How to Help an Alcoholic with These 6 Scientific Tips

Posted on by Dr Khan

According to Public Health England (1), between 2017 and 2018, 75,787 people in England were in treatment at specialist alcohol misuse services.

However, 30% of these people dropped out before successful completion of treatment. Methods to “rehabilitate” an alcoholic are glamourized by celebrities and in the media. Yet how effective is it really, and what are scientifically proven ways to help an alcoholic?

This article aims to answer this.

In this Article we cover:

  1. Understanding an addict
  2. Provide a supportive environment
  3. Motivational rather than confrontational interventions
  4. Residential rehabilitation
  5. Involve a professional and explore medical options
  6. Avoid co-dependency

1. Understanding an addict

It can be difficult living with an alcoholic or justifying their behaviour when many members of the public believe that addiction boils down to a matter of lack of willpower. However, science proves otherwise.

We decide (and continue) to drink based on the following two factors;

A desire for alcohol’s positive effects (such as lack of anxiety and euphoria)
Avoiding alcohol’s adverse effects, typically by continuing to drink in order to avoid a hangover or withdrawal symptoms.

After prolonged and continued alcohol use, the brain itself starts to undergo changes. In scientific jargon, these are called neuroadaptive changes. Evidence currently developing around these changes (2) is important for one specific reason; it clearly shows that addiction is not because of a “lack of willpower.” Instead, the slippery slope of becoming “an addict” it is far more complex than that.

You may have heard the phrase, “love simply comes down to chemicals.” Every pleasurable activity we as humans experience are secondary to chemicals being released in our brains. So, whenever a person engages in a pleasurable activity, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine into the reward or pleasure centre (also in the brain). Our brain’s impulses react in such a way that we experience a subjective experience of “pleasure.”

But why do human beings need to experience pleasure?

Evolution ensured that we would so that we could consistently repeat activities that are rewarding and pleasurable to us. Imagine if we did not find pleasure in eating food? We would lack that drive or impulse given off from our reward centre and not actively seek out things that bring us pleasure.

This is where drug addiction (and alcohol addiction) becomes involved. Drugs and alcohol interrupt the normal workings of this reward pathway via the following;

Drugs release a massive surge of dopamine upon ingestion/inhalation/injection.
Euphoria results from the large amount of dopamine.
Over time, consistently large releases of dopamine reinforce the reward pathway.
Small amounts of dopamine no longer activate this reinforced pathway effectively.
The user is driven to constantly seek out more drugs and dopamine.

Thus, physical changes cause psychological changes (2). And where there are physical changes, “willpower” cannot change anything.

2. Provide a supportive environment

Understand that it is your support and persistence that is the key factor in helping someone to quit drinking. It has been proven in multiple studies that the following help with individual’s addiction and also expedite their timeous recovery (3):

Spouses or partners
Family members
Peers
Neighbours

If there are difficulties at home, evidence also supports the use of couple therapy and family therapy (4). Always allow an alcoholic to feel less alone, by letting them know that both of you (or a group of you) are tackling a daunting task together. There is strength in numbers.

Additionally, peer support groups, with either abstainers or people in recovery, should be encouraged. This allows someone with an alcohol problem to talk to peers (going through the same motions that they themselves are going through) in a non-judgemental and non-clinical environment. A recent review of the literature (5) showed that these services;

Reduce substance use
Improve abstinence
Significantly reduce relapse rates
Reduce risky behaviours
Improve self-efficacy
Reduce cravings
Reduce feelings of shame or guilt

Examples of these groups in the United Kingdom can be found at recoverystories.info.


[READ] 12 Step Treatment Programme

[READ] Drug Rehab Treatments by Abbeycare


3. Motivational rather than confrontational interventions

Motivate, don’t confront.

For a long time now in the literature and in the practice of clinical psychology, motivation has been identified as the key to change (6). A landmark paper was published by Miller, Benefield and Tonigan (7) that compared therapist styles when counselling alcoholics. In follow-up, it was found that the more the therapist confronted the patient, the more the patient drank. This is because confrontation usually produces an immediate client resistance to change. This kind of style included, but was not limited to, directly challenging the client about their problem, disputing them and being sarcastic.

Please take note that, when speaking to an alcoholic, using any of the aforementioned tactics or confronting them directly does not help. The style that instead is proven to work is a supportive, empathic style that uses reflective listening and gentle persuasion (7).

