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  • Priory experts offer guidance for people who want to cut back or stop drinking alcohol this Christmas
  • Many will find it hard to resist, at a time when alcohol is “front and centre”
  • Think about your triggers for drinking, make a plan before attending events and communicate with loved ones, say alcohol withdrawal experts

Leading addiction experts at Priory have issued guidance to help people who want to stay sober, or avoid excess drinking, during the Christmas period when alcohol is often “front and centre”.

“It’s a huge topic and it’s really complicated,” says Debbie Lonsdale, psychotherapist and Priory’s director of therapy services. “Whether you are battling addiction or just want to cut back on drinking, there are so many expectations at Christmas, so many family dynamics at play, so many parties, with social norms suggesting that you should or you must drink.

“There are lots of perceived rules, but people have different relationships with alcohol, and your own relationship with alcohol can change over time. Old social habits might no longer be in your best interests.”

There are 1.7 million ‘higher risk’ alcohol drinkers in the UK, while many people who may not fall into that category are looking to cut back or stop drinking alcohol entirely, due to the effects on their own health and wellbeing.

“It’s important to gain a sense of awareness of what alcohol is giving you, but also what it is taking away from you.” says Dr David McLaughlan, consultant psychiatrist at Priory and co-founder of Curb, a predictive behaviour change app. “If you want to strop drinking, it helps to gain a sense of awareness of how much are you drinking. Then, think about the cues or triggers that lead you to drink.”

Dr Donald Masi, consultant psychiatrist at Priory, said: “Christmas is a time when alcohol is often front and centre. It’s very difficult to abstain, especially if you are only seen as being part of the fun when you are drinking.”

“As a child, Christmas was about presents and fun. Now as an adult it’s often about indulgence. It’s about indulging in gift giving but it’s also about indulging in food and merriment.

“For people who want to reduce their alcohol intake, or stop altogether, the first step may be an act of communication with loved ones who will be with you at events. We need to be able to say ‘this is a difference I have and I need to be mindful of how much I’m consuming’.”

Debbie Lonsdale says: “Another key step to take, before attending a social event, is to take some preparation time to think about how you want to engage in that event. Make a plan. Take a step back and think, what choice do I have? Do I want to engage in the way I have historically? How does that make me feel? Is that good for me?”

Dr McLaughlan says: “Making a plan is very important. However you choose to engage with alcohol, it’s all about doing it within the plan you’ve made.

“Don’t drink on autopilot. If you are going to drink, drink within the plan. If you don‘t want to drink at all, then have a strategy to avoid those drinking cues and triggers.”

Priory is the UK’s leading independent provider of mental health and addiction services. The experts shared their guidance during a new panel discussion series called Perspectives, premiering on the Priory YouTube channel on 5 December at 7pm.

More than 10million people in the UK regularly exceed drinking guidelines, including 1.7 million who drink at higher risk and around 600,000 who are dependent on alcohol. Priory’s mental health and addiction rehabilitation services will support thousands of people this winter, across the UK.

For people suffering from alcohol addiction, it is dangerous to stop drinking suddenly without medical support. Individuals can contact their GP or can receive a free addiction assessment at a specialist Priory service, by calling 0330 173 7690.


Notes to editors

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About Priory and MEDIAN

Priory is the UK’s leading independent provider of mental health services. We treat more than 70 conditions including depression, anxiety, addictions, and eating disorders, as well as children’s mental health, across our nationwide network of sites. We also support autistic adults and adults with a learning disability, Prader-Willi Syndrome and brain injuries, as well as older people, within our specialist residential care and supported living facilities– helping as many people as possible to live their lives.    

Priory is part of MEDIAN, one of Europe’s leading providers of high-quality mental health and rehabilitation services. There are 430 facilities in the MEDIAN group, comprising 290 Priory facilities with 5,000 beds in the UK, 14 sites with 2,000 beds in Spain, and 120 facilities and 20,000 beds and therapy places in Germany, caring for around 270,000 patients overall, with more than 29,000 employees.

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