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When social drinking becomes a problem

Alcohol UnitsAccording to BBC News alcohol-related health issues among baby boomers are on the rise. Daily drinking can start off as a social event but turn into dependency, addiction experts say. So when does social drinking become alcoholism?

In the festive season, with office parties, Christmas, and new year, there is opportunity aplenty for yet another tipple.

Since the 1950s, alcohol consumption in the UK has gradually increased. The NHS now spends more on alcohol-related illness among baby boomers than any other age group, with £825m spent on 55 to 74-year-olds in 2010-11 compared to £64m on under-24s.

When someone becomes dependent or addicted to alcohol, they:

Develop a strong sense of compulsion to drink
May drink shortly after waking to reduce feelings of alcohol withdrawal
Develop a reduced capacity to control how often and how much they drink
Organise their lifestyle around drinking
Continue to drink despite physical or social problems
Source: BBC Health

Estimates also suggest about nine per cent of men and three per cent of women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence.

But it is the functioning alcoholic that can slip under the radar – before their health issues are severe enough to need treatment.

Dr John Marsden, an alcohol and drug dependency expert from King’s College London, says a typical functioning alcoholic can manage to hold down a job despite having a “very severe drinking problem that they have been incubating over a very long period”.

“Alcohol problems are difficult to understand because they do not occur overnight. They are hidden from view which makes functioning alcoholics a group we cannot easily help.”

Rob C, who is 61, was one of them. At his worst he was drinking 1.5 litres of straight vodka per day.

“Then I began to suffer blackouts, losing whole days and not remembering anything.”

He would be first to arrive at work, which made him able to set out his “drinks for the day with what looked like a bottle of mineral water”.

“I would hide bottles around the office. You think nobody else knows, that it doesn’t smell, that you’re getting away with it. But of course they did notice.”

A lifetime’s worth of drinking is catching up with baby boomers, says Emily Robinson from the Alcohol Concern.

The charity hopes that their campaign, Dry January, will help get people thinking about how much they drink, especially at home when units are harder to measure, and crucially, before they reach a stage where drinking is affecting their health.

“The issue of people drinking every day is worrying as it’s a way of slipping into dependency, as you need to drink a little more each time to feel the same effects,” she says.

To read more, please click here.

If you are worried about your own, or someone else’s drinking, Warwickshire’s Drug & Alcohol Action team can help point you in the right direction.

If you’re over 18, contact The Recovery Partnership for advice, information and treatment options.

For under 18s, Compass Warwickshire provides targeted and specialist interventions for young people who are affected by their own or another’s substance misuse.

ESH Works also run a service user involvement and family support service for those affected by alcohol.

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