‘Tis the season to watch your boozing

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’TIS the season to be jolly – and for most people that means having a drink in hand.

Over the next few days, thousands of people will be out in Sheffield city centre at their Christmas work parties, marking the end of another year.

VAS Sheffield Link at The Circle 13 September 2010 .Images � Paul David Drabble

VAS Sheffield Link at The Circle 13 September 2010 .Images � Paul David Drabble

But all that celebrating means a busy time for the city’s hospitals and police stations – and the emergency services have warned people to keep an eye on their drinking.

Figures obtained by The Star under the Freedom of Information Act show far more people are arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour in December than at any other time of year.

Last December, South Yorkshire Police arrested 319 people for rowdy drunk behaviour, up from the average monthly figure of just 239 for the rest of the year.

In December 2009, 416 people were arrested, up from 283 for the other months, and in December 2008, 430 were arrested, up from 324.

South Yorkshire Police have launched safety campaign they are calling ‘Shaken and Slurred’, which warns people to watch their drinking over the Christmas period.

Superintendent Peter Norman said: “Alcohol is seen as a way to relax by many people, but it can also give people confidence to do and say things that they wouldn’t ordinarily dream about.

“It also brings out the worst in people – argumentative, aggressive and insulting behaviour.

“This mix can lead to violent confrontations, whether that is in the pub, a nightclub, a taxi queue or at home.”

The city’s doctors have also warned about the effects of drinking too much over the Christmas period.

Sheffield’s Director of Public Health, Dr Jeremy Wight, said the number of people who arrive at A&E with drinking-related injuries rises at this time of year.

He said: “Excessive drinking is clearly a major health problem – and it is getting worse.

“It is a problem for the health services but the issue also has an impact on social services, the police and the emergency services.

“It is also a problem for employers. My guess is that employers will see a lot of alcohol-related absenteeism over the Christmas period – whether through hangovers or because people are still drunk in the morning.”

Dr Wight has called for licensing laws to be changed so there is more seating available in pubs and bars, so customers do not just stand and drink.

He has also been involved in a programme to distribute polycarbonate glasses to Sheffield’s pubs, to reduce the number of severe glassing injuries.

Sheffield Drug and Alcohol Action Team has given 100,000 of these indestructible glasses to 70 city venues since 2009, leading to a significant reduction in injuries.

In 2007/08 there were 70 glassing incidents in the city, down to just 38 in 2010/11, after the programme had been rolled out.

Dr Wight said the programme, although expensive, is cost-effective because – apart from the human benefit – a severe glassing injury can cost the NHS up to £180,000 to treat.

Dr Olawale Lagundoye, clinical director for drug and alcohol services at Sheffield Health & Social Care Trust, agrees drinking is a problem at this time of year.

Dr Lagundoye, a consultant in addiction psychiatry, said: “There is definitely a rise in alcohol-related injury or incidents of the Christmas period.

“This time tends to be a time when people drink more than usual.”

But he said it is also a time when serious drinking problems can come to light.

“At this time of year it can become more obvious that someone’s drinking is a problem – within the family setting or outside the family setting.

“It’s also a time when people who have managed to deal with their drinking problems can be at risk of relapse.”

He said regular excessive drinking impacts people’s physical, psychological and social health.

Therapist and author Georgia Foster has created a new method to help people reduce their alcohol consumption – the Drink Less Mind 21 Day Programme.

She said: “There’s definitely more pressure on people to drink and to drink more at this time of year.

“Generally, this is a peak time for people coming to me concerned because they just can’t seem to cut back on their drinking.

“They’re normally aged between 30 and 60, come from all walks of life, have perfectly normal, successful lives and certainly aren’t alcoholics and don’t want to abstain.

“Many will be drinking daily and their doctors may have told them, ‘Just cut back a little bit’, but for most people that’s a bit meaningless because if it was that easy, they would have done it.”

The Georgia Foster Drink Less Mind 21 Day book is available at £17.99. For more information, visit www.georgiafoster.com.

Tips for avoiding a hangover

AVOID DEHYDRATION

The driving factor behind hangover symptoms is dehydration.

Try and alternate your alcoholic drinks with a non-alcoholic drink.

If you’re embarrassed about not being seen to keep up with the drinking, why not try a tonic water with ice and lemon – it looks like a gin and tonic.

KEEP BLOOD SUGAR UP

Alcohol can lead to low blood sugar, which in turn can cause symptoms including feeling faint, tired, dizzy and wobbly.

While people feel more energised while drinking, due to their blood alcohol levels going up, by the next morning, blood-sugar levels may have dipped.

DON’T GO HUNGRY

Making sure you eat before and during drinking will help reduce hangover symptoms, and also means you’re less likely to be sick.

Alcohol poisons cells throughout the body, and the first cells it hits are in the stomach lining.

If there’s no food in the stomach the poison will have direct access.

DARK OR LIGHT DRINKS?

A 2009 study by researchers at Brown University in the United States found the severity of a hangover is affected by the colour of the alcohol being drunk, with darker drinks, such as red wine or whisky, the worst offenders.

HAIR OF THE DOG

No matter what you’ve been drinking the night before, having any alcohol, or ‘a hair of the dog’ the next day to relieve your hangover symptoms, isn’t a good idea.

While it may reduce any hangover jitters you’re experiencing, it won’t help in any other way.

HANGOVER HELP

Dealing with a hangover depends on the symptoms, but paracetamol or ibuprofen can help if you have a headache, and caffeine in coffee can give an energy boost if you’re tired.

Eating will also help improve blood sugar and make you feel better.