Alcohol is the most widely used substance in Australia. Whilst many may enjoy a drink socially, or indeed practice complete abstinence, for many controlling alcohol intake can be a challenge, particularly if it is being used as a coping mechanism to help numb difficult thoughts and feelings.
In line with this have you taken some time to check in with how you and those around you are going as we head into this period of increased social engagements, increased stress, increased loneliness and for many a deep sadness associated with Christmas and New Year? However you and those close to you feel about Christmas it is a known fact that alcohol use can increase over this period and for many can contribute to longer term problem drinking.
It goes without saying that this is no usual year, with figures indicating the greatest increase in alcohol related deaths since 2001. Compared with 2019, figures show that in 2020, alcohol related deaths had increased by almost 19%. It is no coincidence that a global pandemic was (and still is) occurring during this period.
The end of 2021 has the potential to be yet more challenging again given the understandable concerns many people have about our State and International borders opening up, and the increasing rates of the OMICRON variant of COVID that are beginning to show themselves in our communities.
How do I know if I or a loved one are drinking too much?
The NHMRC provides clear Guidelines as to the amount of alcohol that can be consumed without causing significant known risk to mental and physical wellbeing. This is a good starting point if you are concerned about the amount you drink and provides a handy infographic of what constitutes a standard drink. In addition, it is useful to ask yourself a number of questions about your drinking habits. There are a number of useful online tools that can be used to do to help you explore your drinking habits including the QLD based Alcohol and Drug Support (ADIS) website which provides a brief, easy to complete ten-item alcohol quiz.
Alternatively Counselling Online provides a wealth of resources to help support you or a loved to explore and if necessary reduce drinking habits. In addition to providing a confidential and free phone counselling service (24/7) they also provide free community membership which provides chat counselling, e-mail and SMS support, access to chat forums, self-assessments and online learning modules. This resource is also great for those who are worried about the drinking habits of someone they care about.
Hello Sunday Morning is another online community that provides a wealth of information and links to help learn more about alcohol use along with strategies to reduce drinking including some great recipes for non-alcoholic alternatives.
Phone apps can be a great way to help monitor and manage your alcohol intake. On Track The Right Mix is an App developed by Open Arms for serving and ex-servicing ADF personnel and veterans. It helps manage consumption by tracking the number and types of drinks consumed, and how much money is being spent. It also calculates how much exercise is needed to burn off the kilojoules consumed. This is a great app for someone who would benefit seeing in real time how their wellbeing, fitness and bank account is being impacted by their alcohol use.
For the younger folks Ray’s Night Out is an i-phone app aimed at helping 16-25 year-olds increase their awareness of their drinking limits and provides encouragement to practice safer drinking practices. For those who prefer instant anonymous feedback on their drinking habits the Drinks Meter app provides instant, unbiased feedback.
The fact that drinking continues to be embedded in cultural norms, can make it difficult for people to seek support. Daybreak, a free personalised mobile app developed by the Hello Sunday Morning team, provides people with the opportunity to be part of a supportive online community, where they can be anonymous and observe other peoples’ journeys in reducing alcohol use, share their own experiences and receive support from a ‘Care Navigator’, who is available to help guide people through the journey if needed. Daybreak recommends tailored activities to help positively change lifestyle habits and reduce or stop drinking completely.
This article provides a snapshot of online resources in the alcohol use space. There are a number of other great, free evidence-based resources to help support you and your loved ones in learning more about and reducing risky drinking behaviours.
Take a look at our eMHPrac factsheet ‘Digital Mental Health for Addictions for further information on using online resources to help monitor and manage drinking habits over the holiday season. For other mental health issues that may be co-occurring with alcohol misuse check out the Department of Health funded digital gateway Head to Health and ask Sam the Chatbot to tell you what other online resources available.
For inspirational books, videos and podcasts on reducing or stopping drinking check out the list of additional resources on the Hello Sunday Morning Helpful Resources page. Even if there is glimmer of concern for yourself or a loved one, empowering yourself with knowledge about what underlies addictive behaviours, and listening to people’s journeys can be a powerful tool towards becoming ready to embrace individual change.