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Reducing alcohol consumption – why it matters

Following our successful 10 week Psychology Series, HSE Community Healthcare West (Galway, Mayo & Roscommon) are continuing with a Health Series on Boyletoday.com every week for the next number of weeks.  This week our topic is ‘Reducing alcohol consumption – 3 reasons why it matters’

Alcohol may have become more of a part of people’s lives in recent months. With the restrictions in place drinking from home has become much more prevalent. There may be an inclination to drink more as a way of coping with the current stresses associated with COVID-19.  Unfortunately, instead of helping the situation, this is likely to make matters worse not just for the individual themselves but their family and wider community. HSE Health Promotion & Improvement (Community Healthcare West) would like to take the opportunity to reinforce 3 reasons why it’s important to have a low-risk relationship with alcohol.

1.      You

As we journey through COVID-19 new habits may be emerging around the use of alcohol in the home. Many people see alcohol as a way to relax or de-stress. However alcohol can make it harder to cope and has a negative impact both on our physical and mental health.  Less alcohol is better for your mood and mental health. The more you drink the greater your risk of alcohol related harm.

Alcohol lowers inhibitions and causes us to do things that we may not do if we were sober. If we drink too much we may be less aware of physical distancing and hygiene which protects us from COVID-19.

The World Health Organization has reported that overall the evidence suggests that there is no “safe limit” of alcohol. Drinking within low risk guidelines can reduce your risk of harm from alcohol. For healthy adults aged 18-65 the low risk guidelines in Ireland are currently: Men: 17 standard drinks or less a week (e.g. 8.5 pints) Women: 11 standards drinks or less a week (e.g. A bottle of wine has 7.5 standards drinks).

A standard drink is a half pint of lager/stout, or a pub measure of spirits or a small glass of wine (100mls). Drinks should be spread out over the week, with no more than 6 standard drinks on any occasion and include 2-3 alcohol free days per week.  Taking a break from alcohol or cutting down is one of the best things you can do for your health. Reflecting on your drinking habits and identifying healthy coping tools are important for long term health.

2.      Your family and those around you

The negative effects of alcohol are often felt by those around the drinker such as children, family and friends. This may include relationship difficulties, arguments, fear, neglect, hurt, abuse, injury or violence. If you need advice about coping with some one’s drinking talk to your GP or HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline, 1800 459459 or visit www.askaboutalcohol.ie

Research shows the way parents drink and their attitudes to alcohol are one of the biggest influences on how their children drink. If we overdo things ourselves it is difficult to expect different behaviour from our children. Try to protect children from exposure to harmful alcohol use.

It’s important for young people to avoid alcohol for as long as possible.  From the age of 12 until our mid 20s our brains are constantly developing. Using alcohol can damage the growing brain causing long term emotional problems and difficulties with learning, planning and memory.

3.      Your community and wider society

The cost associated with alcohol harm is significant across society. Alcohol is a contributory factor in public order offences and undermines confidence in public safety.  Sleep disturbances, being harassed on the streets and feeling unsafe in public places are some of the harms experiences by people due to strangers drinking.

Alcohol consumption is a major factor in injuries and deaths on Irish roads.  Workplaces also are impacted by work colleagues drinking with reduced productivity, absenteeism and covering for co-workers.  Alcohol impacts on our health service – Emergency Department, Hospital admissions, GP services. Our environment and Local Authority are also bearing the cost.

Reducing alcohol consumption is an urgent public health issue impacting on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities, and wider society. We need to implement effective action to reduce alcohol harm such as minimum unit price, restricting availability and advertising and promotion of alcohol. We need your support to make this happen.

Further information and support

www.askaboutalcohol.ie  – A HSE website with trusted sources of alcohol information in Ireland from HSE experts. The website also has a self-assessment tool designed to help people understand more about the impact their drinking is having on their lives and a drink calculator.

HSE Alcohol and Drugs Helpline for information and support services Tel 1800 459459 Monday to Friday 9.30-5.30 or email [email protected]

www.healthpromotion.ie – A HSE resource providing a series of information leaflets that can be downloaded free e.g. Alcohol and Drugs – A Parent’s Guide, Men and Alcohol Information Leaflet, Women and Alcohol Information Leaflet, Your family and alcohol information leaflet, Pregnancy and alcohol leaflet.

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