Many people associate alcohol use with fun, being social and with celebrations. At times we may use it to help us feel better when we are tense or unhappy or to feel more confident. Social drinking can be enjoyable and bring people together (1).
People drink alcohol for a variety of reasons, some of which include to:
Effects of Alcohol
It is important to understand that alcohol can affect different people in different ways (2) and this is influenced by a variety of factors including; how much they have drunk, how quickly they have drunk it, how regularly they drink, their mood at the time, their age, sex and body weight, their general health and nutrition and whether they have eaten (3).
Another important thing to understand about alcohol is that although it initially acts as a ‘pick me up’ and mood enhancer it is ultimately a depressant which means that it slows down the time it takes to respond to things and can affect coordination and judgement (3). People often don’t realise how much they are drinking or its impact on those around them (1).
Drinking large amounts over time and on a regular basis can have a range of social, psychological, physical and economic consequences and impacts on your life and on those around you.
Attitudes to Alcohol
Our attitudes towards alcohol and in turn our drinking behaviour can be dependent on context and environment. Alcohol can often become associated with issues and transitions that occur in our lives, particularly due to its ability to help you to relax and reduce tension which can lead to it being used to avoid or manage difficult situations.
When does drinking become a problem?
Most people who drink alcohol will have had at least one experience of alcohol self-harm – a hangover! If you consistently drink fairly heavily your tolerance to alcohol’s effects will increase and you can run the risk of developing a dependence, which can be physical, psychologically or (more commonly) both (1).
If you recognise the presence of two or more of the following it might be time to do something about your drinking:
(*It is important to note that most drinkers stop well short of dependency)
How to drink more responsibly
You can monitor your drinking more closely if you:
Thinking about reducing or limiting your alcohol intake? Here are some ideas that might help:
Helping someone else
It can be extremely distressing if someone you care about is drinking at levels that create problems for themselves or others. Although you can encourage and support them to make changes, it is ultimately their decision to make whether they want to and are prepared to make changes to their alcohol use. It can be helpful to bear this in mind particularly if you are sensitive about alcohol due to your own previous experiences.
Suggestions that can be helpful when supporting someone to reduce their alcohol use
Things might happen or reading this might prompt you to look at your current situation and how you feeling about where you are at or where you might be heading. Sometimes it helps to talk things over with someone else in order to make sense of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Sometimes friends and family are enough, and sometimes you might need to seek out more formal support structures.
Where to get help?
If you live in the Albury Wodonga Health catchment you can access information on local support services here.
For more information about how alcohol and other drugs can affect your mental health and wellbeing you can read the fact sheets from Duel Diagnosis Australia and New Zealand.