T he festive season is a time when people gather socially with family and friends across the world. But sometimes it can be ruined by too much alcohol.

While many will reach January 2015 and look back over the season with happy memories, others will remember the bad effects of drinking too much – headaches, sickness, loss of memory and embarrassing behaviour.

Christmas is a time for celebration and getting together with friends and family. However, the greatest problems occur when people get drunk. It’s then that the accidents, fights, problems with relationships and domestic violence increase.

It’s also the little things that affect families like being too hung over to participate in family events.

We know that people who drink too much alcohol can endanger their health both in the immediate and long term. This is why the festive season is an important time for people to be informed about how to drink alcohol safely and be careful to avoid putting their health at risk.

Recommended Drinking Limits

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia recommends that men and women drink no more than two standard drinks on any given day in order to reduce the long term risks of alcohol consumption.

These risks include an increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer and liver disorders.

The NHS guideline advises that men should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day, and women should drink no more than 2-3 units per day.

Even if you do not drink all week, you are not advised to save up your units in order to drink them all in one night.

Risks with Alcohol Consumption

There are a number of immediate risks associated with alcohol consumption during the festive season, which arise because alcohol reduces motor and sensory skills, and also inhibitions.

In the immediate term, excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of trauma and death (for example, if someone is very drunk and passes out, they may stop breathing or choke).

If a person is intending to drive a motor vehicle or operate other machinery it is advisable not to drink and drive.

Injuries don’t necessarily only occur when a person is intoxicated, but can also happen the next day when people are tired and hung over and may not be able to function fully or make good decisions.

 Tips for Hosts of Parties

During the festive season, more parties and gatherings can mean greater exposure to alcohol than usual for many people. Here are some tips for hosts of parties this Christmas:

  • Make sure you have plenty of food available early on and keep it coming throughout the party
  • Provide a selection of non-alcoholic drinks and water for your guests who don’t want to drink too much alcohol
  • If someone refuses a drink, don’t insist. One can have fun without drinking too much
  • Don’t let people drive home if they have had too much too drink – arrange safe transport for them or organise somewhere for them to stay.

How Much Alcohol can you Drink?

It is important for people who drink alcohol to be aware how much alcohol can be consumed safely, and to develop strategies to ensure that they don’t drink too much.

Legally, never drive a car if you’ve had more than one standard drink in an hour!

When consumed, alcohol enters the bloodstream and affects the functioning of the drinker’s brain, reducing their ability to think and coordinate their actions.

A person’s BAC level measures the amount of alcohol in the blood, by recording the milligrams of ethanol per milliliters of blood. Most countries around the world have legal BAC limits, ranging from 0.0 mg/ml to 0.8 mg/ml with different penalties applying for breaking the law.

When having a look at drunk driving laws across the world, it seems Kenya is among the countries that is most lenient. Some countries with the same legal limit as Kenya (0.08%) include: Central Africa Republic, Cape Verde, Ghana, Niger, Seychelles and Zambia.

South Africa, for example has set its limit at 0.05%.

Some Tips to Keep Safe and Sober

  • Keep track of how much you drink – consider the serving size and also how much alcohol the beverage contains
  • Avoid refilling a half empty glass: It is much harder to keep track of how much is being consumed if a half empty glass is refilled, compared to when the drinker waits and refills their glass only when it is empty
  • Set a limit and say no when you’ve had enough and stick to it
  • Space alcoholic drinks and drink in moderation – make sure you also drink water or juice or other beverages as well
  • Avoid ‘shouts’ or ’rounds’ of drinks or drinking competitions. These may encourage people to drink too quickly to keep up with the rounds;
  • Keep busy while drinking, for example by playing pool or talking with friends or if you are outside, kicking a ball around
  • Drink plenty of water. Before you go out, during the evening and when you get home. Alcohol acts as a diuretic and your body therefore retains less water. When this happens the body takes water from the brain and causes your head to hurt the next day.

Drink Smart – Make Informed Choices

Did you know that carbonated drinks (e.g. beer & sparking wine) are absorbed faster than non-carbonated ones? And did you know that dark coloured drinks contain ‘congeners’ caused by the distilling process and can cause the drinker a worse hangover?

Mixing your drinks increases the number of different toxins your body has to deal with and will result in a worse hangover the next day. Try not to be tempted by double measures because they work out cheaper.

This festive season, use your common sense – drink in moderation and make sure that this is a happy time for you and your loved ones.



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