Alcohol / Drugs

Most people drink alcohol, and can do so without any problems.  We all know that a drink can sometimes help us to unwind or to relax with friends.

Drinking in moderation is unlikely to lead to problems.  But heavy drinking, getting drunk or drinking at the wrong time or in the wrong place, or with the wrong people can lead to a whole range of difficulties.

Drink effects everyone in different ways and can lead to all sorts of problems. And it’s not just the drinker who is affected. One’s person heavy drinking often causes difficulties for all those people they come into contact with  e.g.  their spouse and children, their friends and their colleagues.

How would you describe your drinking?  Most people say that they drink ‘a little moderate amount’.  Yet one in three men and one in five women drink more than the recommended daily benchmarks at least once a week.  The following section explains how you can work out how much you drink and whether or not you exceed the recommended daily amount.

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HOW MUCH DO I DRINK

If you want to work out how much you drink, you need to ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly.

  • How much do I usually drink on a Friday night, Saturday or Sunday?
  • How much do I drink on a special occasion, like having friends over someone’s birthday or a wedding?

You may find it helps to fill out the drinks diary enclosed.

Don’t forget to include any drinks you have with a meal and ‘extra’s’ like a can or two when you’re watching sport on the telly or a glass of wine while you are cooking, or a tot of something in a hot drink.  It all adds up.

Different types of drink have different amounts of alcohol in them.  One way of working out the total amount of alcohol you’re drinking is by using ‘units’ of alcohol as a measure.  A unit is equivalent to 8 grams or 10ml (1cl) of pure alcohol.

As a rough guide, there’s one unit of alcohol in:

  • · Half a pint of standard strength beer, larger or cider (3.5 or 4% abv- alcohol volume).
  • · A small glass (125ml) of lower strength wine (9 or 9% abv)
  • · A single 25ml pub measure of spirits (40%abv)

Many other drinks contain approx TWO units of alcohol for example:

  • A pint or a large can (500ml) of standard strength beer, lager or cider (3.5 or 4% abv)
  • Half a pint or half a large can of high strength beer or lager (8 or 9% abv)
  • A large (50ml) whisky or other spirit
  • A large glass (175) of wine that is 11% or 12% abv
  • · A 330 ml bottle of lager or Alco pop (5.5%)

HOW OFTEN DO I DRINK?

Having worked out how much you usually drink and how much you drink on special occasions, you need to ask yourself how often you drink.  Every day? Most days? Weekends only? Less often?

You may find that you drink more in some situations than you do in others.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

Having worked out how much you usually drink and how much you drink on special occasions, you need to ask yourself how often you drink.  Every day? Most days? Weekends only? Less often?

You may find that you drink more in some situations than you do in others.

WHAT KIND OF DRINKER AM I?

If you drink on most days of the week and you regularly drink more than the benchmark, then you could be said to be a REGULAR HEAVY DRINKER.

You may not get drunk very often, but there still is a real risk that you are damaging your health.  The more you drink and the more often you drink above the benchmarks, the greater the risk.

Alcohol damages many of the body’s organs.  It can lead to liver diseases and cancer of the mouth and throat.  One physical effect of drinking is that it raises your blood pressure.  As blood pressure increases so does the risk of ill health, in particular the risk of coronary heart disease and some kinds of stroke.

COMMON MISCONSEPTIONS

I thought alcohol was good for your heart?’

Yes, but only in men over 40 and women who’ve been through menopause, and even then only moderate amounts of alcohol (one or two units a day) provide protection against coronary heart disease.  Drinking more than the daily recommended amount doesn’t give you any additional benefit.

Heavy drinking is expensive and it can lead to disagreements with family and friends.  Over time it can change you as a person – how you think, feel, behave and react. There’s a lot to gain from bringing your drinking back down to within the recommended daily amount.

‘Why only have a couple of drinks when you’ve got the rest of the week to recover?’

If you drink a lot on some occasions, perhaps every weekend or less often, and you get drunk, then you could be described as a BINGE DRINKER.

Alcohol changes the way we feel and behave.  While small amounts of alcohol may help us socialise and feel relaxed, it can be difficult to stop drinking.  People can then get into a pattern of getting drunk every time they drink.

