Don’t stockpile alcohol this Christmas – it could store up health problems

tips for drinking alcohol over the festive season

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is calling on those who choose to drink alcohol this festive season to not stockpile alcohol as it could increase the risk of you drinking more that you normally would.

Many of us over-indulge at Christmas but overdoing it with alcohol could seriously damage your health.

Michael Owen, the PHA’s lead for Drugs and Alcohol, said: “Many of us like to have a drink at Christmas and we’re not saying people shouldn’t, but it’s important that we enjoy ourselves safely.

“Many people do not realise that alcohol is a powerful drug and we need to be careful how we use it. Drinking too much has a negative impact on you and those around you.

“Throughout this pandemic people have been drinking more at home and in this run-up to Christmas we’d ask please don’t stockpile alcohol in your home. Plan your weekly shop and only buy as much as you have decided you want to drink safely during the week. If you stockpile the temptation is there to drink more than you normally would, especially if you’re at home for the vast majority of your time.

“At this time, when the health service is under increasing pressures because of COVID-19, we need to act responsibly and not add to that burden. Drinking too much can cause accidents around the home, which might need hospital treatment. Help protect the health service and yourself by doing all you can to avoid unnecessary problems with alcohol.”

Binge drinking can have a major impact on your physical health, causing damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach.

Remember, being intoxicated could be putting you and others at risk as you are less likely to be coherent and able to follow the social distancing and hygiene practices that are required to help protect you from coronavirus.

Drinking too much can also affect our judgement, leading us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do and that we might regret later, such as fighting, public disorder, or falling causing injury.

Michael continued: "By setting a plan you can avoid binge drinking, which has been shown to have adverse effects on our health and safety. At home, it can be all too easy to have ‘just one more’ or pour a little bit extra and lose track of how much you’re drinking.

“The alcohol guidelines recommend that both men and women drink no more than 14 units per week. If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more. You can't ‘save up’ your units for a particular day or a party.

“So we would really encourage people to get to know their units. For example: a 500ml bottle of beer can be between 2-3.5 units. A large glass of wine, which is 250ml, is around three units. So you can see just how quickly the units can start to add up.

“Alcohol can also have a major impact on your emotional wellbeing. Being hung over can make you feel anxious and low. Some people may already feel down over Christmas and drinking can make this worse.

“It is therefore important that people understand their drinking behaviour and look at their relationship with alcohol, whether it’s a positive or negative one, so that they can enjoy the Christmas holiday.

“Something that many people don’t realise is the serious impact that mixing alcohol with other drugs, including prescription medication, can have. The mix can increase the toxicity of the drug and can have a serious impact, and can even result in death.

“For example, mixing alcohol and cocaine is a toxic mix, and could cause your heart to stop. The safest advice is to not take any other drug along with alcohol, or mix any other drugs at all, if you are planning on using them.”

Ten top tips for safer drinking at Christmas:

  • Eat before or while drinking and avoid salty snacks, which make you thirsty.
  • Be assertive – don’t be pressured into drinking more than you want or intend to.
  • Know your limits and stick to them.
  • Stay busy – don't just sit and drink. Play board games or instead of drinking go for a walk.
  • Try not to confuse large measures of alcohol with standard measures, eg a glass of wine served at home may be much larger than the standard 125ml.
  • Keep track of your drinks and don't let people top up your drink until it's finished.
  • Try alternating alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks. Add plenty of mixer to your drinks to make them last longer.
  • Drink at your own pace, not someone else's.
  • Drink slowly – take sips, not gulps.
  • Don’t mix alcohol with any other drugs, including prescription medication

To find out more about alcohol, or to get help from a professional – either for yourself, or someone you care for or are concerned about – visit

More information on looking after your mental health and the support which is available across Northern Ireland can be found at

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at

Further information


Notes to the editor

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