Alcohol reduction service
Alcohol Reduction Service
Alcohol is a powerful chemical that can have a wide range of adverse effects on almost every part of your body, including your brain, bones and heart.
Alcohol and its associated risks can have both short-term and long-term effects.
Short-term effects of alcohol consumption
The short-term effects of alcohol consumption are outlined below. This information is based on the assumption that you have a normal tolerance to alcohol.
Dependent drinkers with a higher tolerance to alcohol can often drink much more without experiencing any noticeable effects.
1 to 2 units
After drinking 1 to 2 units of alcohol, your heart rate speeds up and your blood vessels expand, giving you the warm, sociable and talkative feeling associated with moderate drinking.
4 to 6 units
After drinking 4 to 6 units of alcohol, your brain and nervous system starts to be affected. It begins to affect the part of your brain associated with judgement and decision making, causing you to be more reckless and uninhibited.
The alcohol also impairs the cells in your nervous system, making you feel light-headed and adversely affecting your reaction time and co-ordination.
8 to 9 units
After drinking 8 to 9 units of alcohol, your reaction times will be much slower, your speech will begin to slur and your vision will begin to lose focus.
Your liver, which filters alcohol out of your body, will be unable to remove all of the alcohol overnight, so it's likely you'll wake with a hangover.
10 to 12 units
After drinking 10 to 12 units of alcohol, your co-ordination will be highly impaired, placing you at serious risk of having an accident. The high level of alcohol has a depressant effect on both your mind and body, which makes you drowsy.
This amount of alcohol will begin to reach toxic (poisonous) levels. Your body attempts to quickly pass out the alcohol in your urine. This will leave you feeling badly dehydrated in the morning, which may cause a severe headache.
The excess amount of alcohol in your system can also upset your digestion, leading to symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and indigestion.
More than 12 units
If you drink more than 12 units of alcohol, you're at considerable risk of developing alcohol poisoning, particularly if you're drinking many units over a short period of time.
It usually takes the liver about an hour to remove one unit of alcohol from the body.
Alcohol poisoning occurs when excessive amounts of alcohol start to interfere with the body's automatic functions, such as:
- heart rate
- gag reflex, which prevents you choking
Alcohol poisoning can cause a person to fall into a coma and could lead to their death.
Some of the other risks associated with alcohol misuse include:
accidents and injury – more than 1 in 10 visits to accident and emergency (A&E) departments are because of alcohol-related illnesses
violence and antisocial behaviour – each year in England more than 1.2 million violent incidents are linked to alcohol misuse
unsafe sex – this can lead to unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
loss of personal possessions – many people lose personal possessions, such as their wallet or mobile phone, when they're drunk
unplanned time off work or college – this could put your job or education at risk
Long-term effects of alcohol misuse
Drinking large amounts of alcohol for many years will take its toll on many of the body's organs and may cause organ damage. Organs known to be damaged by long-term alcohol misuse include the brain and nervous system, heart, liver and pancreas.
Heavy drinking can also increase your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, both of which are major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.
Long-term alcohol misuse can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to serious infections. It can also weaken your bones, placing you at greater risk of fracturing or breaking them.
There are many long-term health risks associated with alcohol misuse.
- high blood pressure
- liver disease
- liver cancer
- mouth cancer
- head and neck cancer
- breast cancer
- bowel cancer
- sexual problems, such as impotence or premature ejaculation
As well as having a significant impact on your health, alcohol misuse can also have long-term social implications.
For example, it can lead to:
- family break-up and divorce
- domestic abuse
- financial problems
How much do you drink?
Screening Quick Check:
This is a simple quick check to look at how many units of alcohol you drink and how many nights of the week you drink to work our your units of alcohol consumption per week.
FAST Alcohol Screening Questionnaire:
FAST is an alcohol harm assessment tool. It consists of a subset of questions from the full alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT). FAST was developed for use in emergency departments, but can be used in a variety of health and social care settings.
The benefits of cutting down and reducing your alcohol consumption can include:
A deeper sleep
Some people find it helps them drop off, but alcohol affects the quality of your sleep. When you drink too much, you spend less of the night in a deep, restorative slumber. You’re also more likely to wake early and find it hard to drop off again. Now that you’re cutting back, you should notice your sleep improving. That can have a knock-on benefit for everything from your mood to your ability to concentrate.
If you’re already feeling sad or anxious, alcohol is likely to make it much worse. The day after you've been drinking heavily you are likely to feel pretty low. This is because drinking too much interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brains, so alcohol can affect your mental health. Drinking less can mean that you feel happier, more of the time1. Try keeping a mood diary to see if you notice the difference.
