New alcohol guidelines launched

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Monday, January 11th, 2016
Community
The four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have today launched new Alcohol Guidelines. alcohol3These proposals set out the professional, technical and scientifically-based, public health advice from the four UK CMOs on alcohol consumption. Speaking about the new guidelines, Dr Michael McBride Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, said, “In line with our overarching public health strategy, Making Life Better, I believe it is vital that people have access to the most up-to-date advice and information so as they can be empowered and supported to take healthy decisions to improve their own health and wellbeing. “Many people drink alcohol, and most do so in ways that do not significantly put them at risk of alcohol related harm, but new evidence has emerged on the potential risks and benefits from alcohol consumption. “That is why over the past two years, my colleagues and I have been working to produce revised alcohol guidelines. Informed by a number of expert panels, we have looked at the medical and clinical evidence, as well as the evidence around how such guidance affects behaviour. He continued, “Individuals will make their own judgements as to risks they are willing to accept from alcohol, whether to drink alcohol, and how much and how often to drink. These guidelines should help people to make informed choices. They provide information on ‘low risk’ drinking as opposed to ‘safe’ or ‘sensible drinking’. “Recent evidence showing alcohol consumption as a cause of certain cancers means there is no level without any risk. While it is possible for most people to drink at low risk, equally most people can lower their long-term health risks further by drinking less than the guidelines or not at all.” alcohol2One of the key changes in the guidelines is in relation to Alcohol and Pregnancy. Commenting on this change, Dr McBride said, “We need to be particularly clear about the risks of alcohol during pregnancy – as a precaution pregnant women should avoid alcohol. “Although the risk of harm to the baby is low if they have drank small amounts of alcohol before becoming aware of the pregnancy, there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant.” There are three elements to the new Guidelines: a weekly guideline for regular drinking; advice on single episodes of drinking; and a guideline on pregnancy and drinking. Weekly Guideline for regular drinking: The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that: • You are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level. • If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more. If you have one or two heavy drinking sessions, you increase your risks of death from long term illnesses and from accidents and injuries. Advice on single episodes of drinking: Alcohol LicenseThe Chief Medical Officers advise men and women who wish to keep their short term health risks from a single drinking occasion to a low level that they can reduce these risks by: • limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion; • drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating with water; • avoiding risky places and activities, making sure you have people you know around, and ensuring you can get home safely. Alcohol and Pregnancy: The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline is that: • If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum. • Drinking alcohol in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.

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