Vomiting, waking up with a hangover or making a fool of yourself might be easy to dismiss a one off. That is until they affect your job or relationships.  You are also more likely to have an accident or do something you really regret.

Being drunk is no excuse under the law.

  • Around a third of all pedestrians killed in road traffic accidents would fail a breath test.
  • One in six people attending accident and emergency departments have alcohol related injuries or problems.
  • Using alcohol and legal or illegal drugs is particularly dangerous – for example, alcohol increases the likelihood of a serious drug overdose. If you drink a large amount of alcohol in one go, you run the risk of passing out, suffering memory loss, or ending up in hospital with alcohol poisoning.

ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS

If you are concerned about drinking, or perhaps you’ve tried to cut down before and found it difficult, ask yourself these four questions:

Have you ever felt you ought to cut down               Yes/No

On your drinking?

Have people annoyed you about criticising              Yes/No

Your drinking

Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your              Yes/No

Drinking

Have you ever had a drink first thing                        Yes/No

in the morning to steady your nerves .

If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, your drinking is causing some problems for you.  You may be dependent on alcohol and should seek specialist help.

If you find that drinking is a major part of your life and you really miss not having a drink to hand, you may be a DEPENDANT DRINKER.

Being dependant on alcohol also means you may need to carry on drinking to avoid unpleasant emotional or physical effects if you stop drinking.  Nausea, retching, shaking and sweating are all common withdrawal symptoms, most likely to occur some hours after your last drink, an example would be when you wake up in the morning.

If you have become dependant on alcohol, you will probably need professional support and advice to help you get through withdrawal.

Admitting to yourself and others that you have a problem with drink can be very difficult.  The good news is that people with drink can and do cut down, and getting specialist help can make a huge difference.

HOW WILL I GAIN FROM DRINKING LESS?

Cutting down could mean.

  • More money.  Work out how much you have spent on alcohol during the last week.
  • Fewer hangovers, headaches and stomach upsets.
  • Improved concentration and a clear head.
  • · Sounder sleep and less tiredness generally.
  • · Time and energy for activities other than drinking
  • · New sense of being in control and feeling fitter.
  • · Less risk of an accident
  • · Fewer arguments and rows with family or friends.
  • · Less risk of being overweight, developing high blood pressure or liver disease.
  • · More pleasure out of your sex life.
  • · Improved chances of success if you are trying to become pregnant.

If you are pregnant your baby will stand a better chance of being born healthy.  During pregnancy you should cut down as much as possible – if you drink, avoid getting drunk and keep to no more than one or two units once or twice a week.

If you start drinking more heavily because of other problems, these problems will not disappear but you will be more able to deal with them if you are not under the influence of alcohol.

HOW CAN I CUT DOWN?

If you think your drinking is a problem, try following these steps.

Decide what your aim is. Do you want to give up alcohol all together? Or do you want to cut down to within the daily benchmarks? The decision is yours – but be clear about what you are trying to achieve.

Pick a day in the next week to start cutting down.  Go for a day when you are likely to be relaxed.

Plan ahead for a day it’s easier to avoid alcohol.  Work out how you are going to avoid situations when you end up drinking more.  If you often drink at home, stock up on alternatives to alcohol, like alcohol free beers and wine or soft drinks.  Tell other people that you are cutting down or stopping. You may find that they avoid putting pressure on you or even join in.

Don’t give up giving up. Changing habits like drinking takes a lot of time and hard work.  There may be times when you find it really difficult to drink less.  Don’t worry too much about this try to remind yourself of the positive things you have already achieved and set a new start date to reduce your drinking.

If you still find it difficult to cut down, you could see a trained counsellor.

TEN TIPS FOR CUTTING DOWN

Below are ten tips which you may find useful to help you cut your drinking down, some may help others may not be suitable to you.

 

1.    keep a drinks diary. If you filled out a diary to work out how much you drink, go back to it to find out when and in what situations you drink more.  Keep a new diary to see how you are doing.

2. Stick to the limit you have set.  Work out a reasonable drinking limit for any day when you drink and stick to it.  Set a limit for particular occasions too, like parties or going to a pub.

