Alcohol is commonly associated with fun things in life: big occasions, milestone events and gatherings with friends and family. For many of us, drinking is part of our culture and identity. It’s what we do when we let our hair down.
But what happens when we drink too much? In the short term, excessive drinking can lead to arguments, conflicts and accidents. In the medium to longer term, it can cause problems for our physical and mental health.
The charity Alcohol Change UK has found that more than one in five drinkers have increased their consumption since the start of lockdown on March 23. This suggests that 8.6 million people are now drinking more frequently.
Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of the charity, says: “Many of us use alcohol as our go-to stress reliever and in this very stressful time it’s not surprising that we might find ourselves reaching for a drink more often.”
The reasons why are easily understood. Author Annie Grace tells the BBC: “In the moment, it feels like relief and we feel better. Our blood alcohol level rises and things feel slower; our mind relaxes and there’s some disorientation and euphoria.”
But those effects are short lived, says Annie. 20-30 minutes later the body begins to purge the alcohol and we start feeling uncomfortable and even more stressed. It can become a vicious circle, both for drinkers and the people around them.
Advice from the World Health Organisation is uncompromising. It says: “Avoid alcohol altogether so that you do not undermine your own immune system and health and do not risk the health of others. Heavy alcohol use is a risk factor for acute respiratory distress syndrome, one of the most severe complications of Covid-19.”
The Alcohol Change UK survey suggests people are taking note: one in three of those who drink said they are taking active steps to manage their drinking. We call this drinking safely. Steps include understanding the risks, keeping an eye on how much we drink, reducing what we drink and setting limits to how much we drink.
My Possible Self is here to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing through good times and bad. We took the decision to make our app available free of charge for anyone who needs support during the pandemic. Our content helps users manage stress, anxiety and low mood and teaches psychological strategies and coping skills.
We are developing exclusive new content to help you drink safely.