The holiday season is coming up, the weekend has just ended, and if you’re like a vast majority of Britons, you had a tipple or two over your days off. And with Christmas coming up the mulled wine and rum will be flowing with no end in sight. It’s an interesting time of year, where festivities of all kinds, public and private are always accompanied by a drink.

Alcohol is an ingrained part of British culture. We all know the British reputation for binge drinking, particularly among young people. While, alcohol consumption is going down, levels of consumption in the UK is still high. So it is important to acknowledge the role alcohol plays in all our lives

The week of 13-19 of November is Alcohol Awareness Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about alcohol and how it affects individuals, families, communities and society as a whole. Alcohol is the world most widely ingested legal drug in the world. And because alcohol is so ubiquitous, it is imperative for individuals to be as aware as possible about the effects alcohol can have on health.

It can be difficult to start conversations around harmful drinking, and there is often a cycle of silence and stigma that is all too often experienced by families who have members who engage in harmful drinking. Alcohol Concern is trying to change that with this week of awareness.

Alcohol, even though it is culturally ingrained in most parts of the world, is one of the most harmful substances one can ingest. While it is not in and of itself harmful in small quantities, the ubiquity of the substance in modern culture and the rate at which people drink it has turned into a serious health concern for many.

The UK has had a problem with drinking in recent decades. Why this is can be boiled down to many different factors, but alcohol consumption in the UK remains high. In 2015, in England

  • 55% of men and 64% of women said they had drunk in the last year and whose weekly alcohol consumption was no more than 14 units
  • 11% of men and 7% of women said that their average weekly consumption was between 14 and 21 units
  • 12% of men and 6% of women consumed between 21 and 35 units
  • 4% of men and 2% of women consumed between 35 and 50 units
  • 4% of men and 1% of women consumed more than 50 units.

That’s a lot of booze. And it is estimated that 1.5% of a household’s income is spent on alcoholic beverages every year. That’s a lot of money.

Alcohol, when it is misused, can have a devastating effect on an individual’s health. Alcohol misuse is liked to more than 60 medical conditions, including mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis; and depression. The more alcohol you consume, the likely you are to develop these conditions. Britons are among the most at-risk in Europe for alcohol-related cancer.

One of the most serious conditions from alcohol abuse is Alcohol-Related Brain Damage (ARBD). Long-term consumption of alcohol change the way the brain works, its physical shape and structure. This can bring changes in personality, problems thinking, mood, memory and learning.

Needless to say, over-consumption of alcohol can also have an effect outside individual health. Alcohol is often a prime factor in the disintegration of the family, with one or more addictions to the substance putting medical and budgetary pressure on the family unit. Addiction to a substance can also cause a huge amount of stress in family members. Dealing with a loved one’s addiction is never easy.

In England, there are an estimated 595,000 dependent drinkers, and alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year-olds in the UK. In real terms, alcohol abuse costs the NHS £3.5 billion annually.

In 2015, 196,000 prescriptions for drug to treat alcohol misuse were prescribed; costing £3.9million, double the number in 2005.

But the strain on society from alcohol is not simply medical. People who found themselves to be victims of some kind of violent incident, such as an assault, believed their offenders to be under the influence of alcohol at least 53% of the time. 70% of violent incidents on the weekends, evening and night are alcohol related, and alcohol-related crime in the UK is estimated to cost between £8 and £13 billion a year. In 2015, there were over 8,000 casualties of drink driving accidents in the UK, including 220 fatalities.

The need for qualified individuals with the skills and understanding to deal with substance misuse is as present as ever. TQUK wants to help stem the tide of this social blight, and so we have developed our TQUK Level 3 Certificate in understanding Substance Misuse (RQF), which will help learners became intimately aware of all factors involving drug use, effects, symptoms and attitudes, with a particular unit dedicated to alcohol and drug use in young people, and all the associated legislation.

If you know someone struggling with heavy drinking, suggest that they get help.

To share your stories for Alcohol Awareness Week, tweet using the hashtag #AAW2017.

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See you out there!