Remember, your task is not to instruct and teach. Your task is to motivate for change. You can leave it up to a therapist, doctor or trained community worker. But you can also incorporate motivational interviewing techniques with the alcoholic you want to help. Here are the basic principles, as suggested by Morrison (8):

Roll with resistance – avoid arguing.
Express empathy – allow the person you are trying to help to be heard.
Develop discrepancy – identifying the alcoholic’s ambivalence, the most important step. This can easily be done by asking someone what the most important things in their life are. For example, someone may say that their children are the most important to them, but because they are struggling with their alcohol problem, they cannot attend to their children’s needs. This creates inner discomfort and may evoke the realisation for change.
Support self-efficacy – support their hope that change is possible by affirming their previous successes and personal strengths.

“Interventions”, which we are all familiar with from any soap opera on television, therefore might or might not be effective, depending on the way you conduct them. However, walking into a room of stony-faced family members or friends is usually confrontational. This makes them therefore ineffective as the person you are trying to help is instantly defensive and resistant.

4. Residential rehabilitation

One of the important questions we aimed to answer in this topic is if “rehab” is necessary or not. We have all seen this concept of “rehab” glamourized by celebrities; they get on a private plane and then take a leave of absence to check into an expensive centre in Beverly Hills or Zurich.

However, this is reality and not all rehab centres serve caviar for dessert.

In the literature, “rehab” is referred to “residential alcohol treatment”. In the United Kingdom (UK), provisions for this is made by the voluntary and independent sector. The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (9) supports these facilities and recognises that “residential rehabilitation is a vital and potent component of the drug and alcohol treatment system”.

Public Health England (1) provides the definition of residential rehab as that of a “structured drug and alcohol treatment setting where residence is a condition of receiving the interventions.” Between 2017 and 2018 in England, a total of 5,980 clients utilized these treatment settings.

A recent observational cohort study (10) was conducted in England and showed 59% of patients completed their treatment successfully in 12 months without relapse for 6 months thereafter. These patients had been withdrawn from an inpatient programme and transferred to a residential rehabilitation setting. Patients with higher levels of success had;

Paid employment
Self/family/peer referral
Longer duration of treatment in the rehab setting
Community-based treatment following discharge

Each rehab centre varies in which model they use to help with detoxification, such as the 12-step model made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, faith-based or therapeutic community. No research has proven the efficacy of one model over the other as it’s largely an individual preference (5).

What you may be wondering about is cost, and residential settings are more expensive than alternatives; however, evidence shows that the initial costs are largely offset by reductions in subsequent health care and criminal justice costs (11). The good news for people in the United Kingdom is that most people receive at least a contribution from public funds, depending on their pension and income.

Please consult rehab-online as part of Public Health England to find a centre that matches your needs.

5. Involve a professional and explore medical options

You can involve a professional by calling a rehabilitation centre or consulting with a physician, community health worker or psychiatrist. You should never be bearing the full brunt of the addiction on your shoulders alone, lest you burn out.

A general practitioner is often a good place to start. They can advise regarding the options discussed in this article and also perform motivational interviewing themselves on your loved one. Importantly, they can also assist with medical options and medication for alcoholism.

The following medicines are supported by NICE guidelines (4).

Acamprosate
Naltrexone
Disulfiram

Please see How to Stop Drinking Alcohol for Good (Backed by Science) for more information on these medications.

Ask your doctor about the use of these medications and their side-effects. They are all backed by science but bear in mind that whilst NICE supports their use, it also advises using medication in combination with psychosocial interventions (rehabilitation, counselling and peer support), unless these interventions have failed (4).

6. Avoid co-dependency

If you are close to the alcohol user, you yourself are also at risk of falling into the trap of becoming co-dependent. Co-dependency refers to depending on the alcoholic for happiness and approval, and basing your identity and self-worth on this person (12).

It has been historically shown (13) to enable the behaviour of an alcoholic and, in some instances, become co-alcoholics. This is because co-dependency means;

You manage their problems for them, when he or she should be doing it without you.
You let them get their way most of the time.
You may lie to keep them out of trouble.
You don’t allow your partner to face the reality of being an alcoholic.

If you feel that any of these signs apply to you, refer to the previous subsection and always seek help from a profession.

The psychology behind this also becomes rapidly twisted as a person who is co-dependent may even start to resent an alcoholic seeking help for his addiction, and the co-dependent may subconsciously attempt to sabotage these efforts (12).

