Concerns that increasing numbers of people are drinking alcohol at levels that can seriously harm their short and long-term health, are leading to calls encouraging residents to take urgent steps to check how much they’re consuming.
Estimates show the majority of people (75%) drink sensibly and in safe limits but in Kent, approximately 295,000 people are drinking above the recommended safe limits – with 23 per cent at increasing or higher risk and two per cent are dependent on alcohol.
Excessive alcohol consumption* can lead to high blood pressure and also trigger an irregular heartbeat, both of which increase the risk of having a stroke, heavy drinking increases the risk of having a stroke by more than three times. It is also a risk factor for some cancers, particularly head and neck cancers and breast cancer. By drinking less and within the recommended limits, you will reduce your risk of having a stroke, cancer and depression.
Health experts are concerned that the Covid-19 restrictions mean people have been drinking more at home and are not aware of their alcohol intake levels. “With the impact of Covid continuing to affect people’s lifestyles, work and relationships, we are really concerned about people’s drinking habits,” explains Jess Mookherjee, Consultant for Alcohol and Drugs Misuse at Kent County Council. She adds: “We know that some people have already cutback but for many, especially those drinking at home, it’s incredibly difficult to appreciate how many units you’re pouring and we are seeing evidence nationally that people are drinking more regularly which is already leading to a rise in alcohol-related health harms.”
Kent residents are urged to try the ‘Lower My Drinking’ online tool at www.lowermydrinking.com which asks 10 questions about drinking habits before giving users a score and information of where they can get support in Kent to help cutback if they are consuming too much. There is further online support from the ‘Lower My Drinking’ app which is provided by Breaking Free Online and is available on the Google and Apple stores.
It helps Kent residents to self-assess their drinking using a simple questionnaire which then either directs people to the app which can track their alcohol consumption and provides tips to help them cut down, or signposts those who require professional help to their local support services.
There are a range of services available in Kent to help people to get the treatment they need including One You Kent Lifestyle services in the community that can support people if they need further help to cut back. Mark Cummings, One You Kent Locality Lead said: “A healthy lifestyle is a key factor for preventing illness. One You Lifestyle Advisers will spend time discussing any concerns you have including alcohol and the effects that drinking too much could be having on your health and wellbeing.”
A range of formal and informal alcohol support services are available, such as AA and Smart Recovery and Al-anon for friends, family and carers of alcoholics. KCC also commissions specialist treatment providers to provide structured treatment for alcohol addiction. Forward Trust runs the East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service while Change Grow Live (CGL) provides the West Kent Drug and Alcohol Wellbeing Service.
Residents can find a range of tools, tips and local support services that can help you at www.kent.gov.uk/lowermydrinking or call 0300 123 1220.
Jess Mookherjee added: “People who are affected by alcohol addiction do not have to suffer alone, we want them to get help. It is important to get support they need at the right time. If people are drinking because they are depressed and stressed we urge them to see their GPs or contact Live Well Kent. Alcohol is never the real solution for these issues. “For those who feel their drinking is hurting themselves or loved ones, or they are having trouble keeping their lives in control, we urge them to get the support available now, your lives are important, help is available”.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
*The Department of Health recommends drinking levels do not regularly exceed more than 14 units a week. One pint of strong beer or cider equals three units, as does a large glass (250ml) of wine. A small glass of wine (175ml) amounts to two units while a bottle of beer can mean 1.5 units but these can all vary depending on the alcoholic strength of the drink.