The 9 lies we tell ourselves about drinking — and when to seek help

WE know the tremendous harm of drinking – cancer, heart disease, accidents and addiction.

However, we will use any excuse to defend our drinking habits, from stress relief to a little confidence boost.

"wine is good for me" is a common excuse for lovers of the drink


“Wine is good for me” is a common excuse for wine loversCredit: Alamy

The pandemic has changed the habits of heavy drinkers for the worse, research from the University of Sheffield warned last week.

The effect ranges from 1,830 to 25,192 deaths over the next 20 years, depending on how quickly drinking habits return to pre-pandemic levels.

Colin Angus, a senior research fellow who led the University of Sheffield study, said heavy drinkers may have been drinking more at home during lockdown, and when pubs and bars reopened they continued to do both.

A glass of wine in the evening to “de-stress” seems harmless – or at least that’s what you think for sure.

Are you in an alcohol risk area? Take the test to get your score
From late-night routines to home workouts, how to break your lockdown hangover

Prof Angus and other experts revealed to The Telegraph the usual dangerous lies we tell ourselves about our drinking:

1. Red wine is good for me

You may have heard that red wine is good for you – but take it with a pinch of salt.

Colin Angus said most of the studies that have found benefits of the compound resveratrol in red wine, including for the heart, have been done in mice.

They are given huge doses equivalent to a human drinking a “swimming pool of red wine.”

“So it’s nonsense,” said Prof. Angus. “Drink red wine if you like. But don’t drink it because you think it’s better for you. It really isn’t.”

2. I don’t get drunk

Being “drunk” isn’t always the problem when it comes to heavy drinking, experts say.

In addition to potential short-term consequences like injury, alcohol has long-term effects on the body that contribute to chronic diseases like cancer, Prof Angus said.

He added: “Whether or not you have a tolerance for alcohol doesn’t matter. If you have a high tolerance, you probably got it from drinking a significant amount, so you’re probably at increased chronic risk.”

3. I’m better company when I drink

Many people feel more confident after having a drink or two.

Sadie Boniface, research director at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so having a drink or two is likely to make you feel more sociable and comfortable.

“But it also impairs your judgement.

“You may feel like you’re in better company, but you just can’t judge as well as you normally do.”

Sandra Parker, an alcohol-free trainer and founder of Just The Tonic Coaching, previously told The Sun: “It’s a little bit of false confidence because the more you drink the less aware you are of how you come across.

“In fact, you probably feel more anxious the next day because you can’t remember exactly what you said.

“You’re less likely to be tactful or leave when you want to leave.”

4. I only drink the good stuff

Whether it’s a cheap can of lager or an expensive vintage wine, alcohol is alcohol, Ms Boniface said.

All alcoholic beverages are made with ethanol, an intoxicating ingredient that causes a hangover and leads to addiction.

5. A glass a day never hurts

Experts say limiting the drink to 14 units per week, which is technically one sip per day, to keep health risks at lower levels.

Therefore, while one glass a day is within recommended limits, it is not harmless.

Boniface said that “a glass” can be a 175 ml (medium) wine in the pub, which is 2.2 units.

But “if you’re drinking at home, there’s no guarantee you’re going to pour 175ml, especially if it’s not your first glass,” she said.

6. It helps me relax

Undoubtedly, a glass at the end of the day helps us unwind, said Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK.

But he said: “One of the most interesting findings is that the effect is almost identical when people sit down in the pub with friends with a non-alcoholic beer at the end of the day.

“The mental trigger, the decision to switch off, is by far the biggest factor, as opposed to the alcohol itself.”

Additionally, the after-effects of alcohol can leave you feeling far from relaxed.

Alcohol alters chemicals in the brain that initially loosen your inhibitions and make you happy, but the next morning can leave you in the pits of hangxiety.

do you drink too much

HERE are some signs you’re drinking too much alcohol, according to the NHS:

  • You feel that you should limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Other people have criticized or commented on your intake.
  • You feel guilty or bad about your alcohol consumption.
  • You need a drink first thing in the morning to calm your nerves or get rid of a hangover.
  • You can’t remember what happened the night before.
  • You fail to do what is expected of you the next day, such as going to work or meeting an appointment.

Rehabilitation Clinic Delamere says it’s fairly easy to self-diagnose alcoholism if a person is honest about their alcohol use and asks themselves the following questions:

  1. If you drink, can you control the amount of alcohol you consume and drink in moderation?
  2. If you would like to stop drinking or reduce it, are you able to do so and are you able to keep it up?

Answering “NO” to both of these questions indicates that a person has an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) over which they have no control.

If you’re concerned about your drinking or someone else’s drinking, seeing a GP is a good first step, says the NHS.

They can discuss the services and treatments available to you after they have evaluated your drinking habits using screening tests.

Treatment usually includes counseling and medication to help you slowly cut back on drinking and avoid withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of charities, support groups and private clinics that can help.

7. A drink helps me fall asleep

A night cap can help you fall asleep, but regardless of whether you slept late, it will not be good.

Sandra said: “Alcohol helps you fall asleep, but it doesn’t enable you to have a good night’s sleep.

“Often you wake up in the night, maybe you feel dehydrated, you can’t go back to sleep. Even if you don’t wake up, that’s not a good night’s sleep.”

Mr Piper said when people take part in Alcohol Change UK’s Dry January Challenge, they always report getting more sleep.

8. I don’t drink every day

Whether you enjoy a drink during the day or binge on the weekend, the risks are the same — although it’s recommended that sessions be spread out over a week.

Mr Piper said if you drink 14 units a week, every week, you have a one percent chance of dying from alcohol [-related causes].

This increases to four percent if you drink 28 units and up to 10 percent at 42 units per week (about 14 large glasses of wine per week).

“You have a pretty good chance of being one of those people who die from cancer, stroke or heart disease,” Mr Piper said.

“They roll the dice, whether spread over three or seven nights a week.”

9. I am retired

Retired and with no work commitments, how bad can half a bottle of wine in the evening be?

Unofruntaley, the effects of aging — “hardening and hardening of the arteries, weight gain and type 2 diabetes” — can be made worse by drinking too much in your 60s, said Dr. Sarah Brewer previously told The Sun.

“Long-term excessive alcohol consumption is associated with four particular types of liver damage: obesity, inflammation (hepatitis), scar tissue formation (fibrosis) or even alcoholic cirrhosis – a serious condition in which the liver shrinks.”

While there are dangers to drinking at any age, the effects of decades of drinking do compound as we age, Prof Angus said.

Where to get help

  • Drinkline is the national alcohol hotline if you’re concerned about your own drinking or someone else’s drinking. Call 0300 123 1110
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free support group
  • Al-Anon Family Groups offers support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers
  • The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcoholic parents and others who are concerned about their well-being. Call 0800 358 3456
  • SMART Recovery groups help people decide if they have a problem, build motivation for change, and offer a range of proven tools and techniques to support recovery The 9 lies we tell ourselves about drinking — and when to seek help

Sarah Y. Kim

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