JUST HOW BLURRED HAS THE LINE BECOME?
Thursday, October 23, 2008.
In Britain, the pattern of drinking has become very pub-centred. A culture of ‘alcohol and intoxication tolerance’ has developed with an increasing focus on alcohol as a social crutch.
Having worked a 50 hour week you are in danger of an emotional meltdown if another second is spent obsessing over impending work deadlines. Once Friday evening arrives, you are all too willing to join a few work colleagues for a relaxing drink in the local pub.
Your determination to only have a quick pint and head on your merry way is admirable, but the prospect of an early night is promptly overshadowed by a niggling feeling that you will miss out on a great night if you cut it short. One pint turns into five, and a round of whiskey and cokes are thrown in for ‘good measure’.
Fast forward a few hours and you stumble out of the bar feeling decidedly tipsy. The fresh air hits you and awakens a relentless hunger that only a greasy burger can satisfy. The bright, shining lights of McDonalds are taunting you and as much as you try to walk the other way your body is hurrying you towards the counter like a ravished dog. You know you shouldn’t indulge but what the hell the detox can start tomorrow!
Lo and behold when tomorrow arrives all you feel like eating is a stodgy breakfast roll. In your state of alcohol induced delicacy you decide now is not the time to deny yourself one of life’s little pleasures.
You promise yourself that the rest of the weekend will be a hive of healthy activities, nutritious meals and good clean fun, but your good intentions are forgotten when you have a rowdy group of friends over to watch the game. It’s only polite to have a six pack of beers for the occasion and of course you make sure that the number of your local Domino’s is on speed dial!
By Monday you are gorged on take aways, junk food and feeling wretched due to the volume of alcohol consumed. You resolve to get your lifestyle on track for the remainder of the week, but by 5’ o clock Friday you have come full circle and as much as you would like to avoid the inevitable post boozing hangover you manage to justify it as a necessary evil for maintaining a social life.
So exactly why have we become a nation of weekend boozers?
The practice of buying rounds, naturally, tends to encourage everyone in the group to drink at the speed of the fastest, and often to drink more than they would otherwise do. A culture of ‘alcohol and intoxication tolerance’ has become established in the UK with the increasing focus on alcohol as a social crutch.
One recent study found that 62% of males aged 18-25 reported being ‘extremely drunk’ at least once over the past 12 months, worryingly binge drinking appears to be worsening among the older age groups as well…surely they should know better!
Does this pattern of heavy drinking (5 drinks or more in one sitting) sound familiar? The chances are it does, as many as 1 in 4 British males are considered to be heavy drinkers. Current government statistics indicate that 18% of men and 8% of women questioned drank more than 8 units and 6 units respectively, on at least one day in the previous week.
Will an occasional drink fuelled session once or twice a week really cause any long term damage to your health? We are all aware that the down trodden old man on the street who clutches his whiskey bottle and looks as though he has not changed his clothes in weeks has an alcohol problem. But what about those of us that function perfectly well during the week and spend the weekend holding up a bar with our friends, do we have a problem?
In one week a man is allowed up to 21 units of alcohol but this does not mean that you can drink above the safe limit on one night (up to 4 units of alcohol), but still remain within your "safe" limit for the week. There is some evidence that, even a couple of days of binge drinking, may start to kill off brain cells.
Recently a warning has been given from the Stroke Association regarding the dangers of binge drinking and how it can increase the risk of brain damage from a stroke. People who binge drink (consume six or more units at a single sitting) are twice as likely to have a stroke than non-drinkers.
Binge drinking can raise blood pressure to dangerously high levels and is a major risk factor for stroke. A stroke is a brain attack; it happens when the blood supply is cut to the brain causing brain cells to die and results in brain damage. Stroke is the UK's third biggest killer and if it doesn't kill it could leave you paralyzed, unable to talk, walk and/or incontinent.
Regular binge drinking in men can lead to infertility. Alcohol may result in abnormal liver function and an increase in estrogen levels. This may inhibit sperm development and negatively affect hormone levels. Men can suffer from a failure to achieve an erection, a shrinking of the testes and penis, and a decreased sperm count.
Not only can alcohol affect your physical conditioning but it can also be detrimental to mental health. How many times have you woken up after having one too many drinks the night before feeling subdued and a little depressed? Alcohol is a depressant and it can lead to psychological and emotional problems.
Dos and Don'ts of Drinking safely
- Do sip your drink slowly - don't gulp it down.
- Do space your drinks with a non-alcoholic drink in between.
- Don't drink on an empty stomach. Have something to eat first.
- Don't drink every day. Have two or three alcohol-free days in the week.
- Do provide non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcohol on social occasions.
- Do ask your doctor or chemist if it is safe to drink with any medicine that you have been prescribed.
- Do keep to the target (amount of alcohol per week) you have set yourself.
- Do check your drinking every few weeks with your drinking diary.
If you just can't stop drinking, or can't keep it to a safe level, you can get help from:
- Your GP
- Self help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or AlAnon
- Voluntary alcohol agencies
- Specialist treatment in the NHS - your general practitioner who will also know how to contact specialist services.
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