Takeaway message…

You would not have clicked on this article if it did not apply to your life and loved ones in some way or another. Maybe the person you want to help is in complete denial, or maybe they are already on the road to recovery.

The bottom line is that you need to understand the science behind why an addict cannot control themselves in order to lessen the anger you may feel towards them. Your support, at the end of the day, is tantamount and will be the one factor guiding them to recovery.

Don’t be confrontational and always seek out help from a professional; whether you go via the route of a general practitioner, support group or rehab centre, all have proven benefits. However, never let yourself get burned out. A carers job is just as important as the monumental task that faces an alcoholic on recovery.

Getting Help 


Getting help early can prevent experiencing severe consequences of drinking or disrupting the lives of loved ones.

Call our local number 01603 513 091

 


References 

  1. Public Health England. 2018. Adult Substance Misuse Statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS): 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/752993/AdultSubstanceMisuseStatisticsfromNDTMS2017-18.pdf
  2. Koob, G.F., & Le Moal, M. 2008. Addiction and the brain antireward system. Annual Reviews in Psychology 59:29–5.
  3. Kelly, S.M., O’Grady K.E., Schwartz R.P., Peterson J.A., Wilson M.E., & Brown B.S. 2010. The relationship of social support to treatment entry and engagement: the community assessment inventory. Subst Abus 31(1):43–52. doi: 10.1080/08897070903442640.
  4. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. (2011). Alcohol-use disorders: diagnosis, assessment and management of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence, NICE clinical guideline 115 (NICE, London) Available: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG115
  5. Tracy, K., & Wallace, S.P. 2016. Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Subst Abuse Rehabil 7: 143-154. doi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5047716/
  6. Miller, W.R. 1999. Enhancing motivation for change in substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol Series, No. 35. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
  7. Miller, W.R., Benefield, R.G., and Tonigan, J.S. 1993. Enhancing motivation for change in problem drinking: A controlled comparison of two therapist styles. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 61(3):455–461
  8. Morrison, T. 2010. Assessing parental motivation to change. In J. Horwath (Ed.),The child’s world: The comprehensive guide to assessing children in need (2nd ed.). London: Jan Kinglsey Publisher.
  9. National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse. Residential drug treatment services: good practice in the field. London; 2012.
  10. Eastwood, B., Peacock, A., Millar, T., Jones, A., Knight, J., Horgan, P., Lowden, T., Willey, P., & Marsden, J. 2018. Effectiveness of inpatient withdrawal and residential rehabilitation interventions for alcohol use disorder: A national observational, cohort study in England. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 88: 1-8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2018.02.001
  11. Sheffield Hallam University. Residential Treatment Services: Evidence Review. 2017.
  12. Alpine Springs Rehabilitation & Recovery. 2018. The Relationship Between Codependency & Alcohol Abuse. Available: https://alpinespringsrehab.com/blog/complex-relationship-codependency-alcoholism/
  13. Cotton, N.S. 1979. The familial incidence of alcoholism: a review. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 40(1), 89–116.

 

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How to Stop Drinking Alcohol for Good (Backed by Science)

Posted on by Dr Khan

Concerned about a loved one? Call 24/7: 01603 513 091

image of hand rejecting alcoholThere’s a worldwide epidemic on our hands, and it’s at the bottom of your wine glass. The World Health Organization (1) estimates that nearly three million deaths each year are related to alcohol use.

The National Health Service (NHS) produced its own statistics in 2018 (2) which showed a rise in the death toll due to alcohol; an 11% increase since 2006.

If there is ever a good excuse to stop drinking, this is it! We have reviewed the literature to provide you with evidence-based information about how to best stop drinking.

Before we dive into the article, let’s establish if you as the reader (or anyone you may know) have potential problems with alcohol. The NHS (3) recommends not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

A unit is roughly equivalent to just less than a small glass of wine, a single small shot of spirits or half a pint of a beer/cider. You could be abusing alcohol if you drink more than this, or by answering affirmatively to any of the following in the CAGE questionnaire (3):

  1. You feel you need to Cut down on your drinking.
  2. You get Annoyed if other people criticize your drinking.
  3. You feel Guilty about your drinking.
  4. You need an Eye-opener first thing in the morning to get rid of a hangover.

 

If any of these apply to yourself or someone you may know, then read on; these are ways to help you stop drinking for good.

