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Prevalence of alcohol-related problem

Prevalence of alcohol-related problems as follows:

1 As with any drug of addiction, there are four levels of alcohol use. Social drinking: only about 10% of the population are teetotal.

2 At risk consumption: this is the level of alcohol intake that, if maintained, poses a risk to health. The Health of the Nation gives ‘safe’ levels of consumption as 21 units a week for men and 14 units a week for women. According to the UK General Household Survey, these levels are exceeded by a sizeable minority of the population – 29% of men and 17% of women; almost 4% of the population regularly drink in excess of double these limits. More recently, the emphasis on limits for weekly consumption has changed because of increased awareness of the dangers of binge drinking. Instead, safe limits are now expressed as daily maximums: three to four units for men and two to three units for women. Even these limits come with the caveat that continued consumption at the upper level is not advised. Increased awareness of the dangers of foetal damage attributable to maternal alcohol consumption (foetal alcohol syndrome and neurocognitive defects such as hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour) has resulted in recommendations that pregnant women should drink little or nothing at all.

3 Problem drinking: at this level, consumption causes serious problems to drinkers, their family and social network, or to society. About 1–2% of the population have alcohol problems.

4 Dependence and addiction: the characteristics of dependence apply to alcohol as to other drugs – periodic or chronic intoxication, uncontrollable craving, tolerance resulting in dose increase, dependence (either psychological or physical), and a detrimental result to the person or society. There are about 200,000  dependent drinkers in the United Kingdom.

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