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    January 2005
    Thinking about drink! What do you know?
    Alcohol awareness
    What do you know about alcohol? What are the real effects on the body? We asked the Luton-based Alcohol Services for the Community for the low-down.
    SEE ALSO

    Think Drink section

     

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    ESSENTIAL INFO

    Alcohol facts

    93 per cent of men drink alcohol in the UK (ONS 2000)

    Alcohol is the number one killer of young men in Europe (WHO Global Burden of Disease 2000)

    38 per cent of males aged 16-74 are hazardous drinkers (Alcohol Concern)

    Men are three times as likely to become alcohol dependent as women (National Statistics 2001)

    91.5 per cent of drivers arrested for being above the drink drive limit in Bedfordshire were men (Saduque 2003)

    Men are twice as likely as women to be involved in alcohol-related leisure accidents (Consumer Affairs)

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    Q. What exactly is alcohol and what can it do to you?

    A. It's a toxin - a mind-altering, behaviour changing drug. It also works as a depressant on the central nervous system and lowers inhibitions so that you may be likely to take risks or behave in a way that you wouldn't if sober.

    It also affects your power of judgement and co-ordination, so you are more likely to have an accident.

    Q. We all hear about units of alcohol in connection with sensible drinking but can you tell us what a unit of alcohol is?

    ONE unit of alcohol is equal to:

    • a 1/2 pint of ordinary (3.5 per cent) strength beer or lager
    • a 25 ml pub measure of spirits (40 per cent)
    • a small (125 ml) glass of 9 per cent wine
    • a 50 ml pub measure of sherry, port or vermouth

    Q. Can you tell us the units in some of the most popular drinks?

    • A large (175 ml) glass of 12 per cent red wine - 2 UNITS
    • A bottle of 11 / 12 per cent wine - BETWEEN 8 AND 9 UNITS
    • A 330 ml bottle of 4 / 5 per cent lager or cider - 1.5 UNITS
    • A pint of 5 per cent export lager - 3 UNITS
    • A bottle of alcopops / ready mixed drinks - 1.5 UNITS
    • A can of strong (9 per cent) lager - 4 UNITS

    Q. So, apart from the obvious immediate effects, how can it affect the body?

    A. Alcohol passes straight through the stomach walls into the bloodstream and so affects ALL PARTS OF THE BODY as the blood travels round.

    Click on the parts of the body in the boxes to find out how alcohol affects them.

    Body diagram ClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClickClick

    Alcohol is eliminated from the body via the liver. A normal healthy liver can process alcohol at a steady rate of 1 unit per hour. This remains constant no mater how much you drink.

    Q. Booze Britain is a buzz phrase of the moment, but what is your definition of binge drinking?

    A. Binge drinking is classed as drinking five or more units in one go.

    It is damaging because it overloads the system and the concentration of alcohol in the body just keeps increasing.

    The effects of this can:

    1. Cause sickness
    2. Exhaust the liver and intestines
    3. Inflame the pancreas
    4. Increase the chance of kidney and urinary infections because alcohol is dehydrating.

    Q. So what are the effects of prolonged heavy drinking?

    A. This can directly cause diseases (e.g. liver diseases such as cirrhosis and cancer), be a major factor in diseases (e.g. high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, oral cancer) or be one of a number of factors in diseases.

    Other side effects include:

    Ageing - because the body gets loaded with toxins and struggles to clean itself properly. Skin also becomes dehydrated.

    Weight gain - because alcohol is loaded with calories but has no nutritional value. Although, heavy drinking can cause loss of appetite, increasing the risk of conditions such as anorexia.

    The rough calorie content of drinks:

    Pint of lager - 160-180 calories
    Glass of wine - between 75 (dry) and 100 (sweet) calories
    Pub measure of spirits - between 55 (whisky) and 75 (brandy)
    Pub measure of liquer - between 80 and 100

    Q. Are there any other dangers?

    A. Yes, as well as diseases there are other mental or social dangers such as unplanned or unsafe sex, the vulnerability to attack, social exclusion, criminal activity, family problems and relationship breakdowns.

    Also REMEMBER - if you are taking the contraceptive pill and vomit, you may eliminate the pill from your body and be at increased risk of pregnancy.

    Q. So, what do you consider to be 'sensible drinking'?

    A. For women, the recommended safe drinking level is up to TWO OR THREE UNITS A DAY with a COUPLE OF ALCOHOL FREE DAYS EACH WEEK.

    For men, the recommended safe drinking level is up to THREE OR FOUR UNITS A DAY with a COUPLE OF ALCOHOL FREE DAYS EACH WEEK.

    Alcohol affects the female body differently to the male body because women's bodies have 10 per cent more fat than men's and they have less fluid to dilute the alcohol so the concentration of alcohol in the body is higher.

    Also, the average woman (58kg) weighs considerably less than the average man (70kg) and so has comparatively less tissue to absorb alcohol.

    Can you give us your best tips for cutting down?

    Tips for cutting down
    1. Count your units - maybe keep a drinks diary!
    2 Budget for your drinks and stick to it!
    3 Look for other ways to relax.
    4 Avoid rounds.
    5 Have more alcohol free days.
    6 I won't drink before ....' - set a time and stick to it.
    7 Change from export to ordinary strength lager.
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