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alcohol health alliance uk

Donít turn to drink during crisis, warns Balance

14 units

Balance encourages people to stay within 14 unit weekly guideline

Posted 26/03/20

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Balance is warning of the potential health risks of people using alcohol as a prop during the current crisis.

We are encouraging people to stay within the Chief Medical Officer’s low risk drinking limits of no more than 14 units a week to protect both their physical and mental health. Fourteen units means around six pints of regular strength beer or lager, six standard glasses of wine or seven double measures of spirits.

Balance is especially worried about reports that people are stocking up on alcohol to see them through a difficult period.

Regularly drinking above the CMOs guidelines increases the risk of a whole range of conditions, including heart disease, stroke and seven types of cancer. Heavy drinking can also increase the risk of respiratory disease.

Perhaps more worrying during such stressful times is alcohol’s link to mental health problems. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, regularly drinking alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain and can increase the risk of depression. Increased consumption can lead to feelings of low mood and anxiety.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “This is a time when we are all feeling anxious, and that is completely natural. The worry is that this might mean people will reach for a drink most nights as a coping mechanism and alcohol consumption creeps up, which can have serious health consequences. This can lead to habits forming that are really bad for our health in the long-term and may also make us feel more tired, anxious and sluggish in the short term.

“We know many people are unaware of the drinking guidelines and the potential risks from exceeding them. We often under-estimate how much we are drinking. Two standard glasses of wine a night is almost double the recommended limit to keep our health risks from alcohol low. And with pubs closing, home-poured measures can be a lot bigger and contain more units than the drinks people might buy down their local pub.

“We are encouraging people to take more drink free days and try to stay within no more than 14 units a week. Things might be tough right now but keeping alcohol in check is an important way to protect our overall health and fitness for the time when we emerge from this crisis.”

Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead and lead North East Director of Public Health for Alcohol, said: “In an unprecedented crisis like this, alcohol might not be the first issue that concerns us. However, the potential for people drinking more has a potentially serious impact for the health of people in the North East and in adding more unnecessary strain on our stretched public services.

“Those of us who are parents should also think about the messages we are sending our children in how to cope in difficult times. Reaching for alcohol too often is not the answer and may make problems seem worse. The best advice we can give is drink no more than 14 units a week to protect both your physical and mental health.”

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