The festive season is upon us and with it comes all kinds of excesses.

Fat, sugar and alcohol intakes rise for most of us as we toast Christmas and mark the New Year.

A bit of indulgence never does anyone long term harm – or does it? Do you ever wonder how much boozing your body can take?

Will that eight pint session last Friday come back to haunt you, not just the next day, but later in life?

When it comes to the deadly drink, Kirklees-based expert Dr Carsten Grimm has seen more than his fair share of “liver crises”.

And he has confirmed that even one heavy session of boozing per week is likely to be harming your health.

“You definitely put yourself at risk,” said Dr Grimm, formerly Kirklees’ clinical lead of alcohol misuse treatment services. “There is good evidence that if you drink every weekend, it has the same damage to your health as daily drinking. But it depends on who you are, what your ethnic background is and how much the binge is.

“Official daily guidelines are two/three units for women and three/four units for men with two days alcohol free.

“That is regarded as possibly acceptable where you don’t come to too much harm.

“All the health problems come when you drink more than that.

Dr Carsten Grimm, alcohol misuse expert
Dr Carsten Grimm, alcohol misuse expert

“Technically a binge is about a bottle of wine or four pints. We know for sure if you drink a bottle of wine each night, eight to nine units, that’s too much! You will get harm with that.

“If people drink a lot regularly, three to four pints a night or a bottle of wine, they have a huge increase in health risks.

“Four times the risk for hypertension for a man for instance, also liver disease and heart attacks.”

When it comes to unabashed binge drinking, the Friday night post-work session or the Saturday beers with the lads, there are many urban myths about what to consume before and after. Whether it be the pint of milk you swear “lines your stomach” or the special concoction you have formulated that you are sure eradicates your hangover in an instant, it appears it’s all a waste of time.

“It’s all urban myths I’m afraid,” confirmed Dr Grimm. “The only one that can help is the obvious one – drink less and space it out – opt out of the rounds occasionally.

“You can’t speed up metabolising the alcohol. You get rid of one unit per hour. There’s nothing you can do to speed it up or slow it down.

“You might feel better after a shower, a coffee, a glass of water or an aspirin, but it won’t change the alcohol content of your bloodstream.”

The mystery of why some people can handle their booze better than others can also be solved by science.

“It’s about your genes,” said Dr Grimm.

“Some people are lucky. There are some enzymes that all humans have that metabolise alcohol. There’s a variation how they’re built. Some can get rid of alcohol very quickly and some are very bad.

“If you look at the whole world, in China and the Far East they have very bad alcohol enzymes and can’t hold their drink at all. You will never see a Chinese person who is physically dependent on alcohol and can drink a bottle of wine a day. They never get there, they become physically unwell before they get there.

“With local guys it’s really quite striking, if you have ancestors from Scotland and Poland, the ability to drink without a hangover can be astonishing.

“They have a genetic difference, they can metabolise it quicker and also need to drink more to get intoxicated.

“You see guys who can drink half a bottle of vodka who appear fine and feel fine”.

A key part of Dr Grimm’s role has been treating so called “problem drinkers” – people who are told by the courts to address their alcohol abuse.

Those working in the field are now seeing an increase in younger people, especially women, and OAPs.

“We have seen some horrendous cases,” said Dr Grimm, “especially with young women. We’ve had a small number of women in their early 20s who died of alcohol disease.

“They came in they were yellow and had acute liver disease. In the UK women have started drinking more than they used to.

“For some reason – genetics, gender – they are much more vulnerable regarding their liver.

“Liver doctors at HRI are now seeing people with severe liver problems early in their life.

“They had never seen it before the age of 40 before. Now they’re seeing people in their 20s turning up with alcoholic hepatitis.

“It’s vastly under-diagnosed and it’s becoming more common.

“Once or twice a year I have somebody under my care in their 20s and they die. It’s really sad.

“The rise is also old age pensioners, people beyond the age of 60 who should really know better.

“They’re very difficult to treat and they also get much more harm with lesser doses of alcohol. All the standard assessments don’t really work and so they need to be under specialist care. The oldest we’ve treated was 79, so it can affect any age group”.

Is binge drinking just a British thing?

