As Hallowe’en approaches, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding those who choose to drink to be aware of their alcoholic units, particularly in party punch and cocktails and to stay within safe limits.
Owen O’Neill, PHA Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager and joint regional lead for alcohol and drugs, said: “Hallowe’en is an exciting event that everyone can enjoy, but it’s also important to be smart if you use alcohol and make sure that your drinking does not spoil the celebrations for yourself or others.
“Excessive and binge drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. Drinking too much can also increase the risk of accidents and antisocial behaviour as well as sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.
“We would also strongly advise those making punch or cocktails to act responsibly. Be aware of the dangers of using large quantities or mixtures of alcohol. We actively encourage anyone drinking home-made alcoholic beverages to find out exactly what you are taking. Consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short time (binge drinking) can result in alcohol poisoning, and in extreme cases, lead to brain damage, coma or death. This could be a particular risk if you are unaware of the alcoholic content of party drinks.”
Daily alcohol limits are recommended by the government in order to avoid the risks of excessive and binge drinking in any one session. These are:
No more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol a day and no more than 21 units over the course of the week.
No more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units over the course of the week.
Examples of units:
- 70cl bottle of wine – 7 to 10 units
- Small pub bottle of wine – 2.25 units
- Standard 275ml of alcopops – 1.5 to 1.8 units
- 70cl bottle of alcopops – 3.75 to 4.5 units
- Pub measure of spirits – 1.5 units
- Can of extra strong lager – 4 units
- Bottle of lager – 1.5 units
- Pint of standard lager – 2.5 units
- Pint of premium larger – 3 units
- Pint of cider – 3 units
- Pint of stout – 2.5 units
If you do choose to drink alcohol:
- Ever drink and drive
- Drink on an empty stomach
- Mix alcohol with other drugs
- Drink in rounds as this may speed up your drinking
- Leave your drinks unattended
- Take sips rather than gulps
- Alternate each alcoholic drink with a non alcoholic drink e.g. water or a soft drink
- Set yourself a limit and try to stick to it (refer to daily alcohol limits)
- Take frequent breaks from drinking to give your body time to recover
- Tell friends and family where you are going and who you will be with
Remember, that for each unit you drink over the daily limit, the risk to your health increases. It’s important to spread the units throughout the week – you can’t ‘save up’ your units for eg the weekend or for your Hallowe’en celebrations. It is also important to drink plenty of water, ideally matching the amount of alcohol you have consumed.
For further information on sensible drinking and alcohol units visit the Public Health Agency’s website www.knowyourlimits.info
Contact PHA Communications on (028) 9055 3663.
Notes to the editor
- The Public Health Agency takes the lead on the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs, Phase 2, 2011–2016.
- PHA funded Drug and Alcohol service directories are available at: www.publichealthagency.org/publications/drug-and-alcohol-directories-services
- A booklet to help parents talk to their children about alcohol, You, Your Child and Alcohol, is available from GP surgeries, pharmacies, Post Offices and from the publications section on the PHA website, www.publichealth.hscni.net.
Further information on the effects of excessive drinking can be found at: www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Tipsoncuttingdown.aspx
There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can exaggerate this, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.
Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake up.
Drinking can affect your judgment and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you’re drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long-term for regular heavy drinkers.
Long-term heavy drinking can lead to your heart becoming enlarged. This is a serious condition that can’t be completely reversed, but stopping drinking is an important part of preventing it getting worse.
Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.