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Why is he/she drinking so much - Heavy drinking and why people are drinking more

Published 13/08/2009

A newly launched survey from Mintel this week[1] says that British drinkers are unwittingly knocking back more alcohol units than they were nearly a decade ago because of the prevalence of extra-strong lagers and high-alcohol wines.  It yet again brings into the foreground the issue of over-consumption and its impact on our general health and wellbeing. 

The good news within the report is that the appeal of binge drinking among younger people is falling.  In the past five years, the number drinking at least two or three times a week has decreased by 13% among 18- to 24-year-old men and 26% among 18- to 24-year-old women.  In addition, there is evidence that binge drinking is becoming less socially acceptable among this group.  However on the flip side, it also highlighted the fact that 22% of adults drink more at home than a year ago because it helps them to relax.  

This might not sound like a shocking statistic, but the link between mood and alcohol has always been a dangerous one.  Where drink has been a problem for a long time it is not only bad for your health but your mind as well.  Renowned for its ability to lift mood, alcohol has also been shown to be a depressant.  In fact a new study on alcoholism[2] supports the idea that many people who drink regularly to ‘up their mood' or cope with blues are at a greater risk of alcoholism.  Heavy drinking and attitude shifts are strongly linked and these new findings, published following clinical trials, indicate that depression is primarily related to binge drinking.

The researchers who conducted the study, Young-Wolff and co-investigator Dr. Carol Prescott, are quoted as saying: "We would suggest that occasional use of alcohol to relax or unwind is not necessarily a bad idea.  What should be avoided is heavy drinking as a regular coping strategy, since this can lead to alcohol misuse and is often a means of avoiding dealing with the issues that are contributing to the negative emotions."

Sue Allchurch, director of Linwood Group, explains further: "The research by Young-Wolff and Prescott only underlines what we see here at the Linwood Group treatment centres; that there is a strong link between alcoholism and depression.  A person who is drinking too much is likely to think that the drink is helping them to cope with and relieve the symptoms of depression.  However, it is in fact prolonging and exacerbating the negative feelings.  Yet, when they begin to feel depressed, they increasingly need alcohol to get them through the day.  This is why we would strongly recommend that anyone who does not have the strength to stop drinking to seek professional help.   Just withdrawing from alcohol will not deal with the underlying issues that began the drinking pattern in the first place, and medical supervision and counselling will be needed to help deal with these issues in a constructive and healthy way".

We have already seen in the research above that higher alcohol levels are linked to depression, but how do we know when that the drink has been a problem for a long time for our mind as well as our health?  How do we know when is it time to sit up and take notice for ourselves, or a loved one?  The Royal College of Psychiatrists lists the following as warning signs that show when alcohol is becoming a problem to a person's mental health:

  • The person does not feel right without a drink, or need a drink to start the day
  • They get very shaky, sweaty, and anxious/tense a few hours after their last drink
  • They can drink a lot without becoming drunk
  • They need to drink more and more to get the same effect
  • They try to stop, but find they can't
  • They carry on drinking even though they can see it is interfering with their work, family and relationships
  • They get "memory blanks" where they can't remember what happened for a period of hours or days.

If you recognise any of these warning signs in yourself or a family member, it is probably time to seek help and advice from qualified experts.  Appropriate help is available for getting alcohol under control so that you can begin addressing the difficulties that alcohol is causing to your mood and your life.  At Linwood Group, all the therapeutic staff are members of the Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals (FDAP) as well as working towards accreditation by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), and work within a strict code of ethics and standards. 

For free and confidential advice on gaining professional support and care for your own or a friend or family members alcohol misuse , why not call Linwood Group on Freephone 0800 066 4173 (or if you are calling from a mobile phone or from overseas, call +441226 698 054) to begin living free from addiction?


Source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, August 2009


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