Increased Energy Levels
Alcohol can interfere with your immune system making it harder to fight off bugs. And with its negative effects on your sleep and mood, drinking too much can make you feel tired, sluggish and generally a bit under the weather. Drink less and it shouldn’t take too long before you notice that you have more energy2.
You don’t have to have a headache and be feeling sick for alcohol to start affecting you at work, regularly drinking above the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines (no more than 14 units per week for men and women) will affect your concentration and ability to work. Now that you’re cutting back, you may spot you work that little bit smarter, which can do wonders for your stress levels – and your career.
Alcohol dehydrates your skin making it appear dull and grey. Add some dark circles and bags under your eyes from a lack of decent sleep and you’ll look less than your best. Thankfully, skin is quick to react to changes so it could be looking better after just a couple of days of drinking less.
Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and can be seriously fattening. Cut out just one pint a day for a week and you’ll have consumed close to 1,500 less calories. It won’t be long before your jeans start feeling a bit looser.
A happier stomach
By drinking less you could get rid of complaints such as diarrhoea and indigestion. This is because alcohol irritates the stomach and makes it produce more acid than usual, which can in turn cause gastritis (the inflammation of the stomach lining).
More time and money
If you tend to drink in the same place, or at the same time, or with the same people, cutting back may mean you change your routine. By doing something different with your time you could discover other interests and meet new people. Keep a note of the money you save on alcohol and use it to treat yourself.
Better long-term health
Cutting down on alcohol will reduce your risk of developing cancer, liver or heart disease and could lower your blood pressure. You may not be able to see the difference you’re making, but by drinking within the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines, you can be confident you’re doing your body a massive favour.
Ways to reduce your alcohol consumption
If you are worried about your drinking pop in to your local Dears Pharmacy and our pharmacy teams can discuss with you a brief intervention which includes your pattern of drinking, advice about reducing the amount you drink, alcohol support networks available to you, and any emotional issues around your drinking.
Keeping a "drinking diary" may be recommended so you can record how many units of alcohol you drink a week. You can download one here (include download) or you can pop in to your local Dears Pharmacy where our teams can provide you with one free of charge. You may also be given tips about social drinking, such as alternating soft drinks with alcoholic drinks when you're out with friends.
Alcohol Reduction Service
What is Selincro?
Selincro tablets contain the active ingredient nalmefene, in a strength of 18mg per tablet and are manufactured by Lundbeck for the treatment of alcohol dependence.
How does Selincro work?
This medicine can be used for patients who wish to reduce their alcohol intake. It works in the brain by reducing the urge to drink, and making the sensation of drinking less enjoyable.
How to take Selincro?
The dose is one tablet to be taken when needed, up to once a day. This should ideally be one to two hours before you anticipate having any alcohol but if you have already had a drink, take the tablet as soon as possible. The tablet can be taken with or without food.
Is Selincro suitable for me?
Before you are prescribed Selincro, our pharmacist will assess your level of alcohol dependence and alcohol consumption, and you will be asked to keep a diary of your alcohol intake over a period of two weeks.
If Selincro is prescribed, you will also be required to undertake a support programme to help you change your drinking habits. This combination of the tablets and the support programme has been shown in clinical trials to have a significantly better effect than just taking the tablets on their own.
There are some situations where Selincro, like all medicines, should be used with caution or would not be recommended. For example in people who are over 65, who have liver or kidney problems, epilepsy or a history of seizures, major depression or some other psychiatric conditions, people who are taking opioid painkillers or who have taken opioids recently, who have current or recent opioid addiction, who have a recent history of acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and people who are allergic to any of the active or inactive ingredients.
During your consultation, it is important to tell us if you are taking any other medicines, either from your doctor or purchased from a pharmacy without a prescription. Selincro can cause problems if taken with certain other medicines, including opioid painkillers, some cough and cold remedies containing cough suppressants, diclofenac, fluconazole, medroxyprogesterone acetate, or meclofenamic (formerly known as mefenamic) acid.
You should not take Selincro if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, or are breast-feeding or planning to breast-feed, unless specifically advised to do so by the doctor.
It’s very important to give a full picture of your general health in the consultation, to make sure the doctor has all the information required to assess the suitability of Selincro for you.
What are the side effects of Selincro?
Like all medicines, Selincro can cause side effects, although not everybody will experience them.
Side effects that are considered to be common include nausea, dizziness, insomnia, and headaches. These are usually mild or moderate and of short duration. Other side effects can include decreased appetite, restlessness, decreased libido, tiredness, tremor or muscle spasms, a tingling sensation in the extremities, palpitations or a rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, vomiting, excess sweating, and weight loss. If you experience any persistent or troublesome issues, you should talk to your doctor.
For a full list of potential side effects and other important information, please read the patient information leaflet provided in the pack before starting any course of treatment.
The leaflet can also be viewed online here:
Price: Small charge
Frequency: When required...
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