Alcohol Advice and Information
Alcohol & Health | Intervention
& Treatment | Crime and Antisocial
Behaviour | National Policy
Alcohol can play a positive role in British culture as part of
social and family life through sensible drinking. However, excessive
alcohol consumption among some groups in society is a cause of serious
concern and is reflected by both the Government and the general
public. The concern covers a number of related issues such as health
implications or crime and disorder levels. The
Oxfordshire Alcohol Strategy looks to address the concerns of
Alcohol and Health
Alcohol misuse is directly linked to deaths from certain types
of diseases such as liver cirrhosis, and associated with other causes
of death such as stroke and coronary heart disease.
The NHS recommends that you should not regularly drink more than:
3-4 units of alcohol a day for men,
2-3 units of alcohol per day for women.
What is a unit?
Click here for chart
See the 'Know Your Limits'
website for more information.
For men who are regularly drinking more than 8 units a day and
women regularly drinking more than 6 units a day (50/35 units per
week respectively) the risks of various diseases, such as liver
disease or stroke, are significantly higher. In 2005, 4160 people
in England and Wales died from alcoholic liver disease; an increase
of 41% since 1999 according to the Department of Health.
The alcohol you drink travels to your stomach. Unlike food, alcohol
doesn't need to be digested and can pass quickly and easily into
the bloodstream (about 20% of the alcohol that enters the stomach
is absorbed immediately). After entering the bloodstream the alcohol
travels very quickly, in only a few minutes, to every part of the
Your brain will be the first part of the body to be affected: the
alcohol will dull the parts of the brain that control how your body
works, affecting your actions and your ability to make decisions
and control your actions.
On average, it takes the liver about one hour to break down one
unit of alcohol. Contrary to some myths, there is no way to speed
up this process and only time will sober you up.
As well as the recognised immediate effects of drinking too much, like
nausea, vomiting and hangovers, binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking
over longer periods of time can affect you in many different ways.
Binge drinking can cause blackouts, memory loss and anxiety. Long-term
drinking can result in permanent brain damage, serious mental health problems
and alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Young people's brains are particularly
vulnerable because the brain is still developing during their teenage
years. Alcohol can damage parts of the brain, affecting behaviour and
the ability to learn and remember.
Drinking alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for cancers of the
mouth and throat (smoking being the first). People who develop cirrhosis
of the liver (often caused by too much alcohol) can develop liver cancer.
Heart and circulation:
Alcohol can cause high blood pressure (hypertension) increasing the risk
of having a heart attack or stroke. It also weakens heart muscles, which
can affect lungs, liver, brain and other body systems and can cause heart
failure. Binge drinking and drinking heavily over longer periods can cause
the heart to beat irregularly (arrhythmia) and has been linked to cases
of sudden death.
People who drink a lot of alcohol have more lung infections and can be
more likely to get pneumonia and for their lungs to collapse. When a person
vomits as a result of drinking alcohol they may choke if vomit gets sucked
into their lungs.
Drinking too much alcohol initially causes fat deposits to develop in
the liver. With continued excessive drinking the liver may become inflamed
resulting in alcoholic hepatitis which can result in liver failure and
death. Excessive alcohol can permanently scar and damage the liver resulting
in liver cirrhosis and an increased risk of liver cancer.
Drinking above recommended limits can lead to stomach ulcers, internal
bleeding and cancer. Alcohol can cause the stomach to become inflamed
(gastritis), which can prevent food from being absorbed and increase the
risk of cancer.
Heavy or prolonged use of alcohol can cause inflammation of the pancreas,
which can be very painful, causing vomiting, fever and weight loss, and
can be fatal.
Heavy drinking may result in ulcers and cancer of the colon. It also affects
your body's ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins.
Heavy drinking can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure
a leading cause of chronic kidney disease.
In men: impotence (lowered libido/sex drive) and infertility.
In women: infertility. Drinking alcohol when pregnant can seriously damage
the development of the unborn baby.
Alcohol interferes with the body's ability to absorb calcium. As a result,
your bones become weak and thin (osteoporosis).
Alcohol is high in calories. Weight for weight, the alcohol in a drink
contains almost as many calories as fat. The average bottle of wine contains
600 calories while four pints of average strength lager contains 640.
Alcohol dehydrates your body and your skin; it also widens blood vessels
causing your skin to look red or blotchy.
Binge drinking makes you lose your inhibitions and affects your judgement.
This might make you less likely to use a condom, increasing your risk
of getting a sexually transmitted infection such as Chlamydia, HIV or
hepatitis or result in an unplanned pregnancy.
People may think alcohol helps them to cope with difficult situations
and emotions, to reduce stress or relieve anxiety, but alcohol is in fact
associated with a range of mental health problems including depression,
anxiety, risk-taking behaviour, personality disorders and schizophrenia.
Alcohol has also been linked to suicide.
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Intervention and Treatment
Individuals who consume excessive amounts of alcohol may benefit from
some kind of intervention or treatment, and can fall into four general
categories of alcohol misuse. These have been identified by Models
of Care of Alcohol Misusers (MoCAM) 2006.
