ALCOHOL

ALCOHOL

HOW TO UNDERSTAND IF YOU HAVE A DEPENDENCE

Alcohol is an addictive substance that can cause dependence. Still, it is common and normal to consume alcoholic drinks because people accept their use. High consumption of alcohol has many detrimental effects on your body and mental health. Doctors have in fact discovered that alcohol abuse (incorrect use of alcohol) can cause more than 60 types of diseases, and plays a role in at least 200 other health illnesses (Rocco et al., 2014).

Our culture and society accept alcohol and its use, so it is often difficult for people to understand if they drink too much or if their rapport with alcohol is a problem. Because alcoholic drinks can cause dependence, but you can buy them in almost every shop, it is important to understand and recognize if you are drinking too much because it is bad for your health, and you can and should ask for help and support.

The advice is to drink less than 14 units of alcohol per week

In general, there is no safe alcohol use, which means that you should drink as little as possible. Still, the advice is to drink less than 14 units of alcohol per week (National Health Services UK, 2018) because it has fewer risks for your health. To count how many units of alcohol your drink has, you have to multiply the percentage (%) of alcohol in your drink by the volume of the drink in milliliters (ml). Once you have done that, you divide the result by 1000.

The number you get is the alcohol units in your drink. Here you have an example:

  1. the alcohol in your beer is 5.5%
  2. the beer is 500 milliliters (ml)
  3. te have 5.5 x 500 and we get 2750
  4. we divide then 2750 ÷ 1000 and we get 2.75
  5. this means that your beer has 2.75 units of alcohol.

Even with this advice, it can be hard to understand how much alcohol is too much to drink. Here you have a little list to help you with that:

  • a bottle of wine – red, white, or rosé (750 ml) → About 10 units
  • a small glass of wine – red, white, or rosé (125 ml) → About 1.5 units
  • a big glass of wine – red, white, or rosé (250 ml) → About 3 units
  • a small beer (330 ml) → About 2 units
  • a big beer (550 ml) → About 3 units
  • a shot of spirits (25 ml) → About 1 unit
  • a cocktail (275 ml) → About 1.5 units

If you drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week, your body suffers and the chances that you develop a disease in the future because of your drinking habits are higher. That is why drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week is high-risk. Drinking less than 14 units of alcohol per week is still not safe, but the risk for your health is smaller (National Health Services UK, 2018).

Here you have some common signs that people with a dependence on alcohol live. If you have one of these signs, your alcohol use might be problematic (National Health Services UK, 2018):

  • You spend a lot of time drinking, buying alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use;
  • You often think about drinking and you feel your mind and body need alcohol to work (craving);
  • You need to drink more alcohol to feel its effects on your mind and body;
  • You keep drinking even if drinking is causing you problems (for example you hurt yourself, you have accidents, you lose control, you do not remember things you have done);
  • You have tried to cut or stop drinking, but you did not make it;
  • You feel guilty and ashamed of your drinking.

A dependence on alcohol can also have symptoms, such as (National Health Services UK, 2018):

  • Your hands shake often;
  • You sweat even when you are not doing anything;
  • You see and hear things that are not real (hallucinations);
  • You feel depressed (very sad) and worried;
  • You have difficulties sleeping and falling asleep.

If your alcohol use is more than 14 units per week, it is possible that your mental and body health will suffer in the future.

Doctors have discovered that alcohol can for example cause many forms of cancer, like in the mouth, esophagus (the pipe that connects the mouth to the stomach), stomach, colon, rectum (Bagnardi et al., 2001), and breast (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, 2002). High-alcohol use can also cause strokes (Falkstedt et al., 2017), heart diseases (Jankhotkaew et al., 2020), liver diseases (Singal & Anand, 2013) including cancer (Méndez-Sánchez et al., 2020), and it hurts your brain and nerves (Welch, 2017).

Also, drinking too much can cause mental health problems (such as depression), and if you already suffer from mental health issues, alcohol makes them even bigger (Tembo et al., 2017).

In other words, if you drink less, you also have less risks for your health.

The following link will bring you to a quick and easy questionnaire about your drinking habits. It is called AUDIT-test and it was created by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the questionnaire, no data about yourself (such as name or date of birth) will be taken.
This questionnaire is good to self-assess your drinking habits and it is available in Finnish, Swedish, English, and Russian. Once you have completed it, the results will be explained to you.

Link to AUDIT-Test questionnaire

At SAMHA ry we work to help people affected by addictions and dependencies by listening to them and their situation, and assisting them in finding the best way forward. If they wish, we can help them find the right center to receive medical support and counselling.

If you need help don’t hesitate to contact us right away. We are available Monday-Thursday 10-17.00 for an appointment, reserve your spot today.

Remember: it can, and will get better, the first step is yours.

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REFERENCES

Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. (2002). Alcohol, tobacco and breast cancer – collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 53 epidemiological studies, including 58 515 women with breast cancer and 95 067 women without the disease. British Journal of Cancer, 87(11), 1234–1245. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjc.6600596

Falkstedt, D., Wolff, V., Allebeck, P., Hemmingsson, T., & Danielsson, A.-K. (2017). Cannabis, Tobacco, Alcohol Use, and the Risk of Early Stroke: A Population-Based Cohort Study of 45 000 Swedish Men. Stroke, 48(2), 265–270. https://doi.org/10.1161/STROKEAHA.116.015565

Jankhotkaew, J., Bundhamcharoen, K., Suphanchaimat, R., Waleewong, O., Chaiyasong, S., Markchang, K., Wongworachate, C., Vathesatogkit, P., & Sritara, P. (2020). Associations between alcohol consumption trajectory and deaths due to cancer, cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality: A 30-year follow-up cohort study in Thailand. BMJ Open, 10(12), e038198. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-038198

Méndez-Sánchez, N., Valencia-Rodriguez, A., Vera-Barajas, A., Abenavoli, L., Scarpellini, E., Ponciano-Rodriguez, G., & Wang, D. Q.-H. (2020). The mechanism of dysbiosis in alcoholic liver disease leading to liver cancer. Hepatoma Research, 6. https://doi.org/10.20517/2394-5079.2019.29

National Health Services UK. (2018, April 13). Alcohol units. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units/#:~:text=To%20keep%20health%20risks%20from,as%2014%20units%20a%20week. Accessed on the 9th of June 2021.

Rocco, A., Compare, D., Angrisani, D., Sanduzzi Zamparelli, M., & Nardone, G. (2014). Alcoholic disease: Liver and beyond. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 20(40), 14652–14659. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v20.i40.14652

Singal, A. K., & Anand, B. S. (2013). Recent trends in the epidemiology of alcoholic liver disease. Clinical Liver Disease, 2(2), 53–56. https://doi.org/10.1002/cld.168

Tembo, C., Burns, S., & Kalembo, F. (2017). The association between levels of alcohol consumption and mental health problems and academic performance among young university students. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178142. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178142

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