By the numbers: A simple ten step approach to reducing the harms of alcohol

January 7, 2014, SAGE Publications

Much the same way individuals are encouraged to know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers to maintain a healthy lifestyle, a new editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology urges the European public to know and monitor their alcohol intake number using a simple 10 point plan.

Scientists Jürgen Rehm from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada, and David Nutt, Neuropsychopharmacologist from Imperial College London and Vice President of the European Brain Council, have created an integrated set of evidence-based strategies focusing on what individuals and governments can do to reduce the personal and public costs of .

"Alcohol is one of the leading causes of disease and disability in the UK and Europe, says Jürgen Rehm. "And the harm attributable to alcohol could be easily reduced."

The first four points focus on personal health behaviour. Nutt and Rehm suggest:

  • Monitoring alcohol intake = know your number. In much the same way you would know your , cholesterol level or calorie intake.
  • Limiting consumption to 20 grams (about 2.5 drinks based on UK drink size, but less than 2 drinks in most other EU countries) per day for men and 15 (about 2 drinks in the UK and between 1 and 2 in other countries) grams per day for women.
  • Less is more. As with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lower amounts of lead to greater health and longevity.
  • Take a day off. Not drinking for one or two days a week can help the liver recover from the effects of alcohol and reduce the risk of liver complications.

The next six points focus on government intervention:

  • Minimum pricing of alcohol would reduce consumption of cheap alcohol, especially in young people.
  • Labeling the amount of alcohol grams, much like food labeling, would allow consumers to track the exact amount of alcohol they are consuming.
  • Limiting the times and places alcohol can be purchased will make impulse buying, particularly when drunk, much harder and make it easier for people with alcohol-use problems to avoid contact with alcohol in shops and supermarkets.
  • Providing treatment can provide significant health benefits to individuals and society and should be offered to all people with an problem.
  • Investing in research can develop new approaches to addiction. Techniques using genetics and neuroimaging will optimize and build on current research. Pharmaceutical investment in alcohol treatments is minimal and should be revitalized by government incentives.
  • Developing alternatives to alcohol by investigating the possibility of new drugs that mimic the milder . An alternative substance that could simulate relaxation without the negative side effects would reduce public health and social costs from alcohol-related damage.

"It is important to create a climate where the risks of alcohol are known, and where governments take their responsibility to reduce problems caused by alcohol," says Nutt. "But our method also involves education and self-monitoring approaches of individuals that have already proven effective in relation to cholesterol and blood pressure. The combination of individual and societal approaches would likely have major beneficial impact on health effect and social harms due to alcohol, and reduce alcohol-attributable mortality especially in younger ages. The proposed approach would also reduce the stigma currently associated with alcohol use disorders and thus enable earlier and more interventions."

Explore further: Energy drinks plus alcohol pose a public health threat

Related Stories

Energy drinks plus alcohol pose a public health threat

December 2, 2013
Mixing energy drinks with alcohol is riskier than just drinking alcohol alone, according to a new study that examines the impact of a growing trend among young adults.

Higher than expected rates of U.S. alcohol abuse disorders

November 27, 2013
Disorders related to the abuse of alcohol contribute significantly to the burden of disease in the U.S., finds a new study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Researchers estimated that in 2005, about 53,000 ...

James Bond's preference for shaken martinis may be due to alcohol-induced tremor, say experts

December 12, 2013
James Bond's alcohol consumption may explain why he prefers his martinis "shaken, not stirred" say researchers in the Christmas edition of The BMJ this week.

Inverse association between alcohol consumption, multiple sclerosis

January 6, 2014
Drinking alcohol appears to have a dose-dependent inverse (opposite) association with the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) and researchers suggest their findings give no support to advising patients with MS to completely ...

EU approves medication that quenches urge to drink alcohol

February 28, 2013
The European Union has given the green light for the sale of a medication that will help quench the urge for alcoholics to drink, the companies behind the new treatment said Thursday.

Unhealthy drinking widespread around the world, study shows

March 4, 2013
A new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows that alcohol is now the third leading cause of the global burden of disease and injury, despite the fact most adults worldwide abstain from drinking.

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.