Does your friend have a secret drinking problem?

Did you know, that the average South African drinks about 20 liters of alcohol each year!? It us equivalent to 196 six packs of beer, 62 bottles of spirits, and 220 bottles of wine! That means that some people drink more than that, and some less. So, we drink a lot of booze as a country – but how much is too much?

People with drinking problems often don’t realise it: they think they’re in control, while their life slowly spins out of control. They need a friend – like you – to help them see the light.

According to the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, you may have a problem if:

  1. You don’t stick to the recommended alcohol limit of one unit per day for women and two units per day for men. One unit is equal to a 120ml glass of wine or 340ml beer/cider or one tot of spirits.
  2. You’ve increased your alcohol intake over the past few months.
  3. You’ve changed your alcohol brand to one with a higher alcohol volume.
  4. You drink at every occasion and create opportunities to drink.
  5. You drink when you’re angry, sad or stressed.
  6. You drink in secret or alone at times.
  7. You’ve stayed out of work after a drinking episode.
  8. You’ve lost jobs because of your alcohol use.
  9. You spend more than 10 percent of your salary on alcohol every month.
  10. Your family and friends have complained about your drinking.
  11. You’ve done things you’re not proud of while under the influence.
  12. You experience memory lapses.
  13. You have health issues because of your drinking habits.
  14. You drink and drive.
  15. You’ve been arrested for being over the limit.

The ugly side of alcohol
So, what exactly gives alcohol such a bad rep?

It starts in the brain and central nervous system. Excessive drinking can cause slurred speech and weaken your coordination, balance, and judgement. It can also affect your ability to think clearly and form memories. In the long run, heavy drinking can even shrink your brain and cause permanent brain damage.

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Your heart takes a beating too. Chronic drinking can increase the size of your heart muscle, making it more difficult to pump blood. This can cause problems like irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.

Boozing can also cause stomach ulcers, acid reflux, and inflammation of the pancreas, and may increase your risk for mouth, throat, and colon cancer.

Research also shows that chronic drinkers are more likely to get pneumonia and tuberculosis. Alcohol can also slow your body’s ability to fight off infections and viruses.

So, what do you do, if you or a friend may be tipping over a few too many tequilas?

Sip safely

  • Stay within the drinking limit.
  • Always eat before you drink. Drinking on an empty stomach speeds up the rate at which alcohol is absorbed.
  • Find an alcoholic drink that agrees with you, and doesn’t make you feel like death the next day.
  • Don’t mix your drinks.
  • Pace yourself. Sip your drinks instead of gulping them.
  • Have one drink every hour as this is how long the liver takes to metabolise alcohol.
  • Add lots of ice to your drink to water it down.
  • Drink juice or water in between alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid drinking games.
  • Don’t drink and drive, even if you’ve had one drink. Make sure you have a designated driver when you go out.

And, if you or one of your friends are struggling to stick to these rules, you may need some support. Contact Alcoholics Anonymous. You don’t have to feel like an “alcoholic” to reach out to them – and they can help you in the right direction.


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