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Driving drunk? Here's how - and why - to stop.

By Tim Woodley

You may have driven drunk yourself or you may be worried about a loved one who does. In such a case, it’s vital to educate and understand how the brain acts when you get drunk – and what you can do to stop dependency on or addiction to alcohol before driving under the influence kills, harms or leads to legal trouble.

If you are worried about the alcohol use of you or a loved one and the consequences it may have, please call the Help Me Stop team for support at no obligation. You can reach us at 0208 191 8920 or you can email us.


The cold, hard truth.

Over 3,500 people are injured every year in the UK due to drink driving. Deaths, of which there were 270 in 2017, are at their highest in a decade. Behind every number is a hidden story of families torn apart and lives irreversibly changed. Chris Cordell*, Help Me Stop’s General Manager says “Any death from drink driving is one too many, but it is also worrying that the number of serious injuries from drink-drive accidents rose by 11%. Serious injuries can be, and often are, life-changing for both the individual and their families.”

In the mind of the individual who decides to drive drunk, the danger never seems quite real enough to worry about. Many claim they have the ‘skills’ they need to operate a car safely when they’re drunk and others, as sad as it is to say, simply don’t care. It’s also common that adults in the UK simply aren’t aware of the legal and financial difficulties driving drunk can place them in; campaigns such as THINK! Have highlighted the reality that a DUI can cost an average of £20,000 to £50,000 in fines, legal costs, spiked insurance premiums and potential job losses.


Alcohol and the brain.

Although there are many who drive drunk in belligerent defiance of the dangers it can cause, it’s also a common claim that adults who have driven drunk didn’t mean to at the start of the night. Drinking, whether for social enjoyment or for the alleviation of stress, anxiety and other emotions, changes a person and their inhibitions.

Alcohol works initially as a stimulant and a depressant. When we drink, it increases the production of dopamine, serotonin, which help regulate our mood, and gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for the reduction of transmissions between nerve cells. Put simply, alcohol makes us feel ‘good’ – and, as the session of drinking continues, the more we’re inclined to keep drinking to chase the initial euphoric high we felt at the start. Our inhibitions are lowered and at the same time, our brain’s ability to respond to stimuli and process thoughts is slowed significantly. 

And so, with keys in pocket, adults across the country and the whole wider world find themselves considering and doing what they usually never would sober: They get behind the wheel. In many cases, they proceed under the false belief that they’ve sobered up and that they’re ready to drive. Excuses like “I’ve waited long enough” or “I’ve only had a couple of glasses while I was eating” are tragically familiar phrases to many adults who know others who have or continue to drink-drive.

That’s almost never correct; official guidelines state you should wait three hours before driving if you’ve had one large glass of wine or two to three hours for a beer. Drinking water or eating food does nothing to affect this.


What to do if you or a loved one has driven while drunk.

Driving home the statistics and consequences of driving drunk is important; an adult drunk behind the wheel is a danger beyond themselves, liable to harm or kill adults and children who share the road with them. Beyond this, however, we can also look to the reasons why a person might be drinking so heavily – and we can attempt to assist them in freeing themselves from that destructive pattern of behaviour.

In the modern day, intensive non-residential rehabilitation programmes are available and can even be taken entirely online. What does this mean? Professional care is now also available to adults who have a problem but aren’t full-blown alcoholics yet. If you or a loved one is worried about decisions and actions made under the influence and the potential for addiction in the future, help is deserved, appropriate and available at a price never before possible. In the case of Help Me Stop’s unique Dayhab model, they even exceed the success rates of ‘traditional’ residential rehabilitation programmes.


We are here for you. Contact us.

Addressing your own drinking difficulties or helping another to free themselves from alcohol dependency is a worthy and admirable choice. If you’d like to talk to Help Me Stop about doing this, please call us on 0208 191 8920 or email us today. We are here to help and happy to chat about your concerns, issues and goals for a future free of alcohol abuse.  


*Chris is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, and a member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine.