- Harmful drinking levels have increased over the coronavirus pandemic, Public Health England data shows
- Addictions specialist Dr Niall Campbell explains the impact that heavy drinking can have on a person’s health and wellbeing and how Go Sober for October can help a person to readdress their relationship with alcohol
- Dr Campbell breaks down the week-by-week benefits that a person can expect to see when they stop drinking for a month
More people are drinking harmful levels of alcohol since the coronavirus pandemic began, data published by Public Health England shows.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), an estimated 8.4 million people drank “high risk” levels of alcohol in June, compared to 4.8 million four months earlier.
Priory Group’s Dr Niall Campbell, one of the UK’s leading experts in alcohol addiction, warns of the impact that heavy drinking can have on a person’s health: “When a person drinks harmful levels of alcohol, they are in danger of damaging their whole body. Alcohol has a particularly toxic effect on the liver and brain, as well as on the heart, stomach and pancreas. It can seriously impact a person’s mental health too.
“Heavy drinking can also affect a person’s work and home life. Relationships can start to fracture, work performance can dwindle and a person may start to become more isolated in their drinking.”
Dr Campbell explains how Go Sober for October can help people who have been drinking more over the coronavirus pandemic: “Quitting alcohol for the month gives you time to think clearly about your recent drinking habits. During an alcohol-free October, you will start to notice the benefits of reducing your alcohol consumption. You will also begin to recognise the harmful effect drinking had previously been having on your body, mind, work, finances and relationships. This recognition can then help you to determine how you want to change your relationship with alcohol going forward.”
Week-by-week benefits of Go Sober for October
For people who do choose to take part in Go Sober for October, Dr Campbell has outlined the week-by-week benefits that they can expect to see:
Within one week
You will sleep better. When you drink, you typically fall straight into a deep sleep and miss out on important rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. As a result, you only get one to two cycles of REM sleep after drinking, as opposed to the recommended six to seven cycles a night. As your sleep improves, you will notice that you are more productive and have better control over your emotions and behaviour.
You will also be more hydrated. When drinking alcohol, you typically lose around four times as much liquid as what you actually consumed. During your month off alcohol, your improved hydration levels will result in you having fewer headaches and more energy throughout the day.
Within a fortnight
After two weeks off alcohol, you will continue to reap the benefits of better sleep and hydration.
Also, as alcohol is an irritant to the stomach lining, you will see a reduction in symptoms such as reflux, where stomach acid burns your throat.
You may start losing weight as a result of giving up alcohol’s empty calories too. If you were to stop drinking six 175ml glasses of wine per week, you would save 1920 calories in the first two weeks, and 2160 if you’d stopped drinking around six pints of lager.
Within three weeks
Drinking too much alcohol can cause your blood pressure to rise. After three to four alcohol-free weeks, your blood pressure will start to reduce. This can help to lessen the risk of health problems occurring in the future.
Within four weeks
Your boosted hydration levels will start to have a positive effect on your skin as more water is being absorbed rather than wasted. This can help to reduce skin problems such as dandruff and eczema.
Removing alcohol from your diet for four weeks can also help to improve your liver function. You liver will start to shed excess fat and if your liver function is not too badly affected by alcohol, it will recover within 4-8 weeks.
By the end of Go Sober for October, you are likely to have reduced your calorie intake by 3840 for the month, if you used to drink six glasses of 175ml wine a week, or 4320 calories over the month if you used to drink six pints of lager a week.
While Go Sober for October can help certain people to rethink and readdress their relationship with alcohol, Dr Campbell warns against people with a serious alcohol problem taking part: “For anyone who is physically dependent on alcohol, cut down rather than stop. I also highly recommend that you seek professional support to make sure you remain safe and well as you give up alcohol, whether that is through Alcoholics Anonymous, an addictions therapist or a rehabilitation facility.”