3. Watch what you drink at home.  Most people pour larger drinks at home than the ones they get in the pub.  Take care not to go over your target.  Try to avoid heading straight for the drink when you get home, look for other ways to relax.

4. It’s ok to say no.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into having another drink Have excuses planned in advance such as ‘No thanks I’ve had enough’ or ‘I’ve got a lot on tomorrow’.

5. Avoid rounds.  Round buying often means you drink more than you want.  Skip some rounds by drinking more slowly.  You could even say you will get your won drinks or even when it is your round     get an alcohol free drink for yourself.

6. Pace your drinks.  Try drinking more slowly and putting the glass down between sips. You could choose smaller drinks such as half a pint instead of a full pint.  Avoid strong brands.  Try spacing out alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.

7.    Occupy yourself.  Find something else to do while you drink – eat( but beware salted food make you thirsty), chat, play darts or pool listen to music.  Any of these will distract you from drinking and help you drink more slowly.

8.    Find alternatives.  Get out of the habit of drinking because you’re bored, feeling tense, upset or having nothing else to do.  Look for other ways to make you feel better.

9. Have days when you do not drink at all.  Alcohol can make you dehydrated, which is one reason why people get a hangover after drinking too much. After drinking heavily try to avoid alcohol for the next 48 hours to give your body time to recover. If you are trying to cut down, having days off alcohol proves to yourself that you are in control of your drinking.

10. Reward yourself.  Chart your progress.  Cutting down or stopping drinking requires a lot of will power and self-control, you should be pleased with yourself for succeeding.  Buy yourself something special with the money you have saved from drinking less. But be consistent and honest with yourself when you meet one of the targets you have set yourself.

SOME ADVICE FOR FAMILY, FRIENDS AND COLLEGUES

A person’s drinking doesn’t only affect them.  It also affects the people around them.  You may have noticed the signs of a problem or had to cope with the consequences.  The closer you are to the drinker, the more upsetting it can be.  If you are less close like a colleague or an acquaintance you might not think it is any of your business.  Either way, people who are concerned about someone else’s drinking can feel helpless.

It is important to realise that you are not the only person to feel like this.  Around one in ten people in the UK have a problem with drinking.  Most of them have a partner, family or friends who are worried about them.  The first step to helping someone else is to recognise how you feel about the situation.  Many people find it helps talking to someone who understands.  The specialist agencies are there to support the families and friends of drinkers, as well as the person whose drinking or causing concern.

HELPING SOMEONE TO HELP THEMSELVES

Once you have talked about how you feel and been given advice on what to do, you will be in a better position to talk to the person you are worried about.  You cannot force someone to cut down or stop drinking and you cannot expect things to be suddenly all right, but you can encourage them to stick to their goals they have set themselves.

Here are some ideas which you may find useful to help the person you are concerned about their drinking.

  • Talk to the person you are worried about, find time when they are sober and you are both calm.
  • Tell them about the problems, which are been caused, not only to you but the family.  Avoid getting into arguments even if the drinker is being confrontational.  It will make it more difficult for them to talk openly to you about things in the future.  Don’t sound as if you are nagging.
  • Be consistent, don’t keep changing your mind about what you are saying, and don’t say one thing and do another.
  • Help the person who is drinking to be realistic.  Don’t encourage them to make promises they can’t keep.  The promise ‘I’ll never drink again’ is difficult to keep.  Help them set reasonable goals, which can be achieved easily.
  • Don’t make it easy for them to drink by buying alcohol for them, giving them money or always agreeing to go to the pub.  It may be difficult to break these patterns, but they’re more likely to take you seriously if your actions match your words.
  • Don’t try to cover up the effects of their drinking e.g. phoning work, clearing up the mess, putting them to bed.  Help the person see the effects of their drinking this might help them to change more quickly.
  • Don’t expect changes to happen overnight., keep the support ongoing

Solvent Abuse

Solvent and volatile substance abuse (VSA) occurs when someone deliberately breathes in the fumes from ordinary household products like cigarette lighter refills, glue, petrol and other products, to get “high”.  In the average home there are over 30 abusable products.

