After overindulging in December, many people use the New Year as a reason to swear off alcohol, at least for a few weeks.

Dry January is a campaign by Alcohol Concern designed to encourage people to quit the booze for 31 days so they can see the health benefits of reducing the amount they drink. During last year’s initiative, more than 2 million people cut down their alcohol intake and many reported sleeping better, losing weight and having more energy.

However, for many people drinking alcohol is more than just a lifestyle choice, it is an addiction which is hard to kick. And the consequences of alcohol misuse affect not only the drinker’s health and wellbeing but everyone involved in their lives.

Alcohol Concern claims 93,500 babies under the age of one are living with a problem drinker in the UK. And more than one in four people drink more than the recommended level, according to statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Each week men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol – the equivalent of seven pints of beer – and women should stick to 14 units or less – which is around seven small glasses of wine. So simply drinking more than one pint or glass of wine a day could have a negative impact on your health.

If you’re worried about the drinking habits of someone you love, AlphaBiolabs offers alcohol testing services which can help you identify whether there is a problem and help them get the support they need. We also offer workplace testing for employers who need to check their staff are not abusing alcohol.

Nine ways alcohol may be harming your body

Alcohol can cause a wide range of problems including:

  • Fertility issues

Men who drink excess alcohol can suffer from a loss of sex drive and sperm production can be affected, making it harder to conceive a child. In women, drinking can cause hormone imbalances which can affect fertility.

  • Cancer

According to the UK Centre of Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, alcohol increases the risk of five different types of cancer – mouth, throat, liver, oesophagus, breast and bowel.

  • Liver problems

Alcohol misuse causes fat to accumulate in the cells of your liver. This leads to fatty liver, which stops the organ functioning as it should. When people drink heavily, they can also develop cirrhosis – scarring of the liver – which is responsible for 4,000 deaths in the UK each year.

  • Chest infections

People who drink a lot of alcohol are more susceptible to chest infections and pneumonia as drinking affects the immune system.

  • Dry skin and brittle hair

Alcohol causes the body to become dehydrated, which dries out your skin and can make your hair become brittle and lifeless. Alcohol also affects the levels of Vitamin C and A in your body, which makes your skin more vulnerable to environmental damage and can affect collagen production, making you appear older.

  • Mental illness

Drinking is linked to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. Alcohol plays a part in almost one in three suicides in the UK and is often involved in incidents of self harm.

  • High blood pressure and heart problems

Drinking heavily affects the heart and can lead to alcohol-related cardiomyopathy, which leaves sufferers breathless and tired and in severe cases can cause heart failure. Binge drinking can also cause atrial fibrillation – a condition where a person develops a fast and irregular heart rate. Drinking also constricts blood vessels, which causes high blood pressure and raises your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

  • Kidney disease

The National Kidney Foundation claims heavy drinking doubles the risk of kidney disease as alcohol limits the organ’s ability to filter toxins and waste products from the blood.

  • Osteoporosis

Regular drinking affects your body’s ability to build and repair bone. This puts alcoholics and heavy drinkers at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, making them more likely to fracture or break bones.