To make sure you enjoy drinking alcohol safely, it is important to know what effects it can have, what the risks are and how to avoid them.
Knowing the risks
The list below gives you an idea of some of the effects and health risks associated with drinking excessive alcohol.
What are the effects of drinking alcohol?
What are the risks of drinking excessively?
How does alcohol affect my diabetes?
If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy a drink safely, but there are some important additional issues that you should bear in mind. Being drunk will limit your ability to:
Drinking too much can lead to symptoms similar to those of a hypo. Alcohol can also cause your blood glucose levels to fall; this can often happen a number of hours after you stop drinking.
It is advisable not to drive if you have had anything at all to drink. Even small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of hypos, which are particularly dangerous if you are driving and can lead to accidents and the loss of your licence. The legal alcohol limit in the UK for drivers is 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood.
If you drink excessively, you can put yourself at increased risk of developing serious hypoglycaemia and unconsciousness, which can be life-threatening if not managed appropriately.
The key is to be aware of the diabetes-related complications that exist, and drink sensibly, so that you can enjoy yourself safely.
If you drink sensibly, alcohol can be associated with positive experiences, relaxation and greater ability to socialise, especially with new people. It is excessive drinking, “getting drunk”, that can cause problems – compromising your immediate and long-term health, your thought processes and ability to function.
The keys to sensible drinking are to remember:
Your diabetes care team can offer you information about your alcohol allowance. In general, alcohol allowances are the same for people with diabetes as they are for the general population. They should be used as a guide to the maximum amount that is thought to be safe to drink on a daily basis.
It is not recommended that you drink your entire weekly allowance in one day and then nothing for the rest of the week. This is known as “binge drinking”. Of course, having alcohol free days is fine as long as you don’t then drink to excess once or twice a week.
The maximum advisable allowances are:
A unit is a measure of alcohol normally equating to:
If you have diabetes, it is important for you to remember:
Hints and Tips:
If you choose to take social drugs, you must be aware of the all the risks involved – those that affect the general population, and also those specific to your diabetes. Confide in your diabetes care team if you choose to experiment with social drugs and they will suggest ways of managing the risks.
Use of drugs can never be classed as safe.
Groups of drugs
Depressants: act on the central nervous system and slow down the activity of the brain, e.g. alcohol, tranquillisers, glue, aerosols
Stimulants: act on the central nervous system and increase brain activity, e.g. tobacco, speed, ecstasy, cocaine
Anabolic steroids: increase body mass, promoting growth in skeletal muscle
Hallucinogens: act on the brain distorting the senses (how you hear, feel and see things). They can produce a feeling of extreme relaxation e.g. cannabis, detamine, LSD, magic mushrooms Analgesics: control pain and provide a feeling of well being, e.g. pethidine, morphine, heroin.
You need to be aware that experimenting with any drugs will impair your senses and you run the risk of not recognising potential problems with your diabetes.
Failure to identify early warnings of a problem with your diabetes can prove potentially dangerous or even fatal.
|Name||Other common names||Form||Effects||Side Effects|
|LSD||Acid, dots, trips, microdots||A small square of paper with a picture on one side, small tablets or a liquid||Senses become hyper-sensitive (everything appears slowed down or speeded up), sounds are distorted, colours are heightened; the effects (the “trip”) can last for around 10 hours||
|Ketamine||Special k, vitamin k, green k||A small white tablet or powder or even a liquid. Often passed off as Ecstasy||Similar in action to LSD; trip lasts for approximately 1 hour||
|Magic Mushrooms||Mushies||Small brown mushrooms that can be eaten raw, cooked or dried||Similar effects to LSD, but the trip usually only 4 hours||
|Cannabis||Grass, weed, hash, marijuana, blow, puff, or skunk||Leaves, seeds or stalk of the plant that are rolled, mixed with tobacco and smoked in a spiff or joint; resin (solid lump) that is usually shaved into pieces and smoked in a pipe. Potency varies greatly dependent on manner of presentation.||
|Speed||Amphetamines, uppers||Whitish powder or tablets. May be smoked, snorted, dissolved or injected||Feeling of confidence, highly alert, excited||
|Ecstasy||Es, disco burgers, little ones||More common in a tablet white tablet (various shapes), powder (dissolved or injected)||Everything seems more intense, feel alert and full of energy, feel as though you love everyone; trip lasts 4-6 hours||
|Cocaine||Coke, c, snow, charlie||Usually sold as a white powder which may be snorted up the nose or injected||Powerful stimulant, creating a feeling of well being and confidence; short-lived for approx 30–45 minutes||
How do drugs affect my diabetes?
All drugs can compromise your diabetes control. Taking any social drugs affects your state of mind and perception of reality, which can affect your diabetes in a number of ways. You may:
Drugs can also affect your appetite. Some can suppress it (e.g. LSD and cocaine), while some can give you cravings (e.g. cannabis). Remember that changes in your eating, both increases and decreases, will affect your blood glucose levels.
Taking drugs often goes hand-in-hand with omission of insulin. This can be particularly dangerous if taking a stimulant (e.g. ecstasy), which are often taken before partaking in intense physical exercise like dancing or raving. This can lead to severe dehydration, exhaustion and, ultimately, ketoacidosis.
Remember, more advice can be found from websites like Talk to Frank or from your diabetes care team.