As we sit on the cusp of Christmas, many of us will open ourselves up to the possibility of consuming more alcohol than we normally do. With work Christmas parties, office dos, family get-togethers and the all-night knees-up known as New Year’s Eve all set to hit our social schedules in the space of a month, chances are we’ll be presented with the opportunity to down more alcohol than is reasonably advisable over a short period of time.

And, whilst official guidance on alcohol consumption states that drinking any more than 14 units (equivalent to 6 pints of beer or 6 glasses of wine) of alcohol over a staggered, 7-day period can have very damaging health effects in both the short and long term, Christmas, a period when many choose to cut loose in festive abandon, can sometimes force us to overstep these limitations.

The effects of alcohol

Alcohol can have an incredibly detrimental effect on all areas of our health, whether physical or mental, over both short and long periods of time. In the short term, it can interfere with the rationality of our decision-making and encourage us to make what would normally be deemed unwise choices. And, although most of these decisions may be innocuous, they can be potentially fatal, especially when in regards to drink driving. Excessive alcohol consumption over one session can also lead to a lack of inhibition, sometimes fostering personality changes and inappropriate behaviour. This again may be harmless but may cause you to offend someone or lead to violence in the most extreme cases.

Binge drinking of this kind can inevitably cause those indulging in heavy drinking sessions to experience all the symptoms of the dreaded hangover in the hours afterwards, whether this be in the form of headaches, sickness or nausea. Yet, it’s the long-term consumption of alcohol that can lead to the real problems of dependency, mood changes, the destruction of relationships and the potential arrival of various physical conditions including cancer, dementia, strokes and liver disease.

Tips for safe drinking

So, in light of the Christmas period’s customary festivities, here are my top tips for keeping you safe from harm in the short and long term this December:

Eat well – Drinking on an empty stomach can heighten the effects of alcohol as there is no food in your stomach to soak it up. Make sure you eat well before drinking and break up your night out by snacking and alternating alcoholic drinks with those crucial glasses of water.

Stick together – If out with a group of friends, make sure you all stick together throughout the night. This will ensure that other people are around to prevent accidents from happening and to stop you from making any questionable decisions. Increased vigilance will also limit the possibility of unsavoury people taking advantage of the vulnerable state that alcohol can leave you in. This can help you to ward off any unwanted advances and reduce the possibility of being affected by date rape drugs.

Organisation – Whether deciding on a designated driver or planning to share a taxi home well in advance of your night out, it’s also a good idea to plan ahead when it comes to travel arrangements. This will reduce the possibility of somebody making the unwise decision to drink-drive and will let everyone know where they stand.

Know your limit – Although some people may still be embroiled in binge drinking culture, there’s no shame in knowing your limit. As the effects of alcohol begin to take hold, you may start to feel nauseous and a little worse for wear. Seasoned drinkers will be well aware of how much alcohol they can hold and will scarcely ever exceed this limit. This helps to prevent hangovers, feelings of being ill and negate the long-term effects of drinking.

Have fun – The most important thing is to remember to have fun. These suggestions aren’t meant to restrict your ability to have a good time, and alcohol, when consumed in moderation, can be the perfect tonic for letting your hair down after a busy year.

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