Drugs and Alcohol

Reasons for cutting down on alcohol

Mixing drinks and drinking to excess was common among the young people we spoke to but drinking habits often changed as they got older. Joe (21) drinks less now than when he was a teenager, when he got drunk ‘for the sake of getting drunk’.
Health and wellbeing
Alcohol can have a negative effect on health both in the short and long term (See Alcohol and risks to self and others) but many people didn’t seem very concerned about this. However both Peter and Daniel had changed their drinking habits because they were concerned about their problem drinking. Daniel recognised that he was an alcoholic and stopped drinking altogether. Peter decided that he had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and needed to cut down dramatically.
Charlie cut down on cider because she gets acid reflux after a couple of drinks. Others were concerned about putting on weight. Harry feels bloated and tired if he drinks a lot of beer. He now tends to drink spirits, which he sees as the lesser of two evils.
People who worked full-time were put off drinking by the prospect of hangovers; they were keen to make the most of their weekends. Some people didn’t notice hangovers when they were teenagers but found it hard to cope with a headache or being sick when they were at work or looking after children.
Moving in with a partner and needing to save money often meant cutting down on evenings out drinking with friends.
Pregnancy and parenthood
Pregnancy and parenthood were described as powerful reasons to cut down on alcohol.
Both Steph and Chloe had grown up with a parent with an addiction and were very aware of the damage this can do in a family. Chloe’s father drank and she didn’t want to be ‘hypocritical’ and be like him. Stephanie, whose mother was addicted to heroin, reflected that you “put people second best when you let an addiction take over”. 
Pregnant women are advised to have a good diet, take regular gentle exercise and not to drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs. Stephanie said she wouldn’t drink in pregnancy. Because her mother is a midwife, Jen is aware that drinking, smoking and taking drugs when pregnant is risky for the baby, especially in the first 3 months. Jen is not in a rush to get pregnant because she says she’s ‘not at the place where I’d give up my red wine yet’.
Michelle gave up alcohol and drugs when she was pregnant. Kayleigh became aware of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome when she was in early pregnancy.
Leah didn’t plan to get pregnant and ‘went out and got trolleyed’ when she found out. When she decided to carry on with the pregnancy, she stopped drinking. About once a month, when her mother or aunt can look after her baby, Leah goes out drinking with her friends. She drinks less now, partly because she wants her daughter to be able to look up to her.

Last reviewed : July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.


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