How well do you know the potential dangers in your home?

The abuse of solvents tends to take place at an earlier age than other illegal drugs. Research has found that children below the age of 13 are more likely to use volatile substances than any illegal drug. Talking with your child about solvents is one of the ways that parents can try to prevent abuse taking place. Try to discuss the dangers in an open and relaxed way choosing a good time to talk. It is important to listen to your child carefully and also try to establish a clear family position on drugs with them.

Solvent Abuse FAQs

How dangerous is VSA?

Anyone experimenting with volatile substances is at risk from sudden death. Death may happen at the first attempt or following many attempts and is caused by:

  • Heart failure – the heart becomes oversensitive to adrenaline and beats ineffectively. There is an extra danger if sniffing is followed by exertion or over excitement.
  • Choking on vomit.
  • Accidents when ‘high’ or hallucinating. Risk of burns or explosions as many of these products are highly flammable.
  • Drugs or alcohol may interact with the solvents and could increase the risks.

There can be over 30 abusable products in the home, with many parents unaware of the danger. Statistics show that most incidents of abuse occur in the home or the home of a friend.

Sniffing can also damage your sight, hearing, nervous system and organs such as lungs, kidneys and liver.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Chemical smell
  • Paraphernalia – empty products, teeth marks on nozzles, white marks on towels, etc.

Will I see any changes in their behaviour?

A change in behaviour doesn’t necessarily mean that a young person is abusing solvents, a lot of the signs and symptoms can also be factors in normal adolescence. Below are some of the things to look out for:

  • Suddenly mixing with a new group of friends, especially if they hang out in secluded places.
  • Moods swings or a deterioration in attitude or behaviour, to a greater extent than normal.
  • Altered sleep pattern – difficulty in getting out of bed.
  • Possible changes in appetite.
  • A persistently runny nose or eye irritations. Sometimes rashes and pimples around the nose and mouth, but these occur only with the use of specific products and can be confused with teenage acne.
  • Headaches.
  • Secretive / evasive behaviour.
  • Problems in school – poor performance / absence.

What can I do?

  • Don’t panic. Most young people who try ‘sniffing’ and only a minority do, don’t enjoy it and give up after a few times.
  • Most young people don’t realize how dangerous VSA is and may need reminding about the possible dangers.
  • It is important to realize that young people who abuse solvents may be trying to block out other problems.  Try to talk with your child to see if anything is troubling them.
  • If possible, take your child to see a doctor for a general health check.

There are many possible reasons behind solvent abuse, an understanding of these may help you and your child overcome ‘sniffing’ problems.

  • Experimentation – VSA can satisfy a youthful need to experiment.
  • Peer pressure – The power of peer pressure can often be underestimated during the teenage years, which are a time of self-discovery and personal growth. The pressure to be popular can make it difficult to resist friends’ persuasion, even when there are dangers, and taking risks can seem an easy way to impress friends.
  • Medical or psychological factors – Sniffing may arise as a symptom of another problem, rather than the cause. It can be a means of avoidance. A ‘sniffing’ problem may stop when other problems are confronted and help sought.
  • Accessibility – Volatile substances can appear an attractive alternative to drugs as they are cheap and easy to buy or steal, and many are freely available in the home.
  • Boredom – Sniffing can satisfy a need for new, exciting and cheap social activities.
  • To shock – The power to shock adults can be a means of asserting one’s individuality during a typical period of conflict between parent and child.
  • Social activity – Young people may see sniffing as comparable to their parents having a social drink at the pub.

What do I do in an emergency?

If the young person is drowsy or unconscious:

  • STAY CALM. Remove any solvents and give them as much fresh air as possible.
  • Place the young person on their side so that they don’t choke on vomit.
  • Keep the misuser calm and still. There is risk of sudden death if exertion follows sniffing. Don’t chase, scare or over excite them.
  • Call an ambulance if the child is unconscious.
  • If they are conscious stay with them until the effects have worn off.
  • Try to stop them sniffing without using force.
  • This is not the best time to discuss their sniffing problem. Being supportive at this stage will open channels of communication for later.