • Using apps to monitor their drinking

Many Therapists, me included, are now working remotely so it's easier than ever to get help if you feel that your drinking has become an issue.

Support groups are also a great resource and they are usually either really cheap or free to attend, so it might be worth checking any groups out near to where you live.

Small Baby Steps

It can be hard to change drinking habits, but there is so much support out there right now and with a bit of research, you can find the right support. It might be that you want to cut down a bit or completely, the choice is yours. You could try talking to your friends, if you feel comfortable doing this. You may find that one of your friends is going through the same issues you are and welcomes the chance to chat.

If you are drinking at a very high level then it's probably a good idea to speak to your GP before you embark on your journey so they can check your health out and advise you on anything to be aware of. Good luck and feel free to get in touch if you want to let us know about your journey

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