Dry January – time for an alcohol detox?


Many people enjoy a drink, particularly around this time of year. However some people enjoy far too many drinks which can lead to significant harm both to themselves and to society as a whole.

In the short term alcohol can reduce anxiety and lead to a feeling of wellbeing but unfortunately, these benefits only last for a few hours and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can actually cause anxiety and depression.

Alcohol has been around for centuries – all you need to make it is sugar, yeast and water. Alcohol is a drug and if it were introduced today there is no way that it would be legalised as it is such a toxic substance to the human body, but it has become so ingrained in human culture that banning it is inconceivable. Of course, prohibition was tried and failed in The United States, and there is no political appetite to ban alcohol – partly because most politicians drink, and also because of the huge tax revenue raised every year.

The majority of people drink quite safely all their lives, but an increasing minority drink to harmful levels and a small minority of the population develop full-blown alcohol dependence. Emphasising the fact that alcohol is a poison to the body, recent UK guidelines suggest that both men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. A single pub measure of spirit is 1 unit but a home poured measure of spirits can easily be 3 or 4 units. A pint of normal strength beer is 2 units whilst stronger beer is 3 units. A bottle of wine is 10 units which means that a large glass of wine can easily be 3 units.

Many people are in denial about how harmful alcohol is, but unfortunately this will not protect them from harmful effects including anxiety, depression, weight gain, cancer, heart disease and liver cirrhosis. It is important to understand that you do not need to have full blown alcohol dependence to have an increased risk of these problems, the statistics clearly show that people who drink between 14 and 50 units per week are at significantly greater risk whilst people who drink more than 50 units of alcohol per week will almost certainly suffer significant ill effects from alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill health and disability amongst 15-49 year olds in the UK. There is also a strong link between alcohol and crime, approximately half of all violent offenders are under the influence of alcohol and alcohol related crime in the UK is estimated to cost 13 billion per year.

If someone becomes fully alcohol dependent then they will need to totally abstain from alcohol in the longer term. People who are problem drinkers, but are not dependent, may well be able to reduce their alcohol consumption back to safe levels with appropriate support but relatively few people with alcohol problems actually seek treatment. This is because they are often in denial about the harmful effects of alcohol and also because drinking is normalised within their social group.

Treatment of problem drinking primarily involves therapy, perhaps an hour a week, partly to learn more about the harmful effects of alcohol and also to look at practical and psychological ways of reducing alcohol consumption. Assuming that people are motivated to change, this treatment is often successful and may well prevent problem drinkers going on to develop full blown alcohol dependence which generally requires inpatient rehabilitation.

At The Brighton & Hove Clinic we understand that accessing help for mental health problems can be challenging, so our team of experts are here to support your patients through this journey. We offer psychiatric services, outpatient therapies and day care programmes for adults and young people who are experiencing difficulties with their life circumstances. If you would like to know more about our services or you would like to make a referral, please call:

0808 168 1290 or email brighton@elysiumhealthcare.co.uk