 

In this Article…

  1. Understanding dependence and addiction is the first step
  2. Tackle from multiple angles
  3. Changing behaviour and avoiding external temptation
  4. Seek out peer support
  5. Reward yourself – the right way
  6. Healthy lifestyle, healthy you
  7. Suppress withdrawal symptoms
  8. Appreciating the positive health benefits

Understanding dependence and addiction is the first step

We have referenced this in another article on this blog, How to Stop Drinking Alcohol for Good (Backed by Science). Please take a moment to read through the mechanism of the reward pathway in the brain, to understand how addiction is related to a compulsive need to seek out dopamine to stimulate this reward pathway.

In summary, however, addiction is caused by physical changes in the brain that lead to psychological changes (4). These physical changes in the brain are not something that can be controlled by simply having “willpower.” The good news is that you can, so to speak, “re-programme” these changes in your brain. The bad news? You need to commit to wanting to change. The following points in the article describe different ways that help you stop drinking.

Tackle from multiple angles

An alcohol user in recovery has two broad options;

  1. Medication to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal and cravings
  2. Psychosocial approaches

 

However, it’s not a one-method-fixes all approach. Remember what we just covered in the previous subsection; alcohol addiction is related to both physical and psychological changes.

The evidence in the NICE Clinical Guidelines (5) shows that, in general, psychosocial approaches should be offered to all individuals who misuse alcohol. For those people where such approaches have not worked or those who are mildly dependent, medication may be an add-on treatment option.

“Psychosocial approaches” refers to a broad variety of tools and therapy to help an individual abstain from alcohol. It refers to treating a person’s psychological and social issues at hand, rather than simply taking medicine to combat disease. This is offered by community groups, peer support groups and therapists.

Nonetheless, if a patient, for whatever reason, does not wish to undertake psychosocial interventions and understands the risks and implications of taking medication only, they cannot be denied this.

The bottom line, however, is the following; if you truly want to stop drinking for good, you need to take home multiple suggestions from this article rather than just one.

Get Free Advice. Call 24/7: 01603 513 091


[READ] Treating Alcohol Addiction at Home

[READ] Alcohol Addiction Treatments Options


Changing behaviour and avoiding external temptation
Social temptations

Changing behaviour and avoiding external temptation

Changing behaviour sounds difficult and, spoiler alert, it is difficult. Very difficult.

We create behavioural patterns, or habits, by behaviour we choose to enforce and repeat. We can change this behaviour, of course, but often it is done best with the help of a trained professional.

Behavioural therapy is offered often in a rehabilitation (or “rehab”) setting, but can also be offered by a trained psychologist or community health worker. We encourage you to read our article How to Help an Alcoholic – Is Alcohol Rehab Required? in order to find out more information and links to various rehabilitation services.

One of the most effective interventions that can be offered by a trained professional, according to the literature, is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which posits that even though we may not be able to change our circumstances, we can change the way we think about them (5). It also includes strategies to prevent relapse and coping skills. It is a well-established and, most importantly, evidence-based treatment for multiple substance disorders causing a statistically significant effect on reducing substance-use rates (6). Be sure to ask your therapist or friendly professional about this therapy.

A new and emerging therapy is Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (6), which reduces cravings by increasing a client’s awareness of external triggers to drink. After all, sometimes, we are not always aware of the situations and people that lead us to increase drinking. It also increases tolerance to these triggers. So that, even if we are in those situations, the need to drink is lessened. Unfortunately, there have only been a few randomized controlled trials evaluating this technique to date and more research will be needed.

However, the above-mentioned principles can still be incorporated into your everyday life without physically attending therapy. Namely, by avoiding external triggers. In other words:

  • Avoid people and situations where drinking is encouraged
  • Try to start recognizing situations (and the people involved) where you are most likely to drink

Seek out peer support

Don’t walk the lonely road of recovery alone. It has been proven that people who undertake alcohol abuse recovery without an adequate support system soon relapse (5). If you can think of someone who can provide you with this support, involve them in your recovery. You have a much better chance at success, statistically speaking. Or, reach out to the following support networks:

  • Self-help groups
  • Couple or family therapy

Free Support – Call 24/7: 01603 513 091

 

An example of a well-known self-help group is Alcoholics Anonymous but there are many others that can offer help. Whilst the jury is out on some of the evidence surrounding Alcoholics Anonymous’s methods (for example, its 12-step programme), the importance of a self-help group is rather the environment it provides, wherein assistance from peers helps to aid recovery and provide much needed mutual understanding (5). Examples of these groups in the United Kingdom can be found at recoverystories.info.

