Anthony Hopkins health: ‘I was drinking myself to death’ – star’s past battle with alcohol

Anthony Hopkins pays tribute to his father at gravestone

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The star, who has appeared in the likes of The Lion in Winter, The Elephant Man and The Father is still breaking records, as he becomes the oldest UK actor in a lead movie after recently being cast to play Sir Nicholas Winton in the upcoming biopic. Accepting the role to highlight the ongoing refugee crisis in Ukraine, the star’s appearance in the film will come not long after his 2021 Oscar win, which saw him become the oldest Best Actor Oscar winner to date. Two years ago, the actor credited his decision to give up drinking alcohol as one of the main factors that allowed him to carry on acting, as his addiction had quickly gotten out of hand.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hopkins took to social media, sharing his delight at reaching 45 years of sobriety. During the short video, he said: “It’s been a tough year, full of grief and sadness for many, many, many people.

“But 45 years ago today I had a wake-up call. I was heading for disaster. I was drinking myself to death.

“I got a message, a little thought, that said, ‘Do you want to live or die?’ I said I wanted to live. And suddenly the relief came and my life has been amazing.”

Having been called “difficult to work with,” in his early career due to being hungover, Hopkins once described himself as “disgusted, busted and not to be trusted”.

But in 1975, the actor’s life turned around, when he sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous, never touching a drop of alcohol since.

Commenting on what made him turn to alcohol in the first place, Hopkins said: “Booze is a wonderful way of checking out. It has an instant effect – that’s why we do it.

“In my case I had these peculiar conflicts – I didn’t feel I fitted into my own skin. I felt deeply guilty and ashamed and not worthy of the luck I’d had as an actor.”

The NHS states that alcohol is a “powerful chemical” that causes a wide range of adverse effects on the mind and body if too much is consumed. Even one session of drinking can cause abnormalities in a person’s decision-making ability, reaction time and coordination.

When alcohol enters the body, it goes into the bloodstream relatively quickly. Due to this, many parts of the body can be affected but the short-term effects are mainly caused by the way alcohol affects your brain. The more alcohol you drink, the more prominent these short-term effects of alcohol will be. These include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteadiness and lack of coordination
  • Being sick
  • Reduced ability to react quickly to situations – for example, when driving
  • Feeling sleepy and even passing out.

Alcohol can also affect an individual’s mental health, causing problems like stress, anxiety and depression. This can become more of a factor for individuals who find they are dependent on alcohol.

Extreme levels of drinking can sometimes cause a mental health condition called alcohol-related psychosis. This is where the person experiences hallucinations and delusions when they’re intoxicated or when they suddenly stop drinking.

Reflecting on his own time as an alcoholic, Hopkins said that it is “lethal to be around drunks,” wishing to never have to relive those years of his life.

New evidence around the harm that can occur due to regular drinking has emerged in recent years. This now mainly includes a better understanding of the link between drinking and some illnesses, including a range of cancers.

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum
  • Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • Social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment.

Overall, drinking can weaken the immune system and make individuals an easier target for disease. This means that alcoholics or “chronic drinkers” are more susceptible to catching viruses like pneumonia and tuberculosis.

It is for these reasons that the NHS recommends a weekly limit of 14 units. This is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

Giving advice and words of wisdom to those younger than him who might be struggling with alcohol dependency, Hopkins continued to say that people should not give up when battling against addiction.

He said: “Today is the tomorrow you were so worried about yesterday. You, young people: don’t give up, just keep in there, just keep fighting. ‘Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.’ That’s sustained me through my life.

“When I asked for help and I realised I wasn’t alone, that there were thousands of people like me, all my fears began to dissolve. The boozing is over and done with. I’m not a goody-goody. It’s a boring subject.”

When cutting down or stopping drinking alcohol altogether, individuals should notice an improvement on their mood, behaviour, immune system, sleep and heart. Tips and support can be found at Alcoholics Anonymous Great Britain. Contact them on or via telephone helpline at: 0800 9177 650.

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