Many of us enjoy consuming alcohol. It has become a habit for many people, something they do in the evening time to wind down from a stressful day. For many people, drinking alcohol is a good way to celebrate an occasion or compliment a nice meal.
Some people drink alcohol to combat shyness in social situations. Going to a large party with lots of strangers or on a first date are typical examples of times people use alcohol to lose their inhibitions. In short, some people drink to help them socialise and some people drink to help them relax. Many do both.
But alcohol is not always doing us the good we think it is. We can quickly go from enjoying it to relying on it more and more.
The Impact of Alcohol
Alcohol can have a serious impact on our health and day-to-day life. Some of the undesirable consequences of consuming alcohol beyond the recommended guidelines or to the point of intoxication are listed below. No one person will be affected by all the items on the list below but the more you drink the higher the risk you will be affected by one or more of them.
Physical effects of alcohol
- Damage to your heart – drinking alcohol can lead to loss of elasticity of your heart muscle.
- Stroke – drinking more than 3 units a day on a regular basis increases your risk of stroke.
- High blood pressure – heavy drinking (more than 6 units a day) doubles the risk of hypertension.
- Liver damage – long term heavy drinking results in damage to the liver, which can develop into cirrhosis.
- Pancreas – the pancreas makes insulin to control your blood sugar levels. Alcohol can inflame the pancreas.
- Stomach – consuming alcohol can irritate the stomach lining. This can cause gastritis.
- Oesophagus – too much alcohol can lead to reflux. The acid from this can cause damage to the oesophagus.
- Kidneys – increased urination caused by alcohol means the kidneys are working overtime.
- Sexual Health – loss of inhibitions can lead to risky behaviour, which can potentially lead to STIs or unwanted pregnancy.
- Fertility – alcohol can reduce men’s sperm count as well as affecting women’s hormonal balance.
- Skin and bones – heavy drinking can lead to the development of gout. Alcohol has also been linked to several skin conditions.
- Cancer – alcohol consumption has been linked to several cancers. The more you drink the higher the risk. However, by staying below the 14 units a week limit you will keep your risk low. Any amount of alcohol will increase your risk of developing mouth cancer, upper throat and voice box cancer, food pipe (oesophagus) cancer and breast cancer. Higher levels of consumption increase the risk for colorectal cancer, stomach cancer and liver cancer. Smoking and drinking at the same time significantly increases your risk of developing cancer by as much as 10 times.
Psychological effects of alcohol
- Impact on the brain: alcohol can have a negative effect on the brain, which leads to impaired functioning, affecting speech, balance, decision making, perception, judgement and reaction time.
- Depressant: alcohol is a depressant. As a mood-altering drug one of its first effects is on mood and, as a depressant, it worsens symptoms of low mood and anxiety.
- Dementia: there’s evidence showing a link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of developing dementia.
- Mental Health: alcohol can sometimes be used as a way to cope with feelings of anxiety or depression. While this can work in the short-term by relieving some of the symptoms, in the long-term this coping tool can cause more problems than it solves. It also tends to mask symptoms and prevent you from dealing with underlying issues.
Social effects of alcohol
- Relationships: excessive use of alcohol can be a source of tension and conflict in your relationships. Or maybe you feel reliant on it for your relationships to go well.
- Children: children learn from watching us and we might be contradicting what we tell them about alcohol with our behaviour.
- Drunken behaviour can increase quarrelling and aggressive or disorderly behaviour, which can be frightening to children.
- Legal – being intoxicated can lead to unwanted consequences such as being over the limit while driving a vehicle or drunk and disorderly conduct.
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This programme is based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
CBT consists of two key steps to feeling well:
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The key idea behind CBT is that your emotions, thoughts, behaviours and physical sensations are connected, and affect each other.
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