Beware this 'Mad Friday' - here's how to pace yourself

Alexandra Thompson
Friends celebrating Christmas or New Year eve.
Tomorrow marks one of the biggest night's out of the year. [Photo: Getty]

With Christmas celebrations in full swing, tomorrow marks “Mad Friday”, one of the most raucous night’s out of the year.

The last Friday before Christmas, it was among 2018’s “busiest NHS days for alcohol-related illnesses and injuries”, according to NHS England.

While one too many proseccos may seem like part of the festive fun, the World Health Organization warns alcohol is behind up to 30% of adult hospital admissions.

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Alcohol slows our responses, affects our judgement and throws off our balance, according to Drinkaware.

Many also find their vision blurs, hearing dampens and concentration wanes.

Even after the alcohol has left your bloodstream, its negative effects may still linger.

Studies suggest wine, beer and spirits impact our circulation and immune system long after the last sip.

They may also make it harder for a doctor to diagnose any serious head injuries and interfere with medication, forcing medics to delay operations or treatment.

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While Mad Friday may seem like part of the holiday festivities, it has ended in tragedy.

The weekend before Christmas in 2001, father Ian Allan was punched while queuing for a taxi, the BBC reported.

Hitting his head on the pavement, he was put in an induced coma and died from complications from pneumonia on December 28.

“Mad Friday is one of the most notorious drinking days of the year,” Sean Joyce, head of regulatory and criminal justice at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, said.

“It's the culmination of the working year, and a time when every workplace up and down the country wants to let their hair down and celebrate the Christmas break.

”However, a night of drinking can cause alcohol-fuelled problems and some workers can become easily riled and aggressive, which can lead to arguments with colleagues or strangers.

“Judgements become clouded and this can result in fighting, anti-social behaviour, unwelcome advances, and attacks by both male and female employees.”

Free bars at work Christmas parties may leave revellers particularly vulnerable.

“Often, heavy drinking is evident to colleagues at work parties, where they become inebriated and embarrass co-workers, and more importantly embarrass the company’s clients,” Dr Niall Campbell, addiction expert and consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Roehampton Hospital, told Yahoo UK.

“Some people keep their heavy drinking covered up in their private lives but it manifests itself at these work functions and the genie, as well as all the alcohol, is out the bottle.”

If you have a tendency to “let yourself go”, it may be best to give the celebrations a miss.

“If you think you have a drink problem, and are drinking red-eyed in the last chance saloon, often it’s just best to avoid the Christmas party,” Dr Campbell said.

“Make an excuse. In truth, no one really cares if you go or not.”

For everyone else, try and watch your intake, no matter how tempting the free bar may be.

In the UK, the chief medical officers’ guidelines recommend both men and women consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

This equates to six pints of 4% beer, six 175ml glasses of 13% wine and 14 25ml glasses of 40% whiskey. The guidelines recommend spreading these out, with several drink-free days a week.

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“Ideally, on one night, people shouldn’t be drinking more than two-to-four units,” Dr Daniel Atkinson, GP clinical lead at, told Yahoo UK.

“A good way to pace yourself is to choose drinks with a lower alcoholic content. Light beers and single shots of spirit, for example.

“If you opt for wine, maybe ask for a small glass with ice and soda water so it lasts longer.”

Try and alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water to minimise your hangover the next day.

“You might be visiting the toilet a little more, but that’s a small price to pay in my opinion,” Dr Atkinson said.

Remember to also line your stomach with a carbohydrate-rich meal, like pasta.

“This can drastically decrease the time it takes for the body to absorb alcohol, which can lessen the effects of drunkenness,” Dr Atkinson said.

If you do wake with a splitting headache, the NHS recommends drinking plenty of water and taking painkillers.

Sugary foods may also make you feel “less trembly”, while vegetable broths top up your nutrient levels and are easy to digest.

“It’s important to remember, while there are plenty of tricks people claim ‘cure’ hangovers, whether they seem to work for you or not, they do not speed up the breakdown of alcohol,” Dr Campbell said.