Behavioural couples’ therapy, particularly where one person has an alcohol use problem and the other does not, has been shown to reducing drinking in multiple clinical trials (5). Similarly, if there are unresolved conflicts in a family or interpersonal relationship, family therapy has also been shown to reduce drinking and alcoholism (5).

Reward yourself – the right way

As we previously learned in this article, alcohol use directly affects the part of the brain which makes decision related to perceived “rewards”. Thus, it stands to reason that if we change how we reward ourselves, we depend less on certain inputs like alcohol in order to create that surge of dopamine.

In counselling, motivational interviewing is the evidence-backed tool (5) which employs this exact logic in order to try to empower the client to elicit change. A trained interviewer will often reframe their clients’ problem in certain ways. Take a moment to think about what the following statement from a therapist implies;

“After a stressful day at work, you may need to reward yourself in the evenings.”

What does this imply?

  • Alcohol can act as a reward
  • But there are various other alternative “rewards”

 

Now, think about your favourite activities that help you settle down and reward yourself.  Think about the activities you no longer take time to do because you are drinking instead. Are you ready to allow yourself to reward yourself with them, rather than a bottle of wine?

Healthy lifestyle, healthy you

Evidence from existing studies (7) suggests that exercise is a useful adjunctive tool to help one stop drinking. Science points to a dual action of physical activity on alcoholism;

  1. It may lessen the negative effects of alcoholism on health.
  2. It acts centrally on the neurotransmitter and dopamine systems involved in the mechanisms of addiction.

 

So, we become healthier and we repair some of that physical damage done to our brains caused by drinking. However, there is no current evidence on the optimal intensity, duration, frequency and type of physical activity.

A healthy diet is also important. There is now growing research (8) which promotes a diet of the following;

Limiting sugar and junk food. This is because low blood sugar/glucose induces craving for alcohol. Sugar causes your blood glucose to soar and then quickly drop, inducing cravings for more sugar and alcohol.

Increasing whole grains and fruit. These digests more slowly and keep glucose levels more stable. Thus, you crave sugar and alcohol less.

Increasing L-glutamine-containing foods. L-glutamine decreases cravings for alcohol as well as replacing nutrients lost because of alcohol abuse. Such foods include: almonds, Cheddar cheese, sunflower seeds, free-range poultry, low-fat yoghurt and avocado.

Increasing dopamine-enhancing foods. As we know, this replaces the dopamine in our brain’s reward centre and thus prevents alcohol withdrawal. Tyrosine, a dopamine precursor, is abundant in protein-rich food such as chicken, avocado and turkey. Ripe bananas, strawberries and blueberries help trigger dopamine release.

Suppress withdrawal symptoms

We can suppress withdrawal symptoms effectively with prescribed medication. Remember, this is not a stand-alone treatment option.

NICE guidelines (5) support the use of the following medications:

Acamprosate – reduces withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia

Naltrexone – reduces alcohol cravings

Disulfiram – discourages drinking by making a patient feel ill after the ingestion of alcohol

 

NICE recommends using medication in combination with psychosocial interventions or if psychosocial interventions have failed. Acamprosate and naltrexone are generally recommended first and foremost; however, disulfiram can be offered if a patient would prefer it. However, one needs to understand that disulfiram has harmful and unpleasant side-effects, such as the extremely unpleasant and amplified hangover effects after drinking alcohol, liver damage, skin rashes and cardiovascular problems (9). Always be sure to ask your doctor if it is the right medicine for you.

Appreciating the positive health benefits

Research proves that excessive alcohol intake can cause (10):

  • Liver disease
  • Heart failure
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Pancreatitis
  • Increased breast and gastrointestinal cancer risk
  • Neurological complications
  • Unintentional injuries

 

The good news, however, is that if you quit before the onset of one of these diseases, a study has shown that there is no significant difference in the number of diseases or health status between former drinkers and people who have never ingested alcohol (11). So, the sooner you stop, the more likely it is that you can prevent any further damage to your body.

