Am I drinking too much alcohol?

After 10 tequila shots and a killer hangover, you may start to ask yourself if you’re drinking a little too much. If this is a one-time occurrence, then you’re all good; if it starts to feel like deja vú, we might need to have a look at your drinking habits. Don’t stress, no one is here to call you out, we just wanna help.

A red-headed woman is sitting at a desk. She has her phone in her hand. She is thinking about the benefits of not drinking alcohol. She is looking off to the distance, pensively. This is a close-up image.

Am I drinking too much alcohol? 

Any of these sound like you

  • Drinking larger amounts to get buzzed
  • Doing things when you’re drunk that you seriously regret in the morning 
  • Missing a lecture/appointment because of a hangover
  • Binge drinking i.e staying sober for a while then excessively drinking in one go

Then it’s probably time to stop drinking.

How much is too much? 

Alcohol consumption is measured in units. Here are some rough guides:

  • Half a pint of beer or cider = 1.5 units
  • A small glass (125ml) of wine = 1.5 units
  • A single measure of spirits (e.g. whisky, vodka, rum or gin) = one unit

The government recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis. So basically 14 shots a week, which is pretty decent if you think about it. This comes with a MAJOR disclaimer though. Remember that everyone is unique and the amount of alcohol you need to feel buzzed could be different to a generalised number the government came up with. You know your body best. So as soon as you feel like you’ve had enough, step away from the drinks for the night.

If you think you’re going over the limit or just feeling kind of confused about your alcohol consumption, try setting up a drinking diary for a while. You can also use an app like the NHS drink tracker, to get an idea of how much you’re drinking. 

We know it can be difficult to figure this stuff out, especially when you’re under pressure to fit in with your mates, but we’re here to offer some support. Read our article on the links between binge drinking and toxic masculinity here

How can I cut down on drinking too much alcohol? 

Review your lifestyle 

Identify those places and situations when you feel like you need a drink. It could be anywhere, maybe the bar after work or on the weekend with friends. Point is, if you know you’ll be tempted then think about steering clear. Alternatively, try turning up later than usual to minimise your drinking time, or start the night with a soft drink so you don’t end up getting wasted by the time you’re ready to go. 

Drink for the right reasons 

Try and associate drinking with celebrations, or cultural and religious events, rather than a way to forget your problems or boost your confidence. Something that could also help is to think of alcohol as the side thing to the actual reason you’re going out, not just an activity on it’s own.

Pace yourself 

Binge drinking is pretty dangerous. Your body can only process one unit of alcohol per hour, so there’s a whole lot of backlog being created during a binge. The more rapidly you drink the more intense the effects will be, but that doesn’t make the experience any more enjoyable. If you find it hard to press pause on the booze, try putting your drink down more often. That way you’re less likely to drink as much or as quickly. It’s all about playing tricks on your mind to help it, kind of like if your parents told you that your teacher called home when they knew you were procrastinating. Eventually, you’ll realise that there are TONNES of benefits of not drinking alcohol and you won’t even miss the stuff.

Learn new bar tricks 

If you’re at the bar with a glass in your hand, try talking more. Use your mouth for something other than boozing and you’re less likely to pass out at the end of the night. Eating can also have the same stalling effect – though be careful with salty snacks, they might just elevate your thirst.

Know your limit 

Before you start drinking, be sure you know when to stop. Maybe try drinking with cousins or siblings (basically anyone your age) to test the waters in a safe environment first. We know that it can be hard to stop yourself when everyone else is boozing, but practise makes perfect. Bonus? It avoids bad hangovers and brings long term health benefits  because your body doesn’t have to suffer as much the morning after.

Take a break from boozing 

If you’re worried about drinking but don’t want to give it up completely, maybe just plan some sober days. It might be one day a week or a whole month (you could even take part in Sober October!) Regardless, a temporary break can often be exactly what need to know that alcohol isn’t your entire life. Plus there are tonnes of benefits of not drinking alcohol. It can help your REM sleep and immune system and lower your risk of developing liver problems. Basically, the effects of alcohol can be both positive (a.k.a getting lit) and negative, finding a balance will let you enjoy the benefits while keeping your body and mind in good shape.

When it’s time to seek professional help 

It might be time to get some advice if you’re: 

  • Boozing in secret, or playing down how much you drink
  • Thinking about alcohol a lot, and when you’ll next get a chance to drink
  • Getting into trouble while buzzed or hammered (such as causing accidents or arguments)
  • Getting yourself into debt just to fill up your liquor cabinet or go to a club
  • Becoming anxious when you can’t get access to drink or experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Thinking you need a drink to help deal with certain situations
  • Evading questions about your alcohol intake, or feeling uncomfortable about responding to them
  • Reacting angrily when people suggest you have a drink problem

Facing up to the fact that you may have a drink problem takes guts. It’s the first step to regaining control over your life. Once you’ve taken this step, don’t try to face recovery alone. Help is out there, from confidential telephone support to face-to-face counselling and more, they’re ready whenever you are.

And in the mean time, we’re always here to offer advice through our support services if you ever need it.

Next Steps

  • Are you drinking too much? Drinkaware has a useful self assessment tool to help you discover if your drinking habits are healthy, or something to worry about.
  • Al-Anon provides support to anyone whose life has been affected by someone else's drinking.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

alcoholism

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 06-Aug-2021