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Drinking Alcohol

While alcohol is a source of pleasure for many, it is also the cause of significant individual, social and economic harm

Alcohol is an addictive, depressant drug and a major cause of illnesses such as liver cirrhosis, cancers, heart disease, and social problems including social exclusion, unemployment, homelessness, violence, disorder, health inequality, teenage pregnancy and accidents

Alcohol is a factor in:

  • One in three sexual offences
  • One in three burglaries
  • One in two street crimes

It has been identified that 40% of Leeds students are hazardous or higher risk drinkers. This impacts not only upon the individuals concerned who place themselves in higher-risk situations but also upon A&E attendances and policing costs in the City

When it comes to our health, it’s the effect of drinking regularly over months, years and decades that causes the most harm

It doesn’t matter whether you take it in cocktails, beer, wine, cider or lager; it’s the alcohol that counts

Alcohol affects all kinds of cells in the body, causing changes in some and stopping others from working properly. As with most ‘poisons’, the more you take, the worse the effects are

Our livers make a special substance that breaks down alcohol and burn it as fuel. But alcohol exhausts the liver’s ability to do this and too much too often can damage it permanently

Given a chance, the liver can repair a lot of damage. This is why it’s important to drink sensibly and have non-drinking days as well as not drinking too much at any one time

Alcohol is also a depressant meaning you may have less control over your emotions and reactions

If you have been advised to download a structured advice tool this can be downloaded from here.

Measuring alcohol consumption

The alcohol content of drinks is measured in ‘units’. Each unit is equivalent to around 10mls or 8g of pure alcohol. The number of units in any drink is related to the strength of the alcohol content and to the volume of the drink

A single (35ml) shot of spirits contains roughly the same amount of alcohol as a small (125ml) glass of wine. This is about the same amount of alcohol (1.4 units) as is contained in a half-pint of normal strength beer. In other words, beers are no safer than spirits. What matters is how much you drink

On average, it takes about one hour for your body to break down one unit of alcohol.  However, this can vary, depending on;

  • your weight
  • whether you’re male or female
  • your age
  • how quickly or slowly your body turns food into energy (your metabolism)
  • how much food you have eaten
  • the type and strength of the alcohol
  • whether you’re taking medication and, if so, what type

It can also take longer if your liver isn’t working normally

According to UK government guidelines 

  • Women should ideally drink no more than 2-3 units a day
  • Men no more than 3-4 units a day


Sensible Drinking Tips

  • Count up how many units you’ve had over a few days. You’ll probably be surprised
  • Ditch big rounds: It’s easy to end up drinking more when you’re out in a big group. Pair off to buy drinks instead
  • Take a break: If you’ve had too much in one night, avoid alcohol for at least 48 hours
  • Take care at parties. Keep track of how much you are drinking
  • Eating will slow the alcohol absorption in your system
  • Say no to a top-up until your glass is empty. It’s difficult to know how much you are drinking if your glass is being topped up
  • When you’re drinking at home with friends and family, don’t pour much larger measures of spirits than you would get in a bar.  Use an imaginary unit measure to help keep track (or even a real one)
  • Plan how you’re going to get home before your night out. Take a taxi or ask a non-drinking driver to collect you
  • Have a buddy system. Make sure when you go on a night out you always have a buddy. Alcohol can have an impact on your memory and your ability to make decisions. By staying with a friend you can look out for each other when you may have had too much to drink
  • Set a budget: it is easy to get carried away on a night out and the next day you find you have no money left for the rent or food – you may not even have enough for a taxi home. Plan in advance and stick to your budget
  • Drink water: dehydration is the main cause of a hangover. Have a glass of water or a soft drink between alcoholic drinks. And drink water before going to bed

Support available

Alcohol and Drugs

For information about the health benefits of reducing your alcohol intake, tips for cutting down, useful contacts and the support available please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/

Forward Leeds

Forward Leeds supports adults and young people to make healthy choices about alcohol and drugs. They reduce risk-taking behaviours through dedicated prevention, early intervention and tailored programmes.

For more information, please visit https://www.forwardleeds.co.uk/

Forward Leeds run a clinic onsite at Leeds Student Medical Practice on Thursday afternoons. If you are registered with us, you can book an appointment directly into this clinic by contacting Leeds Student Medical Practice reception in person or by calling 0113 29 54488.