Health officials’ concern over Covid lockdown alcohol consumption

Those spending long periods at home during the Covid lockdown have been urged to think seriously about their alcohol intake.

By Mark Rainey
Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 10:18 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 10:26 am

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has warned that any increase in alcohol consumption can lead to accidents around the home as well as having a negative impact on others.

There are also concerns that alcohol abuse risks adding to the workload of the already under pressure health service.

Whilst at home more, five key things to remember are:

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Alcohol warning. Photo. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

• Don’t stockpile alcohol in your home – the more you have the more tempted you may be to drink.

• Keep out of reach and sight of children – with schools closed, children are around the house more, so set a good example, don’t drink around the kids.

• Keep it late – being at home more means we may be tempted to drink earlier, so if you’re drinking set a time later in the evening to start.

• Choose alcohol free days – plan several alcohol free days and stick to them.

• Help is out there – making changes can be hard and if you or someone you know is struggling, support services are available. They can found on www.drugsandalcoholni.info

Michael Owen, regional lead for drugs and alcohol at the PHA, said: “At this time, when the health service is under increasing pressures because of COVID-19, we need to act responsibly and not add to that burden.

“Drinking too much can cause accidents around the home, which might need hospital treatment. Help protect the health service and yourself by doing all you can to avoid unnecessary problems with alcohol.

“COVID-19 is a serious threat and being intoxicated could be putting you and others at risk as you are less likely to be coherent and able to follow the social distancing and good hygiene practices that are required to help protect you from the virus.

“Changing your drinking habits doesn’t have to be a chore and throughout this pandemic we’ve all found ways to do things differently and creatively, so why not challenge yourself to try something new.

“There are a lot of alcohol-free and low alcohol options in the shops with alternatives for beer and wines. Why not get really creative and experiment with alcohol-free cocktails, finding different flavours from mixing fruit juices, herbs and spices and soft drinks.”

Mr Owen said people should not plan to stockpile when going out to buy alcohol.

“Plan your weekly shop and only buy as much as you have decided you want to drink during the week, making sure to keep to the recommended alcohol units,” he said.

“If you stockpile the temptation is there to drink more than you normally would, especially if you’re at home for the vast majority of your time.

“The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines say that for both men and women to keep the risks from alcohol low, it’s safest to drink no more than 14 units a week. So get to know your units. For example, a small glass of wine can be just over two units, and a measure of spirits can be around one and a half units. If you are pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.

“When at home, people are likely to ‘free pour’, not keeping an eye on the measures and fill the glass a little more, so the number of units being drank is greater than we think.

“Think about how much you are pouring and try your best to measure out your alcohol, enabling you to keep better track of your units and don’t be tempted to go back to the fridge for ‘just one more beer’.”

Mr Owen added: “In this time where we’re spending less time in the workplace, and not going out to see friends and family, it can be all too easy to just have a drink on our own at home, and frequently earlier in the day than normal.

“If you are thinking of drinking at a time you don’t normally, try to recognise this and have an alternative, such just picking up the phone and giving a relative a call to see how they’re doing. If you do reach for a drink, stop to think and try replacing it for a soft drink instead.

“With schools closed for the majority of children, the kids are around the house more and it’s important to keep alcohol out of sight and reach of children. Children also pick up on habits of their parents so try to set a good example and drink responsibly.

“Importantly during this time, alcohol and drug support services are still operating. Many of them offer over-the-phone help so you can still keep to social distancing guidelines.

You can find a list of support services in your area at www.drugsandalcoholni.info