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Stress Management for Health Course

Alcohol

  

"There is good evidence that drinking to much alcohol increases your risk of cancer of the stomach, throat, liver, colon, oesophagus and breast.  Drinking a single glass of wine a day increased womens chance of developing breast cancer by 6%, rising to 50% for those drinking more than a bottle daily." (Cancer Research UK)

 

Introduction

Many people say they cope with their stress by using alcohol but  this is a potentially lethal form of stress management because like any drug, and alcohol is a drug, you need to consume more and more to gain the same effects.  Alcohol is not the problem, it's excess alcohol that's the problem.  A lot of people try to cope with stress by using alcohol.  This approach is definitely a negative stress management technique.  It doesn't deal with the problem it merely temporarily masks the stress.  We need to keep consuming more and more alcohol to gain the same benefit; this style of stress management can lead to alcohol misuse and it's associated myriad of heightened risks of physical, psychological, health and social problems, and research has shown that it can actually contribute to reducing our ability to cope with stress.  Many, many people who have used alcohol to try to manage stress have found it to be the beginning of the slippery slope to alcohol misuse and alcoholism, which has not only destroyed their lives, careers and health, but also their families.

A report published by the Institute of Alcohol Research said that nearly two million people in the UK have an alcohol problem and can't get through a day without consuming alcohol. Alcohol is regarded as being socially acceptable to consume but in reality it is a drug and has widespread negative effects on our biochemistry when consumed in excess levels. Ask many people and they will cite that they are concerned over the level of drug abuse in modern society, yet twice as many people are addicted to alcohol compared to other drugs.

In the final analysis alcohol doesn't solve problems, in fact it creates more problems that you have to deal with. Consuming alcohol to help us deal with our problems is the equivalent of pouring petrol onto a fire in order to put the fire out. You don't have to totally abstain from alcohol but its vital for wellbeing to keep consumption to within safe limits.

 

Negative Effects Of Alcohol On Brain And Body Biochemistry


Alcohol can and does have a potentially powerful and mostly negative effect on brain and body biochemistry if consumed in excess amounts causing or exacerbating stress, anxiety and depression. Alcohol is a chemical stressor and causes the body to release stress hormones like cortisol and if you already have heightened levels of these stress hormones, the alcohol will make them higher. It does this by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal glands.

Alcohol can temporarily raise mood enhancing chemical levels like those of serotonin, this is how it can improve mood, but in excess alcohol makes these serotonin levels fall and lowers mood, increasing depression.

Certain nutrients are needed by the body in order for it to manufacture chemicals that dampen anxiety. Alcohol causes depletion of vitamin B6 and Folic acid, the very nutrients needed for us to be in optimum psychological health enabling us to cope with stress. It also stimulates the release of the stress hormone adrenaline and interferes with the amino acid tryptophan which is used to manufacture serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical involved in sleep and mood regulation.

Alcohol acts by mimicking the activity and function of the chemicals already present in the brain that help us to relax.  Small amounts of alcohol positively influence the brain neurotransmitter serotonin (the brain's stress managment system) however excess alcohol has a negative effect on serotonin. 


 

The Health Education Authority Current Guidelines For The Level Of Maximum Consumption Of Alcohol Is:


- 21 units per week for men.

 

- 14 units per week for women, (But no alcohol if pregnant).


One Unit Of Alcohol is Approximately Equal to:

 

        One single pub measure of spirit ( 25ml)

        On small glass of sherry/fortified wine (50ml)

        One small glass of wine (125ml)

        One quarter of a pint of strong lager, beer or cider (142ml)

        Half a pint of ordinary strength lager, beer or cider (284 ml)

        Two pints of low alcohol lager, beer or cider (1136 ml)


It is important to spread these alcohol units out throughout the week. Some people go on a massive binge and use up the 21 units of alcohol recommended per week, over a day or two, which research has shown to be harmful. If you do feel you have an alcohol problem then you could reduce the impact on stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia by cutting down your intake to current recommended drinking limits.

 

You can still enjoy alcohol but its about not drinking excess alcohol.

 

Diseases Related To Excess Alcohol Consumption


Excess alcohol  is thought to be related to being a factor in the development of at least 40 different health problems, for example high blood pressure and stroke.  Excess alcohol consumption can cause or worsen a great many psychological, physical and social health problems. Alcohol related disease is such a problem that it has been estimated that up to 20% of all beds on Medical Units in the NHS are taken up by people suffering alcohol related medical health problems. Almost 50% of men and 20% of women drink alcohol to deal with stress, 1:20 people in the UK, that's nearly 2 million people have an alcohol problem and 1:4 people cannot get through the day without alcohol so you are not alone. It is nothing to be ashamed of, excess alcohol is a very treatable problem and there are alternative, safer and more effective ways of dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.

 

Binge Drinking

Researchers found that binge drinking is quite common and that there are health risks particularly associated with binge drinking.  Although there is no formal amount of alcohol that is classed as binge drinking the Office for National Statistics have set the following guidelines:

 

        6 units and above for women per session per day.

        8 units and above for men per session per day.

 

Drinking Limits

 

Men should drink no more than 4 units a day and a total of no more than 21 units alcohol a week.

 

Women should drink no more than 2 units a day, and a total of no more than 14 units alcohol a week.

 

Heavy drinking can contribute to heart disorders, high blood pressure, stroke.  For every unit over the limits above, systolic blood pressure is likely to be raised by 1 mmHg.  Excess alcohol can damage the heart muscle. 

 

Light or Infrequent Alcohol Use

Is classed as a person who drinks 1 -  2 units of alcohol, once to twice a week.

 

Moderate or Frequent Alcohol Use

Is classed as a person who drinks up to 10 units a week.

 

Problem Drinking Alcohol Dependence

Where there is a reliance on alcohol to the point where it affects your health and well-being and you might not be able to control your intake. 

 

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