Is Sober the new Drunk?
*you may have noticed there was no blog last week, this is because I am looking for wonderful writers (or at least someone who can type)!
If you are interested get in touch! *
It’s not very often I get to talk about Public Health (for those of you who don’t know, this is the other half of my trade) so understandably I'm over-excited, especially as this links in with a recent personal triumph of being 42 days sober – IKR.
So, let's start with some baseline questions (answers at end of blog):
Do you know how many units you're meant to drink a week?
Is it different for men and women? (now your confused)
Do you know what 1 unit of alcohol even looks like?
Now moving onto the juicy stuff, why should we be conscious of this? Well did you know one unit of alcohol carries on acting in your system for 1 hour (on average and who's average)? That means 1 bottle of wine could well be there to the next day.
With this in mind, what would this effect in your sphere; your sleep, whether you are likely to be over the limit on your journey to work, your mental health (alcohol is a depressant and can also stimulant an anxiety type response).
Now I'm not suggesting you never drink a drop again unless you decide to, however, it can be useful to diarise just how much of an impact dropping your alcohol units down can have.
So, let’s start with sleep:
When we drink, we go into a ‘false’ sleep, as alcohol is a depressant it has a sedative effect on your body and mind – this is often why people feel they cannot sleep without a nightcap. However, the truth is that alcohol causes us to slip out of REM (rapid eye movement sleep) which is the type of sleep that encourages muscle relaxation, consolidation of information and repair. Without this, we are going to be much less alert the next day, have trouble focusing and feel exhausted (1).
Your journey to work;
Sadly, there is no exact science with this one, basically, if you go to work on a hangover your likely to be buggered if you get pulled over. When we start to explore what can affect your unique metabolism of alcohol there are so many possibilities that may or may not be applicable you can never guess whether you or your friend or more likely to be over the limit.
Some things that do not count as assurances are age/weight/the amount of alcohol you drink per week. The other thing to note is that your metabolism of alcohol is not a static state. This is because the type of nutrients you digested that day e.g. fat/carbs may inhibit the absorption of alcohol and the amount of water/ fat in your body will also affect absorption (2).
The amount of alcohol in your body will focus around; the amount you take in, over what duration and the speed at which your body gets rid of it and as we can’t guess the latter your better off flying to work (without the aid of an engine).
Your mental health;
Why does alcohol give you the beer jitters? As we’ve mentioned alcohol is a depressant because of its sedative effect. We feel shit the next day because quite literally we are in withdrawal, even though you're not an addict. Quite literally as you have less of that calming sedative effect left, we start to experience the harsh light of day.
Over time we also habit form through association, so we tell ourselves the big ‘ahhhhh' at the end of the day is the glass of wine. It's not, it's the fact you took five minutes, sat down and enjoyed the moment, which if you think of it is very akin to mindfulness– which we know reduces stress and relaxes you.
The difference here is that mindfulness earns you 3 wellbeing days (*arbitrary figure totally un-researched) and alcohol gives us -1.
The Bigger Picture
So why do we need to worry ourselves with all this tosh? Well, if you don't even know if your ‘over-drinking' from a physical health perspective, how are you going to know if it’s affecting you psychologically? Alcohol is one of the most socially accepted easy to access drugs on the street. Easily we can slip into a 2,3,5,7 times weekly drinking habit, the NHS encourages us to have at least two alcohol-free days IF we are sticking to our units.
A study in the Lancet (a posh medical journal doctors read to make themselves feel important) told us, there were:
“100·4 million estimated cases of alcohol dependence, and that the deaths of 2·8 million people worldwide were attributable to alcohol in 2016” (3)
That’s pretty scary when you consider in today’s consumerist society we have so much positivity around drinking, you can even buy a prosecco candle for when you can't drink the stuff. Now as I mentioned I am not suggesting we give it up for good, but it is worth considering is alcohol the new cigarette? That thing that in the future we will wish we never touched.
The question is how do we even know if it is becoming a problem for us?
As a start; check out how many units you’re getting through using the answers at the end of this blog and compare it to the recommended weekly allowance. Secondly, consider, do you have an addictive personality? Research around addictive personality types has always been controversial and studies suggest (4) it depends on the addiction type.
Broadly speaking if you have a neurotic personality type and you’re not particularly conscientious you MAY be more likely to be inclined towards addiction (5). Let’s be honest though, we are all on the spectrum somewhere. However, if you do find you ever cannot participate in certain activities without alcohol, you struggle to ever say no (even if it may affect your life) or it has become a coping strategy you cannot let go of then you may require an intervention, my dear.
Until then my darling, keep enjoying your medicine of choice.
Do you know how many units you're meant to drink a week? – 14 (with 2 alcohol-free days).
And is it different for men and women? – no, not anymore, because that would just be unfair.
Do you know what 1 unit of alcohol even looks like? - A single measure of spirits (ABV 37.5%); halfa pint of average-strength (4%) lager; two-thirdsof a 125ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine; half a 175ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine; a thirdof a 250ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine.
So basically your average Friday night puts you well over.
Check out; https://www.drinkaware.co.uk
(1) Roehrs & Roth (2001) Sleep, sleepiness, sleep disorders and alcohol use and abuse,
Sleep Medicine Reviews, Volume 5, Issue 4, 287-297,
(2) Würtz, cook, Wang, Tiainen, Tynkkynen, Kangas, Soininen, Laitinen, Viikari, Kähönen, Lehtimäki, Perola, Blankenberg, Zeller, Männistö, Salomaa, Riitta Järvelin, Raitakari, Ala-Korpela, Leon, Metabolic profiling of alcohol consumption in 9778 young adults, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 45, Issue 5, October 2016, Pages 1493–1506.
(3) Degenhardt, Louisa et al. (2016) The global burden of disease attributable to alcohol and drug use in 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 5, Issue 12, 987 – 1012.
(4) Zilberman, Yadid, Efratim, Neumark, Rassovsky (2018) Personality profiles of substance and behavioural addictions, Addict. Behav., 82, pp. 174-181, 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.03.007
(5) Griffiths (2017). Opinion The Myth of 'Addictive Personality'. Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine. 3. 555610. 10.19080/GJARM.2017.03.555610.