Alcohol, drugs and substance abuse
Many of us enjoy an alcoholic drink as part of our social life, or as a way to relax. Drinking within certain limits is fine, but it can be easy for us to lose track of how much we are drinking and to slip into the habit of drinking too much on a regular basis.
There is no guaranteed safe level of drinking, and the effects of alcohol on your health will depend on how much you drink; the more you drink, the greater the health risks.
Sensible drinking guidelines
Official guidelines recommend that men shouldn’t regularly drink more than three to four units a day and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than two to three units a day because of the harm this may cause.
Guidelines also state that you should have at least two alcohol-free days each week, and recommend that after an episode of heavy drinking, it’s advisable to refrain from drinking for 48 hours to allow the tissues in your body to recover.
What is a unit?
One alcohol unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. The number of units in a drink is determined by the size and strength of the drink.
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as one drink, one unit, and the alcoholic content in the same types of drinks can vary a lot.
Am I drinking too much?
Most people will be fine if they drink within the sensible limits for regular drinking, but for some people, drinking gradually gets out of control.
Psychological and physical dependence on alcohol can creep up on you, especially if you drink excessively on a regular basis.
Tolerance can gradually increase, meaning that you need more alcohol to reach the same state. In other words, if you feel that you are getting better at holding your drink that could be a sign of a developing problem.
Most recreational drugs are illegal in the UK, including drugs such as:
However, there are other drugs such as prescription medications that can also be abused
- Sleeping tablets
- Medicines for the treatment of anxiety and depression
It is important that you are aware of the impact recreational or prescription drugs may have on your body, including long term damage to your health.
One of the most common features with regular drug taking is addiction, when your body gets so used to having the drug in its system that it starts to rely on that substance in order to function. This can cause a lot of long-term health issues which can be the cause of illness and even death.
Apps that can help you
One You has information to help you change your drinking habits if you are worried. You can download the Drink Free Days app to get reminders and practical advice to change your drinking habits for good.
Drinks Meter and Drugs Meter are apps which lets you compare your drinking or drug taking to other people and gives you unbiased, anonymous, personalised feedback on your drinking or drug use.
National support organisations
The NHS website provides lots of information on seeking help and advice about alcohol or drug use.
Drinkaware is a national independent charity whose website has lots of useful information and tips on reducing alcohol consumption and drinking sensibly.
Talk to Frank offers free, friendly practical confidential advice around drugs. Their website has an A - Z of different types of drugs and the effects they can have on a person. You can find out about support near you as well as read current news stories and learn about people’s experiences.
You can contact Frank by –
- Online chat
- Telephone:0 3001 236 600 (24 hours a day 365 days a year)
- Text: 82111
- Online contact form
Local support with alcohol or drug problems
If you are worried about how much you are drinking, or about your drug use, or if you think that you have experienced an injury or illness as a result of alcohol or drug use, then the best place to first seek help may be your doctor. Your doctor can discuss your concerns with you, assess the nature of your problems, and help you choose the most appropriate treatment or service.
The organisations below provide advice and support for people who may have a problem with alcohol or drug use.
The Drug and Alcohol Wellbeing Service run by Turning Point offers advice and support for substance misuse issues for anyone aged 18+.
0330 303 8080
The Alcohol service run by Change Grow Live offers advice and support for those with issues around alcohol misuse for anyone aged 18+. Doctors, family members, carers and friends, or any other agency, such as social services, can refer someone into the service.
0800 014 7440
There are organisations that work with residents who are in recovery or working towards recovery alongside specialist treatment services. These are led and run by peers and are often run in evenings and at weekends.
BOB (Build on Belief) does not offer therapeutic services, but instead provides a range of socially based services intended to support people through their treatment journey while they work to move forward with their lives.
Outside Edge theatre group is for people who are in early recovery from substance use who have very little or no experience of drama but are interested in taking part. Visit the website for more information or call them on 020 7371 8020.