- hazardous drinkers - 'are drinking at levels over the sensible
drinking limits, either in terms of regular excessive consumption or
less frequent sessions of heavy drinking. However, they have so far
avoided significant alcohol-related problems.'
- harmful drinkers - 'are usually drinking at levels above those
recommended for sensible drinking, typically at higher levels than most
hazardous drinkers. Unlike hazardous drinkers, harmful drinkers show
clear evidence of some alcohol-related harm. Many harmful drinkers may
not have understood the link between their drinking and the range of
problems they may be experiencing.'
- moderately dependent drinkers - 'may recognize that they have
a problem with drinking, even if this recognition has only come about
reluctantly through pressure, for example from family members or employers.
The level of dependence of drinkers in this category is not severe.'
- severely dependent drinkers - 'may have serious and long-standing
problems. This category includes individuals described in older terminology
as 'chronic alcoholics'. Typically, they have experienced significant
alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They may have progressed to habitual significant
daily alcohol use or heavy use over prolonged periods or bouts of drinking.'
Individual drinkers may sit within a number of different categories during
their lifetime and may choose to engage with relevant treatment services
Alcohol Brief Advice and Intervention
For those people who are not at the levels categorised above, but
want to know how to cut down their alcohol use and the benefits
it would bring, alcohol brief advice and intervention is suitable.
Structured Alcohol Tool
Effects Patient Leaflet
For those people who need a more enhanced intervention for their
alcohol use, they can access the Harm
Minimisation Service for advice and support or the Recovery
Service for treatment.
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Alcohol, Crime and Antisocial Behaviour:
Underage drinking and drinking by young adults is perceived as a real
problem by the public. There are strong links between high levels of youth
alcohol consumption and other risk factors such as youth offending, teenage
pregnancy and exclusion from school, but the exact nature of this relationship
is not fully understood. Neither is it clear to what extent alcohol influences
criminal activity and specifically violent behaviour and the night time
economy. According to various Home Office publications, around half of
all violent incidents take place at the weekend and the majority occur
at night (between midnight and 6am).
Various pieces of legislation have had an impact on alcohol and crime.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 gave emphasis to 'partnership' working
between a wide range of agencies (such as police, district councils,
primary care trusts and fire and rescue services) to combat local
concerns through community plans; alcohol misuse is always a key
priority. The introduction of the Licensing Act 2003 saw licensed
premises given greater flexibility in operating hours and licensable
activities that they could offer as well as additional enforcement
powers to authorities.
'Minimise the negative effects and costs associated
with alcohol on individuals, families, local communities
and public services in Oxfordshire, while ensuring that
people are able to enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly.'
Purpose of the Oxfordshire Alcohol Strategy
This Strategy has been developed in order to identify and clarify the
issues surrounding alcohol and the negative effects it can have on individuals
and the wider community. This document is intended to have a strategic
overview of the issues and sets out how the Oxfordshire Safer Communities
Partnership intends to tackle the harm caused by alcohol misuse between
April 2008 and March 2011 and links to the three year Community Safety
Plans drawn up by the five Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRP's)
for Oxfordshire (Cherwell, West, Oxford City, South and Vale of White
Horse). This Strategy will be reviewed at the end of each year and updated.
It will be a working strategy and will be revised as appropriate with
the development of other policies in support of the overarching vision
for Oxfordshire during the three years of the plan.
The development of the Strategy had been based on the national policy
framework and local information gathering and consultation and builds
on the original Oxfordshire Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy 2006-2009.
It is drawn up under 'Community Safety' but it is immediately acknowledged
that the Strategy cuts across many other areas of responsibility, most
obviously Health and Young People.
There are three overall themes or aims contained within the Alcohol
Strategy. Others may be added as required and when appropriate to
reflect wider policies which contribute to the overarching vision
for Oxfordshire. A clear set of objectives has been developed under
each aim supported by relevant action plans.
- Health and Treatment
- Community Safety
- Young People
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National Policy Framework
Alcohol Strategy for England (2012)
In 2012 the Government introduced a new national Alcohol Strategy. The
strategy focuses on tackling binge drinking and alcohol related crime,
the price of alcohol and licensing responsibilities, and informing people
to prevent them from drinking excessively.
pdf copy of Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy document)
Models of Care of Alcohol Misusers (MoCAM) (2006)
This was produced by the Department of Health in conjunction with the
National Treatment Agency (NTA) and provides a clear framework for the
commissioning and provision of treatment for hazardous, harmful and dependent
Choosing Health in the South East: Alcohol (2007)
This report makes some key points about the harm caused by alcohol in
the South East. The report recommended a number of priorities:
- Binge drinking in young people.
- Workplace alcohol policies should be implemented.
- High risk and vulnerable groups.
- Additional treatment services should be commissioned.
- Public health professionals should work together with local partners
to tackle crime and disorder.
(Choosing Health document)
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