What’s the problem with booze? We do like our pubs in this country, or is it a British or a northern issue?

Dr Carsten Grimm, who hails from beer loving Germany, says not.

“Most places have problems,” he said. “Germany historically had worse problems than the UK.

“But alcohol intake in the UK has risen where as in most places it has reduced.

“Britain drinks half of what the Germans used to drink and a third of what the French used to drink.

A glass of wine
A glass of wine

“But we are drinking more while other countries are drinking less, interestingly without any specific intervention, it just happened.

“There are some drinking patterns unique not to the UK but northern Europe. That’s the binge drinking that you see in the streets.

“You don’t see that in southern Europe.

What’s the solution then? Will minimum pricing help? Dr Grimm said he was confident 2015 would be a key year to tackling Britain’s booze problem.

He said: “Britain is years, possibly decades ahead of all the other European countries. Prohibition doesn’t work, the vast majority of people don’t have a problem with alcohol.

“What you can do is make it a little bit more expensive and introduce minimum pricing. It gets rid of the very cheap stuff – the 30p per litre ciders in the supermarket – but it doesn’t change the pint price in the pub or the price of a bottle of wine.

“The next thing is accessibility, there’s no reason why we need 24/7 access to alcohol.

“If you reduce the amount of advertising and the presence in airports it will help.

“The third thing is if people decide they want to reduce their intake, you have to give them the option to do that.

“We can’t do anything locally about minimum pricing but I think it will come next summer.

“The local authority can look at licencing for accessibility.

“Regarding treatment, we’re on track with that. We’ve got the main service and we’ve got 12 to 14 GPs who offer alcohol treatment.

“You don’t have to necessarily be registered with them - that’s one of the clever things we’ve sorted out.

“You can access the service confidentially and get the right treatment.”

What does it mean in our area?

Kirklees Council’s public health team has revealed the shocking level of harm alcohol causes in the region.

More than 1,200 people are treated for alcohol dependence each year by Lifeline and Locala – more than three each day.

Patients are typically referred by health workers or the courts. But people who would not typically define themselves as alcoholics are also a significant concern for officials.

Tony Cooke, head of health improvement, said: “Alcohol misuse is a major health problem in Kirklees, like the rest of England.

“However most alcohol related problems are related to people regularly drinking over lower risk limits, and around one in four adults in Kirklees do this, risking accidents, causing social impacts on children and families, time off work due to hangovers and health problems such as liver disease and certain cancers later in life.

Accident & Emergency Dept at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in Lindley
Accident & Emergency Dept at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in Lindley

“People are often unaware of these risks, but your GP or on-line information via the NHS can provide accurate facts for people to understand if they need to cut down.

“Over Christmas people like to relax and alcohol, used safely and in moderation, can play a part in that.

“By taking a few easy steps such as not driving, avoiding drinking on an empty stomach and drinking lower alcohol drinks and water whilst on a night out, you can reduce your risks and still have a great time.

“If you do overdo it over the festive period you could always go alcohol free and take part in Dry January, for more information and to sign up visit

Charity, Alcohol Concern, has revealed that almost one in ten of the 10 million alcohol related admissions to hospital occurred in Yorkshire.

Chief Executive, Jackie Ballard, said: “The NHS is now facing an intolerable strain from alcohol-related illnesses.

“This is not just from readily-identifiable causes such as A&E visits and admissions for liver disease, but from a significant number of other conditions in which alcohol plays a major, but often under-appreciated part.

“We need to ensure adequate alcohol care pathways are prioritised and appropriate services are put in place to ease this burden”.

To check if you’re drinking to much visit


956,340 people are classified as either increasing or high risk drinkers in Yorkshire and are therefore drinking in excess of Government guidelines.

Alcohol attributable admissions in Yorkshire cost the NHS £280.4m in total, with the cost of inpatient admissions 2.6 times greater than the cost of A&E admissions.

There was a £69.6m cost to the NHS for hypertensive disease inpatient admissions attributable to alcohol consumption alone.

Alcohol is attributable for almost half of all head and neck cancer inpatient admissions at a cost to the NHS of £6.7m.

Over 2,200 deaths in Yorkshire were attributable to alcohol.