“Heavy drinkers are often in denial”

Not a drop. The last vapors of New Year’s alcohol barely evaporate, many of them start a Dry January, or a drunken January. The goal of this challenge, which has more and more followers every year: don’t drink alcohol for a month, keep track of your consumption and, perhaps, in the process try to raise some elbows more reasonably.

But how do you know if you’ve had too much to drink? What elements can raise awareness? And most importantly, how can we learn from the experience of this month without alcohol?

Detect problematic consumption

So are you drinking sensibly? According to the latest recommendations from Public Health France, the limits are clear: “have no more than ten standard drinks per week, that is no more than two glasses of alcohol per day, and no more than five days out of seven”. A standard drink, recalls Health Insurance, “contains 10 grams of pure alcohol.” Therefore, the drink will not contain the same amount of drink depending on whether it is wine, beer or spirits. “The amount of alcohol consumed is definitely the determining point, mind you 20 minutes Professor Bernard Granger, head of the psychiatry and addictions unit at the Cochin Hospital in Paris. However, for many people, this number is reached very quickly, and exceeded, without realizing that it can cause problems. »

In addition to the amount and frequency of consumption, “we must also analyze the freedom not to drink, emphasizes Professor Granger. It is this loss of freedom that defines addiction: if you say to yourself “I’m not drinking today” and you can’t do it, even if you have the impression of being sober in large quantities, that is already a sign of dependence and a risk of escalation towards greater consumption. ”.

In addition, significant occasional alcoholism (API), or binge drinking, is also harmful. According to the High Authority for Health (HAS), “binge drinking can be defined as the consumption of at least 6 glasses of alcohol (i.e. 60 g of pure alcohol) per occasion”. A hold that can even be absorbed in just two hours, by another definition. A big phenomenon, because according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), 44% of 17 year olds stated in 2017 at least one API in a month. “APIs that are harmful to the central nervous system, neurons, or even the liver, are sadly a widespread social behavior”, warns Professor Granger.

Support awareness

However, whether you have significant recurrent or occasional alcohol consumption, realizing it is not easy. “There’s a lot of denial in people who drink,” say psychiatrists who specialize in addictions. And Dry January offers a time to talk seriously and nonjudgmentally about alcohol, limits not to be exceeded, and the health benefits of sobriety. This is the perfect opportunity to realize that it’s actually really hard not to drink, and that we depend on it.

A far more valuable opportunity that “often, the entourage doesn’t dare to talk about it, it’s complicated”, continues Professor Granger. In his eyes, the treating doctor lacked the reflex to question his patient about his relationship with alcohol. And when they do, it still needs to know how to detect problematic consumption. “When you ask patients questions, they will often reply that they drink like everyone else,” continues the practitioner. But if you dig, some will respond that they have a drink or two after work, then some at dinner, and more on the weekends.

If resistance persists, the doctor may prescribe additional tests, which can reveal biological signs of overeating, such as liver disorders. Other physical signs such as facial redness and swelling, or sleep disturbances are also clues. “There, the patient becomes aware of the effects of alcohol intake on his body,” emphasizes Professor Granger.

Measure your efforts and stop drinking from February 1st

On the other hand, following this month without alcohol can quickly have beneficial effects: “we get better quality sleep, we have clearer ideas, with better memory and concentration abilities, less anxiety”, explains Professor Granger. Weight loss is also noticeable, because alcohol contains a lot of sugar, which is then turned into fat in the body, as well as a better constant, and a healthier liver.

But at the end of this sober month, how can you avoid bingeing from February 1st and falling back into binge drinking? For Dry January to be not just a simple parenthesis, “it must be experienced as a test of moving towards longer changes”, advises Professor Granger. So at the end of this month, it would be ideal to start by recording your experiences: did you stick around or not? Why ? This allows for reflections that are not placed in immediacy. “If you really want to initiate change, it’s easier to have a small-step approach that allows for a Dry January, with a one-month horizon of abstinence, the practitioner urges. Short enough to challenge yourself and prepare to become more abstinent or more reasonable in your long term thereafter”.

And just as apps that come with quitting smoking and tell you the number of cigarettes you haven’t smoked, it’s possible during Dry January to download a similar tool, which will tell you the number of drinks you won’t be drinking. “Anything that allows you to analyze your consumption is important, agrees Professor Granger, whether it is the money saved, because alcohol is expensive, or the number of grams of pure alcohol you have. »

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