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Alcoholism Help - Is alcohol costing you more than money?

Published 20/04/2008

Drinking guidelines based on a confusing minefield of alcohol facts and figures are leaving us in a daze when it comes to deciding whether our habits are safe or not.

That's the message from Sue Allchurch, director of Linwood Manor Group, who argues that a single-minded focus on the consumption of alcohol units alone can distract some people from recognising that they have a serious drinking problem.

For a start, she says, few people have a clear enough understanding of what a single unit of alcohol looks like, anyway. "If you imagine that a glass of wine at the pub counts for one unit, you're wrong. In the case of today's larger glasses, it's more likely to be three units," she says. Plus, she adds, few of us think in terms of units when we drink at home.

And even in cases where people do understand how alcohol units are measured, and stick to recommended limits, it doesn't necessarily mean that they won't develop an alcohol dependency problem, she warns.

"Bargaining and negotiating are all part of the alcoholic's mindset, even from the earliest days of their condition. So if you're telling yourself that you can have a few drinks tonight because you need to relax but will forgo alcohol for the next few days in order to ‘make up for it' in terms of alcohol units consumed, you're already sowing the seeds of compulsion," she says.

The word ‘need' is the clue, she says. "If you get home and there's no wine in the fridge, so you have a cup of tea instead - that's OK. But if you make a trip to the shops to get the wine that you ‘need' to relax that night, that's a clear warning sign. You may still drink just one glass of that wine and remain within safe drinking limits, but it's a precarious situation that could develop quite rapidly."

Other people will consume a large proportion of their allotted alcohol units for the week in one session and think they are safe because they won't drink for the remaining six days, says Sue Allchurch. But that kind of alcohol abuse can be even more dangerous to health, she says, because short periods of heavy consumption followed by longer periods of abstinence - or ‘binge drinking' -- can cause blood sugar levels to ‘yo-yo', putting the body under great strain and potentially leading to diabetes.

"Wherever there's a need to drink, there's a potential problem, regardless of the alcohol units involved," she concludes.

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