People have been reminded of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption as the UK prepares itself for a new range of regional Covid-19 restrictions.
A recent special edition of the Global Drug Survey compared respondents’ intake of alcohol before the pandemic to their intake during the pandemic and it showed that over half of British respondents have increased the number of days they drink alcohol since Covid-19 took hold.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Psychiatrists fears addiction services could struggle to cope with rising numbers of people misusing alcohol.
BHSF clinician Dr Rohit Prajapati said: “The effects of alcohol abuse on the body are frightening.
“Over time it can cause so many health issues such as poor memory, fits, falls, accidents, brain damage, liver damage, heart trouble and bone problems. Alcohol excess is also associated with a number of cancers, too.
“Sometimes people drink because they think it’s the easiest way for them to cope with a mental health issue. But in the current climate it could be because of the fallout from Covid such as unemployment, bereavement or any one of a number of reasons. It should not be forgotten that alcohol is related to violent crime and suicide.
“It’s quite common for people to use alcohol as a coping mechanism so it’s important to get to the source of the problem and address the reasons for drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption might be a by-product of another issue so then it becomes an even bigger problem.”
He added: “Part of the issue might be that many people do not know what the recommended weekly intake is anymore. It used to be 14 units for a female and 21 units for a male, but it has changed in recent times to 14 units for both sexes.
“A healthy liver can metabolise approximately one unit per hour.
“In my experience, many people discount the effects of alcohol on driving. There are over 200 drink-driving deaths per year and you are 30 times more likely to crash if you are driving at twice the legal limit.”
One of BHSF’s core products is BHSF RISE, a service that offers clients 24/7 support and guidance from expert counsellors. It also provides 24/7 access to specialised treatment for people who believe their alcohol consumption is or could become problematic.
Dr Prajapati said: “Alcohol can have a major impact in the work environment. It can affect your ability to think clearly, to operate dangerous machinery and there’s obviously the risk of absence due to excessive consumption.
“That’s why BHSF try to intervene as early as possible with a number of mechanisms such as counselling or even goal-setting.
“It can be very helpful to establish a connection between employer, employee and BHSF so that we can continually assess an employee’s journey.”
Tracy Paxton from The Employee Resilience Company echoed Dr Prajapati’s warning.
She said: “Many of us have experienced feelings of social isolation during the pandemic, and a possible effect of physical distancing can worsen symptoms of anxiety or depression, which may encourage more alcohol intake.
“The stress of economic uncertainty, being furloughed, unemployment or anxiety are just some of the reasons that the Covid-19 situation may be influencing alcohol consumption.
“More people may drink, and people may drink more heavily to cope with stress, sleep disturbances – even boredom – increasing their risk of alcohol use disorder and other adverse consequences.”