As Christmas 2013 rapidly approaches we need to consider the excesses that often accompany this time of year. It is the season of good cheer, parties, catching up with old friends.
Try to avoid letting slip the health discipline you have had during the rest of the year. Whether it is gluvine (mulled wine) on the ski-slopes or toasting in the new year remember the saying: A “little” of what you like does you good. The key word is little and not a “lot”.
For most people a small amount of alcohol does no harm, is enjoyable and may even do some good.
However, drinking too much or even drinking a little at the wrong time can cause problems; not just hangovers but accidents at home, at work or on the roads.
This should make you sit up . . . one in three of all road traffic deaths are related to alcohol.
Alcohol misuse is one of the UK’s largest health and social problems.
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a stimulant. It depresses brain function affecting judgement, decision making, self-control and the ability to drive or operate machinery. Rather than improving your appeal it acts as a repellent.
Alcohol is also the great pretender; you always think that it has had no effect.
However, ask your mates and they will say “I can tell you have had a drink because either you won’t shut up or you go quiet”.
What is more worrying is that the problem drinker may well be someone you share an office with and not the picture of the “skid row” down and out.
We all know someone with an alcohol problem but the deception is that they and you may not have identified the issue.
The oil and gas industry takes alcohol misuse very seriously both off- and onshore.
Although the financial costs are difficult to quantify we know they are considerable and include losses due to increased absenteeism, increased accident rates and reduced working efficiency.
It does not take much imagination to visualise the disastrous effect, offshore, if a crane operator, derrrick-man, driller, scaffolder, or welder suffers the serious symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal (such as DTs, tremor, seizures, anger, depression, paranoia).
Your occupational health adviser works closely with the company to implement its policy on alcohol misuse.
The company will develop a long-term programme, in close consultation with occupational health, providing information on alcohol education for all staff that promotes sensible drinking and encourages those with problems to seek help.
It is not a “Gotcha”, it is about support and help.
It is not uncommon for doctors to be told that someone only drinks 50 units a week but has two days off deceiving themselves into thinking that, if they can do without alcohol for two days they are not an alcoholic. 50 units over five days = 10 units a day = 5 pints or 10 spirits.
This intake will lead to long-term health damage.
OHS can assist by offering practical help and support to employees, especially in “breaking the habit”.
More comprehensive educational programmes can be provided as part of a company health drive. Health promotion is about encouraging changes in lifestyle.
Increased awareness among managers and staff enables early identification of those with a problem so that help can be offered.
Parting message: Know the recommended safe alcohol units for a man and woman. This Christmas be safe and remember all things in moderation and just a little of what you fancy is good for you. Enjoy yourself and do not become a statistic.
Dr William Freeland is medical director, Medical Services, International SOS/Abermed