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Safe drinking during the festive season

By SALLY VINCENT health@algarveresident.com

THE FESTIVE season is virtually upon us but Christmas 2008 is destined to be different.

The credit crisis and recession are bound to put a damper on things but although Christmas parties along the Algarve may be more subdued than usual, there will still be the tendency for people to drink too much.  

Perhaps more so this year as people not only drink to celebrate the season but also to forget the woes of the world. It can be a dangerous time of year but is it really worth it?  It is not just the hangover or the embarrassment of being reminded of your behaviour but also the risk to your health. Many family Christmases are spoilt because of someone’s hangover from the night before or too much alcohol on the day itself. Nobody is suggesting you embark on a ‘dry’ Christmas but a careful and safe one.

The current NHS ‘Units add up’ campaign on British TV is well worth watching. How much can you drink safely without risking serious damage to your health?  In the UK it is generally accepted that the safe upper limit per week for men is 21 units of alcohol and for women 14 units. Recent changes to these limits are advocating four units per day for men and three units per day for women. Looking at the units system in this daily way discourages acceptance of binge drinking as being still within the weekly limit – binge drinking is a very dangerous way of consuming alcohol.

But what is a ‘unit’ of alcohol? The easiest way of calculating this is to take one litre of the alcoholic drink and the number of units in that litre is the same as the percentage alcohol. So, a litre bottle of Whisky at 40 per cent  proof contains  40 units, a litre of wine at 12 per cent vol contains 12 units and a litre of beer at five per cent contains five units. You need to be aware of how many units of alcohol you are drinking and when to stop.

The bars along the Algarve serve larger measures than we are used to in British pubs. Alcohol is the third highest killer in the UK after heart disease and cancer. You are not going to contract cirrhosis of the liver having one or two over the limit but the more often you do, the more chance there is of damage.

The unit system is only a guide and does not represent a definition of when drinking is acceptable on health.  For some people, just a couple of drinks triggers a change in personality, affecting relationships, and to drink before driving always impairs performance and judgment.  For those people, avoiding alcohol altogether is probably the best policy.

Be prepared this Christmas. If you are hosting a party yourself, please do not encourage people to drink excessively and be aware that some of your guests may not be drinkers for a variety of reasons and ensure you have an adequate supply of non alcoholic drinks available for these guests.  

Did you know?

If you drink five standard pints of beer (five per cent alcohol), it will take 14 hours from when you started drinking to get your blood alcohol level down to zero, so be careful about driving the following day.

Your liver will only process on average one unit of alcohol per hour.

Adding a mixer to spirits or wine does not dilute the amount of alcohol being consumed.

Hangovers are caused by dehydration.  For every one pint of alcohol you drink, your body loses one and a quarter pints of water. And…

Black Coffee = A wide awake drunk

Exercise = A tired drunk

Cold Showers = A wet drunk

This article was provided by the Clinical Team at Nova Vida Recovery Centre who wish you a safe and enjoyable Christmas and New Year. “We are not out to spoil your fun but to encourage you to enjoy the party in a safe, responsible way.”

Should you, a member of your family or a close friend have a problem with alcohol please contact us for free and confidential advice.  If you stop the cycle now, you will be around for Christmases to come. Call Sally on 282 570 020. All calls are treated in the utmost confidence.