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In good spirits

A chronic drink problem is not the same as suffering a sore head due to seasonal excesses. But in moderation, alcohol can be good for you, says Hannah Frankel

'Tis the season to be merry, but with so much fizz beckoning, it can get downright messy as well. As a proud nation of prodigious drinkers, Britons consume great quantities of alcohol throughout the year, but it is at Christmas-time that we demonstrate our true dominance in the field.

It is particularly difficult for teachers. Class 4D can be tricky at the best of times, but faced with a hangover of biblical proportions, they can morph into the devil himself. And who hasn't tried to teach pupils about the evils of alcohol while themselves trying to choke back the good old technicolour yawn?

Then there are those who never make it into work in the first place.

Work-related alcohol misuse costs the UK economy an estimated pound;6.4 billion per year, mostly as a result of staff absences. In fact, about 15 per cent of the total number of lost working days are a result of binge drinking, equating to a staggering 17 million alcohol-related sick days each year.

The health implications of heavy drinking are well known. Research shows that people who are anxious or depressed are more likely to turn to alcohol, but, as a depressant, it simply makes them worse. More serious still is the effect alcohol can have on your physical well-being. Cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer can lead to an early grave, not to mention the large number of people who have accidents while under the influence.

If you are concerned about a colleague, Alcohol Concern's advice is that you should keep telling them that you are worried, ask them to seek a second opinion and never collude or encourage them to drink. It also recommends that schools adopt a clear policy that identifies any alcohol problem as a confidential health issue rather than a cause for immediate disciplinary action.

However, as the Portman Group - a consortium of drinks' producers that encourages responsible drinking - claims, moderate drinking has health benefits as well. It says that as long as men and women keep within their recommended daily intake (four and three units respectively) alcohol can actually reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. I'll drink to that

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