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Ariella Williams, Alcohol and Harm Reduction Lead and Associate Director of Nursing at Change Grow Live – the UK’s largest provider of alcohol and drug treatment services – shares her expert view on the subject.
The early signs of alcohol dependence can “vary from person to person”, says Ariella, but there are certain things to look out for.
Citing Drinkaware, the following signs can signify alcohol dependence:
- Needing to drink more in order to achieve the same effects
- Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
- A lack of interest in previously normal activities
- Appearing intoxicated more regularly
- An inability to say no to alcohol
- Anxiety, depression or other mental health problems
- Becoming secretive or lying to friends, family, employers
Review the past year, have you noticed any of the signs below?
- An overwhelming desire to drink
- An inability to stop or to control harmful drinking
- Withdrawal symptoms when stopping drinking
- Evidence of alcohol tolerance
- Pursuing the consumption of alcohol to the exclusion of alternative pleasures
- Continuing to drink despite clear evidence of harmful consequences
Identifying with three or more of these characteristics in the past year will lead to a doctor’s diagnosis of alcohol dependency.
Drinking more than 14 units in a week “puts someone at higher risk of alcohol dependence”.
What exactly is 14 units of alcohol? Ariella explains.
- 14 single measures of spirits (ABV 37.5 percent)
- Seven pints of average-strength (4 percent) lager
- Nine and one-third 125ml glasses of average-strength (12 percent) wine
- Seven 175ml glasses of average-strength (12 percent) wine
- Four and two-thirds 250ml glasses of average-strength (12 percent) wine
Ariella adds: “Many people who are dependent drinkers will seek help to stop drinking from their GP and specialist alcohol treatment services. The sooner someone seeks help, the better.”
For those who drink alcohol heavily everyday, Ariella warns against quitting cold turkey.
This is also true for those “who need a drink to stop feeling unwell”, as alcohol withdrawal symptoms may emerge.
These can be “potentially dangerous”, so Arielle recommends seeking support from Change Grow Live.
Available “both online and in-person”, the provider of alcohol treatment services is “readily available at your fingertips”.
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Do you have a drinking problem?
If you’ve already acknowledged you have a drinking problem, then you’ve made a “vital first step”.
“The next step is to think about what level of support might be right for you to help you address your drinking,” says Ariella.
“This can be difficult to work out alone and depends on a lot of factors,” she explains. These include:
- How often and how much you’re drinking;
- How easy you find it to stop having started drinking;
- And the impact of alcohol on your wider life.
“That’s why we’ve developed a quick online Alcohol Advice Quiz,” says Ariella.
“It takes less than three minutes to complete, and has been designed to make it easy to identify what level of support might be right for you and where to start.”
Someone I care about has a drinking problem
What can you do if someone you care about has a drinking problem? Arielle suggests having an “initial conversation”.
Although it could be “awkward and upsetting”, it can help people to “look at their drinking habits and think about seeking support”.
“Sometimes it’s helpful to ask people for their own views about how drinking might be affecting their health, mood, work life or personal relationships,” Arielle advises.
Irregardless of a conversation, “it can take time for someone to acknowledge the impact of problematic drinking in their life”.
To give a helping hand, “pointing someone in the direction of Change Grow Live – and other alcohol support groups – can be hugely beneficial”.
This is because “many people will require specialist, professional support”.
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