No Proof: Time to Drop the Drink?
As the summer winds down, many of us took the opportunity to enjoy our social lives again and did so with a drink in our hands. But what happens next? This latest blog looks at the dangers of lockdown drinking.
So, how was summer for you? Did you enjoy any, some, or all these activities?
An afternoon in the beer garden. Attending a boutique festival or two. ‘Having a few people over’. Watching the Euros at the pub. A holiday, either in the UK or abroad. Sitting in the garden, on the balcony, or in the park. Sound familiar?
The chances are if that paragraph sets bells ringing, you’ll have enjoyed a drink or two as an accompaniment to a summer’s day, afternoon, or evening. And why not? We are British. It’s what we do, life’s been difficult, the sun’s out – albeit briefly – and who would begrudge us a bit of fun?
No arguments from me. But there’s a difference between using alcohol as a social lubricant to make the most of a shared, communal situation and creating a lifestyle around a poison – a full-on toxin –with whom we have an ambiguous relationship, skewed in the wrong direction by lockdown.
And that’s the problem. As we are constantly being told, these are unprecedented times and behaviours we’ve taken for granted – ie having alcohol-free days or weeks – can no longer be assumed. Suddenly, doing the right thing isn’t as easy.
As this NHS report, Statistics on Alcohol England 2020 points out, we’re heading the wrong way with a collective lead foot on the accelerator. The latest figures show alcohol was the main reason 358,000 people were admitted to hospital in 2018/19, a 6% increase on 2017/18 and 19% more than 2008/09. This Alcohol Change report warns that a quarter of us increased our drinking during the lockdown – and these behaviours are likely to adhere.
Life beyond booze
Alcohol Change also noted a 242% rise in website visits between 23 March and 23 June compared to the same period in 2019. So the appetite to reduce or remove alcohol is there for many. This is not a subject for a 1,000-word blog. It’s too specialist and in some cases, alcohol withdrawal comes with symptoms and must be managed by a specially-trained medical professional.
However, we’re medical professionals, too, with an eye on our customers and we’re right behind you, just as we’re here to help you give up smoking. There is a stack of helpful advice out there; everyone from charities such as Drinkaware, agencies like GOV.UK and the NHS, while retailers such as drydrinker.com are on hand to make your landing as soft as possible.
Motivation matters: Be clear on why you’re doing this. If you’re a habitual drinker, you are making a major lifestyle commitment and it’s important to focus on the drivers behind your decision. Being hungover isn’t a good reason in of itself. Drinkaware offers sage advice: “Some people need to stop drinking [to prevent] an alcohol related medical condition such as liver disease. Others choose … religious reasons, or simply as a move towards a healthier lifestyle.” The same source offers great tips for cutting down at home. If you think you’re in danger, click before you clink.