Takeaway message…

At the end of the day, your biggest opponent is your own brain. Note how “brain” is mentioned rather than “mind”, as the fallacy that quitting an addiction is simply a matter of willpower must end. Take advantage of now having the scientific knowledge behind knowing why it’s so difficult to quit; this will, in turn, help you replace alcohol’s positive effects and banish its negative effects. After all, there are so many other things in this world that we should be rewarding ourselves with.

 


Getting Help

Getting help early can prevent experiencing severe consequences of drinking or disrupting the lives of loved ones.

Call our local number 01603 513 091

 


References:

  1. World Health Organization (WHO). 2004. WHO global status report on alcohol 2004. Available: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/en
  2. NHS Digital. 2018. Statistics on Alcohol, England, 2018. Available: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-alcohol/2018
  3. 2018. Alcohol misuse. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/
  4. Koob, G.F., & Le Moal, M. 2008. Addiction and the brain antireward system. Annual Reviews in Psychology 59:29–5.
  5. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. (2011). Alcohol-use disorders: diagnosis, assessment and management of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence, NICE clinical guideline 115 (NICE, London) Available: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG115
  6. Kiluk, B.D, & Carroll, K.M. 2013. New Developments in Behavioral Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep 15(12). doi: 1007/s11920-013-0420-1
  7. Manthou, E., Georgakouli, K., Fatouros, I.G., Gianoulakis, C., Theodorakis, Y., & Zamurtas, A.Z. 2016. Role of exercise in the treatment of alcohol use disorders. Biomed Rep 4(5): 535-545. doi: 3892/br.2016.626
  8. Arun, A., Vijayalakshmi, S., Arun, K., & Srivastava, C. 2016. An alternate diet approach to quitting alcoholism. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences. 7(4). doi: 10.22376/ijpbs.2016.7.4.b511-516.
  9. com. 2018. Anatabuse for Treating Alcoholism. Available: https://luxury.rehabs.com/antabuse-disulfiram/
  10. 2018. Cardiovascular benefits and risks of moderate alcohol consumption. Available: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/cardiovascular-benefits-and-risks-of-moderate-alcohol-consumption
  11. Park, J., Ryu, Y., & Cho, S. 2017. The Association Between Health Changes and Cessation of Alcohol Consumption. Alcohol Alcohol 52(3): 344-350. doi: 1093/alcalc/agw089

 


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Drink deaths will cost an extra 250,000 lives by 2031

Posted on by Dr Khan

 

Drink deaths will cost an extra 250,000 lives by 2031 Source – The Guardian Up to 250,000 people could die because of alcohol over the next 20 years unless ministers take strong action to tackle Britain’s chronic drink problems, leading doctors are warning.

The prediction comes in the edition of the Lancet medical journal by three senior experts on alcohol, two of whom are advising the coalition on how to reduce drink-related harm. In a scathing critique of the government’s approach to alcohol, the trio accuses ministers of pursuing policies that will make no difference to the soaring rates of drink-related liver disease. Ministers, including the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, are “too close” to the drinks industry and too reluctant to take effective steps, they say. They welcome the government’s decision to continue raising the cost of drinks at 2% above inflation.


Related How To Detox From Alcohol At Home 


However, “plans to ban the sale of alcohol beverages below cost (duty plus VAT) and to increase duty on beer over 7.5% strength is inconsequential because of the tiny fraction of sales that fall into either category”, write Dr Nick Sheron, Professor Ian Gilmore and Professor Chris Hawkey.

“These policies suggest that the government remains too close to the industry and lacks clear aspiration to reduce the impact of cheap, readily available, and heavily marketed alcohol on individuals and on society,” they write.

Sheron, a clinical hepatologist, and Gilmore, the chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance of medical groups and charities, both serve on the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal Alcohol Network along with representatives of the drinks industry.

The doctors estimated how many lives would be saved or lost in England and Wales by 2031, depending on whether ministers pursued a strategy of only minimal change or robust regulation, over and above those that are already expected on current trends. Liver deaths have more than doubled in the UK since 1986.

Introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol and adopting a French-style ban on drink advertising and sponsorship could together see liver death rates fall from the existing estimate of 18,000-30,000 to just 2,500 by 2019, they calculate. But allowing the current upward trajectory of such mortality to continue unchecked would lead to 77,000 extra liver deaths by 2031. However, the wider harms from alcohol, such as deaths from accidents and violence, could mean that as many as 160,000 to 250,000 lives are lost or saved over the next two decades, depending on whether effective action is taken or not.

