Alcohol- are you drinking too much ?

For many years the government advice was to limit alcohol consumption to 21 units for men per week and 14 units for women per week. Also limited use in pregnancy was accepted as the normal. However in recent times these guidelines have been changed- now for men it is also 14 units and avoiding all alcohol use in pregnancy has now been advocated. For many of us in Western culture drinking regular amounts of alcohol has become the “norm”- but is it normal and is it safe ? One of the facts that many people do not realise is that alcohol is a known carcinogen- it causes cancer! Not just liver disease which is what most of us thought was the main risk. Cancer research UK as well as government resources confirm that regular high alcohol use can increase the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx(upper throat), oesophagus(food pipe), larynx(voice box), breast, bowel and liver. A sobering thought-most us have been taking something that causes cancer in 7 different body tissues. Alcohol is also highly addictive- those of us that have been out on the town know often that one drink is followed by another- then another- and so on. Overtime our tolerance to it decreases so that we need to drink more to get the perceived benefits from it that we are used to. In truth most of us are probably “addicted” to it to some degree- its not just the man/woman lying in a street homeless that has an issue- this is the visual tip of the alcohol- driven iceberg.
3 years ago I discovered a group online called ‘ One year No Beer” – set up by two very likeable men who had decided they wanted a new way of living- an alcohol-free life. You can google them online- they have a massive Facebook group and following. I decided to accept one of the challenges they promote- 30 days, 60 days or 365 days with no booze. Some go on and remain sober for good of course. I did 90 days in 2016 and felt amazing- so many benefits ( and too many here so next blog coming soon). Over the last 2 years or so I have been through a very stressful divorce and period of my life. Work has always been my sanctuary and that has never been affected- but I could see that over time my units per weeks were increasing- slowly but surely. Time for action I say ! One of the myths about alcohol is that it relaxes you- well possibly when consuming/after the first one- the main problem is that it has a clear affect on increasing anxiety long term- you drink again to relax- and so the cycle continues. I will explore more of this in future blogs.
So I decided it would be great to have a further break as I did 3 years ago. I am now day 15 into my new challenge and feeling great. Again I will break this down in future blogs- but for now I just suggest thinking about how much you may be drinking… Maybe drinking alcohol should no longer be regarded as the “norm”.

Dr Michael Burdon 16 July 2019

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