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    It is often difficult to pinpoint when a person should be defined as being an ‘alcoholic’, because alcohol use tends to be so prevalent in our society. Unlike people who just drink socially, alcoholics run their lives around the need to drink. The following might indicate that the alcohol is developing into a problem of alcoholism:

    • Drinking secretly.
    • Drinking during the day.
    • Feeling the need to drink every day.
    • Drinking is becoming self-destructive or dangerous to others.
    • Lack of control over the amount you drink.
    • Inability to stop drinking despite the physical and psychological problems it is causing.
    • Craving alcohol.
    • Increased tolerance of alcohol meaning more has to be drunk to feel the effects.
    • Forgetfulness.
    • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.
    • Missing work or school due to alcohol related activities.

    If you feel that alcohol is becoming a problem in your life or you can recognise these traits in someone, professional medical help should be consulted.

    Chronic alcohol use strains bodily systems including the liver, kidneys, pancreas, immune system and brain.

    Heavy drinkers are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure (1), cardiovascular disease (1), insulin resistance (1), brain atrophy (2), liver disease and hepatitis C (3) and some cancers (4). Alcoholics could have trouble sustaining positive and loving relationships.

    Deciding to give up alcohol is the first positive step. It is best to seek the guidance of a professional or professional service. Emotional and psychological support is necessary. There are many support groups which specialise in alcoholism. Your GP should be the first point of contact.

    When giving up any addictive substance, it is important that you keep your blood sugar levels as stable as possible to reduce cravings and moments of weakness. To this end, avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates and eat small, regular meals and snacks throughout the day.

    For more information and support on alcoholism, visit www.alcoholconcern.org.uk and www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk where you will also be able to find support groups. Always consult with your GP or medical doctor.


    1. Di Gennaro C, Biggi A, Barilli AL et al. Endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular risk profile in long term withdrawing alcoholics. J Hypertens. 2007 Feb;25(2):367-73

    2. Garcia-Valdecasas-Campelo E, Gonzalez-Reimers E et al. Brain atrophy in alcoholics: relationship with alcohol intake; liver disease; nutritional status, and inflammation. Alcohol Alcohol. 2007 Nov-Dec;42(6):533-8

    3. Singal AK, Anand BS. Mechanisms of synergy between alcohol and hepatitis C virus. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2007 Sep;41(8):71-72

    4. Nahon P, Sutton A, Rufat P et al. Liver iron, HFE gene mutations and hepatocellular carcinoma occurrence in patients with cirrhosis. Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan;134(1):348-51