Historical precedents, such as action to tackle the gin epidemic of 1730-50 and the Defence of the Realm Act in 1914, show that raising the price of alcohol and restricting its availability are the two proven ways of reducing drink-related harm, the authors argue. Yet ministers, they say, have rejected major changes in both areas.

“How many more people have to die from alcohol-related conditions, and how many more families devastated by the consequences before the government takes the situation as seriously as it took the dangers of tobacco?” asked Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, which represents hospital doctors.

He accused ministers of ignoring international evidence showing that price rises and reduced availability are the best two ways to reduce the consumption of alcohol. “Just as the government would expect us to treat our patients with effective medicines, we expect the government to take much stronger action to protect people from alcohol-related harm,” he said. “When will that happen?” The Department of Health rejected the doctors’ views. “The government has wasted no time in taking tough action to tackle problem drinking, including plans to stop supermarkets selling below-cost alcohol and working to introduce a tougher licensing regime,” said a spokeswoman. Reforming public health would also help, and there will be a new alcohol strategy in the summer, she added.


Related How to Stop Drinking Alcohol for Good (Backed by Science)

 

Survey reveals cost of alcohol abuse

Posted on by Dr Khan

The price of a drink Survey reveals cost of alcohol abuse Source – The Guardian

The toll that alcohol takes on many people’s lives is laid bare in a survey which has prompted fresh calls for action to tackle widespread chronic drinking across Britain. Alcohol’s role in everything from injury and relationship breakdown to trouble with the police, emerges in a poll commissioned by a group of senior doctors. Some 11% of people polled have seen a friend or relative’s relationship end as a direct result of heavy drinking. One in five (21%) know someone who has driven while over the legal alcohol limit. And 51% know someone who has been a victim of drink-related violence, or has been attacked themselves. The survey also found that 14% of children are being brought up in a family where at least one adult has a drink problem.

The YouGov poll, commissioned by the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), paints a graphic picture of alcohol’s many negative consequences. The survey of 2,221 people found that: – 14% admit they have injured themselves while drunk; 2% have injured others. – 43% know at least one person with a drink problem, and 5% say they know more than five people. – 12% have a family member who they believe drinks too much. – 13% go to work at least occasionally feeling unwell due to a heavy drinking session, and 9% have taken time off for that reason. – 4% of women and 1% of men have been involved in domestic abuse linked to alcohol. – 11% know someone who has had to be treated in A&E because of alcohol. – 5% of men have ended up in trouble with the police for that reason. Young people are disproportionately likely to suffer harm.

Some 27% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 31% of 25 to 34-year-olds admit injuring themselves while drunk, while 12% and 15% respectively of the same age groups have taken time off work due to drink. “These findings show there’s a big problem in terms of harm, aggression, antisocial behaviour and actually some very sad outcomes,” said BSG spokesman Professor Chris Hawkey. “Dysfunctional and violent behaviour due to alcohol have become social norms. There used to be shame attached to alcohol dependence and its consequences, but clearly there’s much less of that around now.” He called on ministers to introduce a minimum price of 50p a unit and implement tough restrictions on the advertising of alcohol based on those in France, which bans drink ads on TV and in the cinema, and forbids alcohol sponsorship of sporting or cultural events.

Alcohol Concern, which represents drink treatment services, said the poll undermined industry claims that only a small number of people were affected by excess consumption. “This research shows drunkenness has become a cultural norm and is negatively impacting the lives of millions of people, many of whom are responsible drinkers,” said Don Shenker, the charity’s chief executive. He also called for tougher action against drinks retailers and promoters. “Their irresponsible practices are creating the mirage that drinking is a social right with no consequences.

The reality is far from that. What we have is alcohol being sold for pennies and an accepted culture of excess which blights our town centres and affects friends, neighbours and loved ones,” he added.Professor Steve Field, until recently president of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the coalition’s plan to ban the sale of alcohol at below cost price. “This is a step in the right direction,” Field said, but added : “The policy must be kept under review: if it is not shown to make a difference on the public’s health, and on antisocial behaviour, then I would urge ministers to look again at a minimum price per unit of alcohol.” A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The majority of people drink responsibly but these findings reflect that alcohol consumption is a serious problem for too many. No one thing will solve this complex challenge of alcohol misuse and the Government is taking action on all fronts including banning the sale of alcohol below cost price and giving local authorities more power over local licensing decisions.” She added: “It is not clear that national minimum unit pricing is the best way to reduce harm so we need to look at other options in England.” Return to All News

