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Leicestershire and Rutland

Supporting your recovery every step of the way

Alcohol Usage

It can be easy to lose track of how much alcohol you drink. Find out some useful tips about how to monitor your usage and ensure you are not drinking too much alcohol.

How much do I drink?

Regularly drinking more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day if you are a man or 2-3 units a day if you are a woman increases the risk of long term health harm, such as stroke, heart disease, mouth cancer, liver cancer and breast cancer.

Alcohol also affects your ability to exercise. Use the handy drink diary on the following page to record how many units you drink in a week by following four easy steps.
Download our Drink Diary

  1. For each day write down all the alcoholic drinks you consume including the type of drink, the glass or container size and the alcoholic strength
  2. Write down how many units are in each drink using the ‘drinks and units’ table below or the online drink calculator at www.nhs.uk/units
  3. Add up the total number of units for each day and write it down in the last column. The online drink calculator will add up the number of units for you.
  4. Once you have completed the table for each day take a look at the totals. If you are regularly exceeding the recommended daily guidelines of 3-4 units for men and 2-3 for women, you should consider cutting back.For more information on the health impacts of alcohol and for tips of how to drink less, log on to www.nhs.uk/units.
    If you are concerned about how much alcohol you are drinking you can phone Drinkline on 0800 876 6778 or see your GP.

Drinks and Units

Beer, Lager, Cider Bottle (330ml) Can (440ml) Pint (568ml) Litre
2% (Low Alcohol) 0.7 units 0.39 units 1.1 units 2 units
4% 1.3 units 1.8 units 2.3 units 4 units
5% 1.7 units 2.2 units 2.8 units 5 units
6% 2 units 2.6 units 3.4 units 6 units
9% (“Super Strength”) 3 units 4 units 5.1 units 9 units
Alcopops 1 bottle (275ml)
5% 1.4 units
Wine & Champagne
(red, white, rose or sparking)
Small glass
(125ml)
Standard glass
(175ml)
Large glass
(250ml)
Bottle
(750ml)
6% 0.8 units 1 unit 1.5 units 4.5 units
7% 0.9 units 1.2 units 1.8 units 5.5 units
10% 1.25 units 1.75 units 2.5 units 7.5 units
11% 1.4 units 1.9 units 2.6 units 8.3 units
12% 1.5 units 2.1 units 3 units 9 units
13% 1.6 units 2.3 units 3.3 units 9.8 units
Fortified wine (sherry &port) Standard measure
17.5% – 20% 0.9 – 1 unit
Spirits, shots (gin, rum, vodka,
Whisky, tequila, sambuca)
Small measure Large measure Spirits, small
double measure
(50ml)
Spirits, large
double measure
(70ml)
38-40% 1 unit 1.3 – 1.4 units 1.9 – 2 units 2.7 – 2.8 units

Reduce your alcohol use

If you regularly drink more than the recommended limits, try these simple tips to help you cut down.

Make a plan

Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you’re going to drink.

Set a budget

Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol.

Let them know

If you let your friends and family know you’re cutting down and that it’s important to you, you could get support from them.

Take it a day at a time

Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success.

Make it a smaller one

You can still enjoy a drink but go for smaller sizes. Try bottled beer instead of pints, or a small glass of wine instead of a large one.

Have a lower-strength drink

Cut down the alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength (ABV in %). You’ll find this information on the bottle.

Stay hydrated

Drink a pint of water before you start drinking, and don’t use alcohol to quench your thirst. Have a soft drink instead.

Take a break

Have the odd day each week when you don’t have an alcoholic drink.

Opt out of rounds

Drinking in rounds can make you drink a lot faster than you’d like or realise. Opt out or try buying drinks with a smaller group of friends instead.

Watch out for cocktails

They can contain more alcohol than you might think.

Spread out your drinks throughout the night

This will help your units go further.

Try smaller measures

Rather than sticking to pints, try sipping halves, go for a bottled beer or if you are drinking wine, opt for a small glass.

Go diluted

Try a more diluted alcoholic drink such as a spritzer or shandy.

Space with soft drinks

Have a soft drink or two with each alcoholic drink to help you stay hydrated

Benefits of cutting down

The immediate effects of cutting down include

  • feeling better in the mornings
  • being less tired during the day
  • your skin may start to look better
  • you’ll start to feel fitter
  • you may stop gaining weight

Long-term benefits include:

Mood

There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.

Sleep

Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake up.

Behaviour

Drinking can affect your judgement and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you’re drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long term for regular heavy drinkers.

Heart

Long-term heavy drinking can lead to your heart becoming enlarged. This is a serious condition that can’t be completely reversed, but stopping drinking can stop it getting worse.

Immune system

Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.

www.drinkaware.co.uk and www.nhs.co.uk/livewell

Identify your triggers and consider pros/cons

What or when are the times when you are more likely to drink or use? If you can see the patterns, then maybe you can do something about those situations, and do something different.

  • Certain people?
  • A particular time?
  • A familiar place?
  • Seeing certain things?
  • Hearing certain things?
  • Thinking about certain situations?
  • Feeling stressed, anxious, angry, sad….?
  • Thinking self-critical thoughts?

Understanding why you use substances is important and is a good opportunity to look at your motivation. Having motivation to not only stop the drinking or drug taking, but making changes that will affect your whole lifestyle is crucial. It is a good idea to make a list of the pros and cons of substance use. Think about what you do get out of it, what you don’t like about it and what effects it has on different parts of your life.

Doing things differently

  • Seek help – others will support you if they see you’re committed to making changes
  • Remind yourself of your pros/cons and why you are motivated to make changes. Write down all the reasons you want to stay dry/clean, make copies; carry one around with you, put others in prominent places.
  • Set goals on what you hope to achieve
  • Identify your triggers and trigger situations that might make you more likely to drink or use
  • Consider and find out about local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or other similar and relevant support group – for yourself and perhaps for your family
  • Start a healthy exercise plan and try to drink 6-8 glasses of water every day
  • Use medication appropriately and only as prescribed
  • Avoid social situations where you’re more likely to feel tempted and give in to cravings
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Practice saying “No, I don’t drink” or “No, I don’t use”

Don’t forget to congratulate yourself when you successfully overcome the cravings. You could set up a reward system so you can pamper or treat yourself, initially after each successful day, then bigger treats for successful weeks etc. Ensure the treats don’t involve temptation

www.getselfhelp.co.uk/substancemisuse

Drinkers check up website can also provide a useful forum to consider possible changes to alcohol use and what those changes might look like. It is based on gathering information and providing tailored feedback to help you understand the risks and to make the right changes for you. It can be found here.

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