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Drinking alcohol every day can drastically harm your physical and mental health. Over 8 million people in England are drinking too much alcohol every day according to the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.
Experts have warned that millions of people every year are causing dangerous levels of ‘silent harm’ to themselves and others, where levels of alcohol intake have drastically increased since the pandemic. 
Their latest data test concluded that there are twice as many men drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol than there are women.
Following the pandemic, people started drinking at home more often. When people party at home, they can drink for hours without an ‘end limit’, as your home doesn’t shut as a pub would.
People are less likely to keep track of measures, as it is more likely that they will ‘free-pour’ their drinks.
The NHS recommends specific alcohol limits. The guideline is that adults should drink a maximum of 14 units per week but spread over more than 3 days. There is no ‘safe’ amount of alcohol, as everybody metabolises alcohol differently. 
There are so many different types of alcohol, mixed drinks, and shots. It is then very easy to misjudge how much you are drinking. The idea of alcohol units was introduced around 1987 as a way of helping people know the quantity of pure alcohol that is in each drink.
A single unit of alcohol is 8 grams of pure alcohol. This is called a ‘unit’ as it is the amount of alcohol that an average adult can process in a single hour. In theory, this means that an hour after drinking one unit, there should be no (or very little) alcohol left in your blood.
The NHS has stated that units per drink are based on alcohol strength, but it also takes into account the size of the drink. Knowing and understanding units will help you control the amount of alcohol you are drinking per day and every week.
To check the amount of alcohol in each drink, there is an ‘ABV’ label on the back of the bottle or can, or you can ask the bartender. ‘ABV’ stands for alcohol by volume, measuring the amount of alcohol as a percentage.
For example, wine might have 12% ABV on the back of the bottle. To work out the units, multiply the volume of the drink (mls) by its ABV, and then divide the number by 1000. So a 12% 750 ml bottle of wine would be roughly 9 units.
Binge drinking has been defined as a form of excessive drinking during one single occasion. Drinking more than 4 drinks for a woman, or more than 5 drinks for a man on one occasion is considered to be binge drinking. 
The NIAAA states that when men consume more the 4 drinks a day, or over 14 drinks a week, they are drinking heavily. Women that consume more than 3 drinks a day or more than 7 drinks a week are also ‘heavy drinkers’. 
When people are no longer in control of their alcohol consumption, they may be classed as dependent on alcohol or addicted to alcohol. Despite the negative consequences, emotional distress, and physical or mental impairment, alcoholics will keep drinking. 
Alcoholism is a chronic disease, diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).
In order to diagnose alcoholism, patients must present with more than 2 of the following criteria: 
Drinking every day is harmful in both the short term and the long term.
The GI tract (gastrointestinal tract) is an organ that leads directly from the mouth into the stomach, through the small intestine, and into the colon.
This is the first point of contact that alcohol has with the body, irritating the inner lining of the GI tract. This is likely to cause redness, swelling and inflammation.
This may lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease, or ‘GERD’. The inflammation caused by alcohol consumption is the body using blood cells to heal the damage the alcohol has caused. Over time, the inflammation damages tissues leading to GERD, cancer, and cell death.
The liver is the next point of contact for alcohol, so daily consumption of alcohol means the liver has to put in extra work. Alcohol is metabolised by enzymes (e.g. alcohol dehydrogenase) in the liver that helps break up and get rid of toxins.
Alcohol has a large effect on the liver, causing fatty liver, liver hepatitis, and possible fibrosis, which is permanent scarring of liver tissue. This inflammation and scarring of the liver can have severe long-term impacts, such as liver failure and Cirrhosis.
The heart has to work harder to push blood around the body as alcohol dehydrates you. This will increase blood pressure and may cause an irregular heartbeat.
As alcohol causes the body to lose fluid, this will increase the number of times people use the bathroom. Alcohol increases the amount of urine produced by the kidneys, causing people to ‘break the seal’ and use the bathroom a lot when drinking.
The body also tries to retain water (water retention) when consuming alcohol. This causes the body to have less water in it overall, meaning the kidneys are filtering a higher concentration of toxins and harmful substances.
In the future, this may lead to kidney failure and damage to other organs due to unfiltered substances and toxins.
This leads to an intense feeling of hunger, most likely satisfied by fatty foods. During alcohol consumption, studies suggest that the brain releases galanin, explaining the need for fatty foods such as pizza or kebabs after a drinking session.
Having a poor diet may lead to high cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a form of blood fat produced in the liver, required to transport different molecules and lipids around the body.
However, too much cholesterol in the blood will damage the interior membranes of arteries and veins. This damage will cause a blood clot as the body is designed to clot where there is damage. If the clot enlarges, it may break off.
The clot will then travel around the body where it can cause serious damage, such as ending up in the heart and causing a stroke. 
We mustn’t forget that short-term alcohol risks are not just disease-related. Binge drinking can also result in: 
It is not surprising that alcohol is closely linked to mental health. There is often a dual diagnosis concerning mental health; people who drink heavily are more likely to suffer from ill mental health, and those with mental health conditions are likely to self-medicate using alcohol and drugs.
Alcohol disrupts the balance of the brain’s neurotransmitters, affecting the chemical messengers in the brain. This changes feelings and thoughts, often affecting behaviour as a result.
Initially, alcohol relaxes you and makes you feel less stressed and more confident. This is because alcohol affects the brain’s control inhibitions.
‘Blacking out’ also makes us feel anxious, as we have gaps in our memory of the night. Blacking out tends to occur when someone drinks too much in a short space of time, blocking short-term memories from becoming long-term memories.
Drinking alcohol every day can reduce the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. The fewer neurotransmitters we have, the less likely we are to be able to fight mental health conditions.
This leads people to drink more in order to calm the effects of anxiety, or escape depression, but alcohol only exacerbates mental health conditions in the long run. If this is the case, you may be at the start of the cycle of dependence or addiction.
Alcohol is a depressant, but it can also affect:
The short-term damage from the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, heart and blood, can cause and exacerbate the development of severe diseases.
Most diseases or conditions caused by alcohol cannot be reversed once they are passed a certain point.
The following are just a few of the long-term health risks that result from chronic alcohol abuse over time:
This is why it is important to check the alcohol percentage and units on every alcoholic drink, so you are aware of how much you are drinking. Check the alcohol content and how many drinks per week you are consuming in order to avoid chronic drinking and its harmful effects.
There are limited benefits of alcohol consumption. Most people drink alcohol during social occasions, as it tends to have a relaxing effect and make people more ‘fun’.
However, as a depressant, alcohol increases the chances of mental health conditions, alcohol-related cancers, foetal alcohol syndrome, and other physical symptoms.
Long-term alcohol use is likely to lead to alcohol dependence, alcohol overdose and other adverse health effects. If you are worried about your drinking habits or related medical conditions, then reach out and get help – it is never too early.
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If you’re living with problematic or addictive substance use, at some point someone will mention counselling. You might have heard of it in relation to treating stress, mental health conditions, …