Reconnecting Families is a health information campaign run by Addaction with support from the Mayor of London, Department of Health and the Evening Standard. It is aimed at partners and family members who may be concerned about the drinking habits of a loved one. We are putting the spotlight on the issue at a key time of year as the festive season gets into full swing - alcohol consumption increases in December by 40% in Britain.
These dedicated web pages will provide you with information, advice and reassurance. And most importantly where you can find free, confidential support and treatment near to where you or your family member or friend live.
Some interesting facts about alcohol
- The NHS spends around £2.7b per annum on the effects of alcohol abuse.
- Liver disease is the fifth biggest cause of death in England.
- In 2009/10 nearly half of all violent crime was alcohol related.
- Drunkenness is associated with more than a quarter of domestic violence incidents.
(Info from Department of Healthy Lives, Healthy People white paper Nov 2010)
What exactly is alcohol?
What we commonly refer to as alcohol is actually ethanol. Ethanol is a psychoactive ingredient that results in the fermentation of sugar by yeast.
Alcohol is classed as a depressant, meaning it depresses the body's central nervous system and is an effective painkiller.
How and why do people use it?
In the UK, alcohol is extremely common and socially acceptable. People use it to loosen inhibitions, and to produce feelings of happiness, well-being and confidence.
However, alcohol can also 'help' people with negative feelings, such as unhappiness, stress or loneliness.
Does it always cause problems?
Many people drink sensibly and carefully, and alcohol won't cause problems for them.
However, it is always good to remember that alcohol is an addictive drug that can take hold over time. Even if someone doesn't become addicted, their drinking can still cause problems.
Alcohol affects someone's judgment, co-ordination and self control and drinking too much can increase your chance of having an accident. It can also cause people to take unnecessary risks (such as having unprotected sex), or to get involved in a fight.
Do I drink a safe amount?
Men are advised to drink no more than three to four units of alcohol a day (about a pint of typical 5% lager). Women are advised to drink no more than two or three units a day (such as a typical, pub-sized, large glass of wine).
However, we all know people who drink more than this. Especially when celebrating. If this only happens occasionally, it shouldn't cause lasting problems (although it may cause people to do things they wouldn't do while sober). If it becomes a regular occurrence, however, it can develop into something more serious.
When does someone's drinking become a problem?
The body can develop a tolerance to alcohol, meaning someone would drink more to get the same 'effect'. Over time, regularly drinking large amounts can impact on someone's health, and with both their work and personal relationships.
It isn't always easy to spot such an increase. Often, it is only when problems start to manifest in someone's day-to-day life (such as missed days at work, or arguments at home) that you would really notice a problem.
What signs should I look out for?
Any one of the following could indicate problematic drinking:
- needing a drink every day
- drinking alone
- spending a large amount of their wages on alcohol
- needing a drink to stop trembling
- drinking first thing in the morning
- a strong compulsion to drink
- not being able to stop drinking once you have started.
But there may be other signs, too. If you have a concern, it would be best to speak to an expert about it.
If you are concerned about your drinking or that of someone close to you use of service finder to locate a service nearest to where you live.