Alcohol misuse is when you drink in a way that’s harmful, or when you’re dependent on alcohol. To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.
A unit of alcohol is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about:
- Half a pint of lower to normal-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%)
- A single shot measure (25ml) of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%)
A small glass (125ml, ABV 12%) of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol.
Find out more about alcohol units on the NHS website
To keep your risk of alcohol-related harm low:
- Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis
- If you drink as much as 14 units a week, it’s best to spread this evenly over 3 or more days
- If you’re trying to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, it’s a good idea to have several alcohol-free days each week
- If you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum
Regular or frequent drinking means drinking alcohol most days and weeks. The risk to your health is increased by drinking any amount of alcohol on a regular basis.
Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help.
You may need help if:
- You often feel the need to have a drink
- You get into trouble because of your drinking
- Other people warn you about how much you’re drinking
- You think your drinking is causing you problems
A good place to start is with a GP. Try to be accurate and honest about how much you drink and any problems it may be causing you.
If you have become dependent on alcohol, you will have found it difficult to fully control your drinking in some way.
So you’ll probably need some help either to cut down and control your drinking or stop completely, and also some plans to maintain the improvement after that.
The GP may suggest different types of assessment and support options available to you, such as local community alcohol services.
If you have become physically dependent and need to stop drinking completely, stopping overnight could be harmful.
You should get advice about this and any medicine you may need to do this safely.
The sorts of withdrawal symptoms that suggest you may need medicine include:
- Anxiety after waking
- Sweating and tremors
- Nausea or retching in the morning
- Seizures or fits
If you need treatment for drug addiction, you’re entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem.
With the right help and support, it’s possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.
A GP is a good place to start. They can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment.
They may offer you treatment at the practice or refer you to your local drug service.
If you’re not comfortable talking to a GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself
If you’re having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600 and they can talk you through all your options.
Charity and private drugs treatment
As well as the NHS, there are charities and private drug and alcohol treatment organisations that can help you. Visit the Adfam website to see a list of useful organisations.
Your first appointment
Your treatment will depend on your personal circumstances and what you’re addicted to. Your keyworker will work with you to plan the right treatment for you.
Your treatment plan may include a number of different treatments and strategies.
Talking therapies, such as CBT, help you to see how your thoughts and feelings affect your behaviour
Treatment with medicines
If you’re dependent on heroin or another opioid, you may be offered a substitute drug, such as methadone.
This means you can get on with your treatment without having to worry about withdrawing or buying street drugs.
This is for people who want to stop taking opioids like heroin completely. It helps you to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.
Some people find support groups like Narcotics Anonymous helpful. Your keyworker can tell you where your nearest group is.
You may have your treatment while living at home or as a hospital inpatient.
If your drug-related problems are severe or complicated, you may be referred to a residential rehabilitation service.
For more information about residential rehabilitation, or to find a rehab near you, visit rehabonline
Information from the NHS website is licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0