When drinking at home, people are almost always more generous, so it’s a good idea to get into the habit of using a spirit measure. Staying within the ‘safe’ limits does not mean that a person is capable of driving a motor vehicle. When driving, it is best not to drink at all.

Advice for pregnant women
Pregnant women are advised to drink no more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week. Heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born with a condition known as foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS causes growth deficiencies, central nervous system defects, lowered IQ and facial malformations.

If I don't feel drunk, I don't have a problem - do I?
Alcohol tolerance can lead someone with a dangerously high consumption to be falsely reassured that as long as they don’t feel drunk, they will be fine.  The reverse is true. Needing a lot of alcohol to get drunk proves that you are already drinking too much, too often. Alcohol tolerance can be compared to a lack of the ability to feel pain. If you didn't feel pain, you wouldn't immediately remove your hand from a hot stove and notice it was burnt until it was too late.

If you have developed a tolerance for alcohol, you can no longer trust your body's signals to tell you when you've had too much. Instead, you will have to keep count of drinks to know when you've drunk too much.

How do I reduce how much I drink?
A person who drinks too much may feel it is impossible for them to reduce their alcohol consumption. If a drinking habit is very heavy, it is often hard work to reduce it - simply because it is always difficult to change habits. You may not even be sure whether you want to cut down. Fortunately, there are many different ways to reduce alcohol consumption and most people are able to find a way that suits them.

A step-by-step guide to reducing alcohol consumption
Keep a record of all alcohol consumption. Work on ways to make it easier to reduce the alcohol intake.

Talking to a partner or friend could flag up some self-help ideas.

  • I can stop drinking alcohol on weekdays.
  • I can stop drinking alcohol during the day at work.
  • I can substitute every second drink with water, non-alcoholic beer, coffee or a soft drink.
  • I can take a different route home, so I won't be tempted to visit a pub.
  • I can visit my family instead of my drinking friends.

What if I can't reduce my drinking by myself?
It may be difficult for a person to reduce their alcohol consumption without outside assistance. There are several places where it is possible to get help and counselling.

A doctor will be able to help by:

  • giving advice and drug prescription
  • referring a heavy drinker to a counsellor or an organisation that can provide help, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

What about withdrawal symptoms?
For a very heavy drinker, stopping alcohol abruptly can be dangerous. In addition to the anxiety that abrupt withdrawal can cause, a small proportion of people develop a potentially serious condition called delirium tremens (DTs). This can cause confusion and even convulsions. Patients at risk of DTs are best managed by planned withdrawal from alcohol in hospital, along with supportive counselling and drug therapy to counteract the physical effects.

Is there a drug to stop me drinking?
Antabuse (disulfiram) is a prescription-only medicine that's designed to deter people from drinking. Antabuse does not remove the craving for alcohol, but it will help a drinker avoid being tempted in a weak moment.

This is because if a person drinks while they are taking Antabuse, it will cause serious and unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • severe headache
  • blushing
  • a feeling of pressure in the chest
  • breathlessness
  • palpitations
  • nausea
  • in the worst cases, shock and collapse

In the event of shock, treatment will be required from a doctor or in a hospital emergency department.

Will it help me?
For some people, Antabuse is a good idea and a safety measure. Ex-drinkers who have used Antabuse say it is a relief to know they can't drink. It allows alcoholics to focus on things other than not drinking too much. However, Antabuse is a controversial medicine. It does not help everyone who takes it, nor is it the only way to give up alcohol.

Acamprosate is another drug that may be helpful to deter drinking. It works in the brain where it is thought to act by reducing the desire to drink alcohol. It doesn’t produce the same effect that Antabuse does if alcohol is consumed.

I think I have a drink problem. How do I find help?
If you drink more than the recommended amount and you find it difficult to cut down, there are several places you can turn to for advice and guidance.

Make an appointment with your doctor and be honest with him

He/she can refer you to clinics where you will find specialists who can help.

What help can I get at a clinic?

    • You may know you need help cutting down and want to go directly into treatment.
    • You may want to speak to people at the clinic to judge the seriousness of your problem or get advice about what possibilities are open to you.
    • You can also make contact if you are worried about one of your relatives or friends, who you think may have a drink problem.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Alcoholics Anonymous is the world's biggest union of self-help groups concerned with alcohol abuse. The therapy in these groups takes place without the interference of public bodies, doctors, psychologists or other professionals. Attending the meetings is on a voluntary basis. The only requirement is an honest desire to quit drinking. You will meet people who have been through the same hardships as yourself.

You can contact AA on 0044 845 769 7555

Alcoholics Anonymous - 0044 148 064368

AA Online


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