Binge drinkers are ignoring ‘unrealistic’ guidlines on daily limits

binge drinkersA new study has suggested that official UK government guidelines – which are currently under review –  on how much alcohol is safe to consume each day are generally disregarded by drinkers due to the guidelines being unrealistic, outdated, and should be amended to reflect modern day drinking trends.

Currently, the recommended daily limits states that men should consume no more than three to four units of alcohol (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and for women it is just two to three units (equivalent to a 175ml glass of wine per).

However, the study discovered that people are simply ignoring the guidelines due to the fact they are not drinking every single day, but instead waiting until the weekend and drink heavily to get drunk. Indeed it seems there and more and more binge drinkers now than ever.

Moreover, the whole notion of ‘units’ is baffling to many drinkers as they don’t even know what a unit of alcohol is or represents and are typically measuring their intake in pints, bottles and glasses, meaning the 30-year-old ‘unit’ limits for safe levels of regular drinking are irrelevant.

The research, led by the University of Sheffield and published in the journal Addiction, involved carrying out extensive interviews with 66 men and women from England and Scotland aged between 19 and 65, quizzing them about their attitudes to alcohol guidelines in this country, and showing them the advice that is used in other countries. Most seemed to be aware of the guidelines, but viewed them as unrelated to their own drinking habits.

The study authors argue that their findings show the UK guidelines were viewed as “having little relevance to participants’ drinking behaviours and were generally disregarded.”

Participants stated the recommended levels laid out in the alcohol guidelines were “seen as unrealistic” for people that didn’t drink daily, but sometimes wanted to get drunk. In addition, participants found alcohol units unhelpful and confusing, preferring advice which related to bottles, glasses or pints.

Instead, those interviewed found the Australian and Canadian advice more useful to them, which provides a maximum limit of four drinks on any occasion, in addition to advice about daily amounts.

In 2014 Australia launched a “stay classy” alcohol advice campaign, primarily targeting the binge drinking culure.

Lead researcher Dr John Holmes, from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, said: “What we found is that the guidelines at the moment kind of assume that people drink a bit too much, very often.

“In fact we were finding people saying’ I don’t drink too often but when I go out I do want to get a bit drunk’ and they didn’t see the advice as relevant.”

He added that people generally want advice which was purely focused on the problem of binge drinking, giving them a more achievable limit.

“We have a culture where we do like to go out and have a big night, we don’t really have the Mediterranean approach of little and often, we are more part of a northern European culture which doesn’t drink so regularly, but will drink more on particular occasions,” he said.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We want information for the public to be clear and the unit of alcohol was introduced in 1987 as a way of helping people to understand and measure how much alcohol they are drinking- whether it’s in a can, bottle or pint glass. But we want to keep our guidance up to date which is why our Chief Medical Officer is currently reviewing all the guidelines for drinking.”

Last year, Medical Specialists® Pharmacy began to provide help to those with a dependence on alcohol through the alcohol dependency treatment Selincro (nalmefene).

Selincro is ideal for heavy drinkers that are not in need of immediate detoxification, and whom have a high level of alcohol consumption 2 weeks after the first consultation with the doctor. This is defined as more than 60g of alcohol per day for men or more than 40g of alcohol per day for women. The great news for those who are prescribed it is that there is no risk of becoming dependent on Selincro.

Selincro’s active ingredient nalmefene works by latching onto certain opioid receptors in the brain that are responsible for addictive behaviour, altering their activity, thereby decreasing the urge to continue drinking.

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