United States FDA Concerned Over Caffeine

Posted on by Dr Khan

The US Federal Drug Administration has issued warnings targeting specific drinks in a clampdown on alcoholic beverages with a high caffeine content. The drinks in question are mostly seen in the States, and are malt based and premixed drinks. The FDA is concerned that the drinks labelling does not state that adding caffeine is “generally recognised as safe”. In some cases, the drinks contained other stimulants alongside caffeine itself. The FDA website claims that they have data and expert opinion that caffeine can: “…mask sensory cues that people rely on to determine how intoxicated they are.

Binge Drinkers Double Their Risk of Heart Disease

Posted on by Dr Khan

A study conducted by the Toulouse University Hospital, and published in the British Medical Journal, into the link between drinking habits and health have concluded that although their French participants drank more regularly than the Irish, it was the Irish binge drinking habit that resulted in higher levels of poor heart health.

The study compared the men’s choice of drinks, amount of drinks and regularity of drinking as well as their standard of overall health over a ten year period. The findings were that even if the French and Irish men drank the same amounts, over time it was the regularity and type of alcohol that had the most effect on the results. The Irish men tended to drink over the recommended amounts in single ‘sessions’, what is classified as Binge Drinking, where their French counterparts tended to drink smaller amounts, more regularly. The research found that three quarters of the French men tended to drink every day compared to 12% of the Irish, but although drinking more often they drank considerably less each time. Only 0.5% of the French admitted to drinking 5 small wines, or 3 pints of beer/lager in one sitting.

In Ireland, that number shoots to 9%. With the numbers involved, that means that although 7,500 French men admitted drinking daily compared to the Irish 1,200, only 50 French men could be considered ‘binge drinkers’ compared to 900 Irish. The 10 year follow up found that the binge drinking men had double the risk of heart attacks or death form heart disease than the regular drinkers. A representative of the British Heart Foundation, senior cardiac nurse Amy Thompson, has stated: “This reinforces what we already know, that drinking high levels of alcohol can be harmful to your heart.” The British Medical Journal The British Heart Foundation.

SNP vs MSPs in Minimum Pricing Debate

Posted on by Dr Khan

05 November 2010 The First Minister Alex Salmond has re-ignited the minimum pricing debate in Holyrood, as he challenged Members of the Scottish Parliament to back the now notorious element of the controversial Alcohol Bill. Appealing to the MSP’s sense of ‘leadership’ he asked them to put aside their personal opposition to the bill; saying: “.. the cost of alcohol is key in terms of consumption levels. Yet, to date, no credible alternative proposals for tackling the low cost of alcohol have been put forward.” “This Parliament now has the opportunity to show some leadership by supporting the minimum price proposals.” The legislation has already faced various set-backs, and has been roundly rejected on various occasions by the sitting government. Return to Abbeycare News. Go Back 1 : Go Forward 1 Return to All News

Alcohol Age Rise Plan Rejected

Posted on by Dr Khan

Scottish Government plans to allow the minimum age for buying alcohol from off-sales to be raised from 18 to 21 have been rejected by MSPs. The SNP administration wanted to let local licensing boards ban off-license sales to under 21s but the move was blocked by Holyrood’s Health Committee. It is the latest blow to the Scottish Governments alcohol Bill. Last week, Labour, Lib Dem and Tory MSPs voted to remove a measure setting a minimum price for alcohol. Opposition MSPs have now said the move to raise the purchase age would discriminate against young people.

Caffeinated Alcohol Ban Considered

Posted on by Dr Khan

The Scottish Government will “carefully consider” Labour calls to ban caffeinated alcoholic drinks,

Nicola Sturgeon the Health Secretary has stated. The move would actually put a limit on the amount of caffeine allowed in a drink by law, effectively banning drinks like the notorious Buckfast Tonic wine, which relies heavily on its high caffeine content for its popularity. Miss Sturgeon has insisted that there is no evidence that this move alone would protect health or prevent crime in line with European Law. Experts told Holyrood’s Health Committee on Wednesday there was no evidence to suggest the tonic wine caused or increased violence. Ms Sturgeon told MSP’s during First Minister’s Questions: “I have consistently said that I remain open to the consideration of any proposals by Labour or others that I would contribute to reducing alcohol related harm.