One thing I have become particularly aware of when supporting people with alcohol reduction, is that all too many of us don’t know how many units there are in alcoholic beverages. Quite often we hear that the recommendations of alcohol is no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, but is this guideline really useful, especially if the public doesn’t know what a unit means? I think not, so with the tips in this blog, maybe you can change the way you give advice around alcohol consumption.
8 Tips to helping people reduce alcohol consumption
1 – Be clear what a unit is.
Sometimes having a chart or guide is useful so patients can clearly visualise how many units are in what drink. I quite often use an online unit calculator to add up the units of alcohol my clients consume (https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/interactive-tools/unit-calculator) and this makes it so simple.
2 – Establish a rapport with the patient first and that this is a safe place to talk about alcohol consumption.
All too many fear that being honest with health care professionals will lead to judgement or a telling off. If a patient feels comfortable telling you the amount they consume, then they can access the support they need to reduce.
3 – Don’t be afraid to ask again
Many of the people I support respond that they don’t drink upon first response, but then when I follow up with “you don’t drink at all?” They quite often do drink, just not what they would consider a lot.
4 – Refer when necessary
As healthcare professionals we always want to help, but sometimes people may need a higher level of support. If someone indicates a high alcohol consumption or signs of addiction, it may be wise to refer to specialist alcohol addiction services.
5 – Be clear with the current guidelines around alcohol
In the Uk, we recommend no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, and for these units to be consumed over the course of the week rather than in one sitting. It is also recommended to have alcohol free days in the week.
6 – Ensure patients are aware of calories in alcohol
Many of the people I support are more shocked by the amount of calories that are in the alcoholic drinks they consume than the number of units. The alcohol calculator also calculates the rough amount of calories consumed through the consumption of different drinks so it’s very useful (https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/interactive-tools/unit-calculator).
7 – Have guidance on hand
Not everyone will be willing to accept the information or give an honest account of their alcohol consumption when they speak with you, so having information that they can take away with them may reach them in a different way.
8 – Time
You may feel like you don’t always have the time in appointments to ask patients about their alcohol consumption, but a short conversation can really go a long way.
I hope these helpful tips allow you to reach more patients, and together we can reduce alcohol consumption.