Let’s talk: alcohol may harm your mental health

Date: 19 December 2018

wine glasses

Most of us are aware of the physical effects of drinking too much alcohol, but less well known are the possible risks to our mental health.

Experts from local alcohol advisory services in Enfield and Haringey warn that the pleasurable short-term effects of drinking are likely to be followed within hours by mental stress and anxiety which, in turn, can make us want to drink more.

Will Davis, operations manager at Enable, an alcohol and drugs service for Enfield residents, run by Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, said:

“Drinking can seem nice at the time but it’s usually followed by feelings of anxiety and stress next day. One way many people cope with this is by having another drink which temporarily relieves the stress again. But when they’ve processed the alcohol, the feelings of anxiety return and they feel worse. It’s a vicious circle.”

Adam Elfred, nurse manager at HAGA, a charity which supports Haringey residents with alcohol concerns said:

“We know people drink alcohol for different reasons – for some it’s to celebrate, for others it’s to self-medicate when they are feeling sad or depressed. Both will experience alcohol-induced anxiety afterwards. Both may say to themselves, ‘I’m feeling a bit down, let’s have another drink to cheer myself up’. It’s a slippery slope that can surprisingly quickly lead to a cycle of dependency that harms your mental and physical health.”

Enable and HAGA help hundreds of Enfield and Haringey residents back to better drinking habits. Anyone with concerns about alcohol can use a free web tool and app, devised by HAGA, at https://dontbottleitup.org.uk to check their drinking habits and to get advice.

Adam said: “The tool is not for dependent drinkers but for those at risk of becoming dependent. The great thing about it is that you can become your own therapist so when you finish using it you can continue to challenge yourself and adapt how you think about drink.”

Will added: “If you think you might have the start of a problem, the most important thing is to talk to someone about your concerns – to a friend or to a professional like myself.

“Help is also available from you GP – all you have to do is ask. Tell them you are worried about your drinking levels and they can book you for six alcohol cessation sessions that will help you to change, or refer you into a specialist service.”

BEH also runs The Grove service for Haringey residents with drug concerns.

For local help:

Enable (for Enfield residents with drug or alcohol concerns), call 020 8379 6010 or email: beh-tr.askenable@nhs.net

HAGA (for Haringey residents with alcohol concerns), call 020 8800 6699 or email: hello@haga.co.uk, or drop in to see them at 171, Park Lane, Tottenham N17 0HJ.

The Grove (for Haringey residents with drug concerns), call 020 8702 6220 or email: beh-tr.thegrovedrugservice@nhs.net, or drop in to see them at 9 Bruce Grove, London N17 6RA. 

How alcohol aware are you?

Do you really know how many units of alcohol (not to mention calories) are in that inviting bottle of red?

Typically, a bottle of red wine contains 10 units – which means that if you drink even half a bottle three nights a week, you’re already over the recommended level of 14 units. If you drink each weekday evening and add in even a relatively gentle night out over the weekend, you’re probably looking at 40 units a week. Yet we know that many people may drink not half a bottle but a full bottle after a stressful day.

Cutting down without the pain

Years or decades of drinking make it seem just a normal part of daily life.

That makes total abstinence a difficult goal.

So why not start off with little steps that can get down to the recommended drinking limit? If you want to carry on to zero units once you’re there, then so much the better.

Now, let’s get started:

  • Make a plan – decide before you go out or crack open the bottle just how much you’re going to drink that evening.
  • If you’re going out and you can get home without a cab or bus, take just enough money to buy the drinks you’ve decided on.
  • Don’t run before you can walk – if you cut back a little every day then every day is a success.
  • Whether you’re out or at home, size does matter. Go for bottled beer rather than pints or a small glass of wine rather than a large one.
  • Give lower strength drinks a go – that doesn’t have to mean alcohol free. The alcohol content of a bottle of wine can vary between about 9% and 14%. Avoid the premium beers with around 5.5% alcohol and try those with alcohol content barely half that.
  • Make every second drink a juice or water – they’ll help to keep you hydrated which is the key to warding off hangovers.
  • Think of the money you’re saving and plan a treat fr yourself – even a bottle of wine at home each evening is going to set you back around £200 a month. Halve that and you’ve got £100 for a little bit of what you fancy.

 

 

 

 

  • Summary:

    Most of us are aware of the physical effects of drinking too much alcohol, but less well known are the possible risks to our mental health.