Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Safe, Sensible, Social – consultation on further action

The Department of Health are consulting on the next steps in the alcohol strategy.

The relevant questions to us, or so it seems to me, are:

  • Do you think there is enough advice available for those who want to drink less? What other kinds of help are needed and who should provide them?
  • Should alcohol advertising include health and unit information? How could this be achieved?
  • In addition to providing alcohol treatment for the small number of drinkers with a serious dependency problem, what else could be done, and by whom, to support people who find it difficult to cut down on their drinking?

Should you have thoughts about these questions you want us to consider then please use the comment section to let me know, or send me an email to andrew.brown@mentoruk.org.

Alternatively responses to this consultation must be received by the Department of Health 14 October 2008.

Responses can be submitted online to: alcoholconsultationmailbox@dh.gsi.gov.uk

Or by post to:

Alcohol Consultation
Department of Health
Room 618, Wellington House
133-155 Waterloo Road


Filed under: alcohol strategy

3 Responses

  1. Angie Bassford says:

    I would like to ask the DoH how it intends to address the following recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, in Pathways to Problems September 06.

    – As their harmfulness to individuals and society is no less than that of other psychoactive drugs,tobacco and alcohol should be explicitly included within the terms of reference of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

    – Additional measures are needed to reduce the overall consumption of alcohol in the UK. Among
    other things, the Government should seriously consider progressively raising the excise duty on

    Offering advice to families via advertising campaigns which are funded at a small percentage of the amount spend on alcohol advertising is derisory if measures are not taken simultaneously to make the drinksindustry behave more responsibly.

  2. In my opinion none of those questions address the real issues, my reasons for saying that follow:

    1 It is not so much a question of whether there is enough information, but whether if is meaningful and relevant information. The persistence in communicating hazards relating to ‘units’ of alcohol and what is safe has never been enitirely satisfactory, effective, or accurate. In fact, in many ways it is both confusing and pointless.

    More specific references such as – one pint of beer is enough to cloud your judgement, is clear and true, as is

    ‘the first organ in your body to be adversely affected by alcohol is your brain’.

    ‘Alcohol destroys brain cells’

    There are many more examples but I hope the point I’m seeking to make ie start asking the right questions, is clear.

    The next question regarding advertising is a loaded question since it calls for an answer which agrees to continued advertising. Given the potential threat of alcohol to health, and the collateral damge it causes, together with the fact that it is an hypnotic sedative, and central nervous depressant, combining to produce a mood altering drug which leads to much of our violent crime, the real question is should advertising be allowed?

    Cigarette advertising is banned, but smokers do not, as a generalisation, inflict violence on others, or cause death as the result of their habit whilst driving, nor for that matter does smoking alone, lead to anti social behaviour, or domestic violence. From a simple process of reasoning, it follows that the drug which is the principle cause of all of those problems should not be permitted to be advertised.

    The final question is another ‘red herring’.

    Whilst it is true that those who drink the heaviest amounts have the highest risk of harm from alcohol, it is those who drink less who accrue most of the harm, simply because as a group they are much larger.

    The clinical evidence and experimental research in support of my comments were published in the February 2006 issue of ‘Alcoholism’:

    Over an 18 month period, researchers from the prestigious Alcohol Treatment Centre, Luasanne University Hospital, and the Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems, screened almost nine thousand emergency department patients. Their conclusions not only confirm the above views and facts, the accuracy of the research is confirmed by Professor Linda Degutis, of Yale University.

    One wonders how, such large numbers, in a relatively small country, would extrapolate on a worldwide basis? Or, more to the point, how many of the escalating hospital admissions for alcohol related problems in the UK, were in that category?

    Further evidence from Finland (1) supports and confirms the above, together with the following facts:

    90% of men consuming less experienced 70% of the self-reported problems,

    70% of the alcohol-related hospitalisations,

    64% of the alcohol-related deaths,and 64% of the premature life-years lost.

    90% of women consuming less experienced

    64% of the self-reported problems:

    60% of the alcohol-related hospitalisations:

    93% of the alcohol-related deaths, and 98% of the premature life-years lost.

    Judging by the questions that DoH have framed they appears to be unwilling or unable to recognise the ‘preventive paradox’ (2) which clearly shows….

    “that efforts to reduce the population harms of alcohol use must reach the majority of drinkers rather thanthe smaller proportion of heavy drinkers.These findings support this paradox
    and NIAAA (3) recommendations to use the screening question”,

    “How many times in the past year have you had 5 or more drinks in a day?” (4 or more for women)

    If screening and brief interventions can produce even modest reductions in heavy drinking episodes among otherwise ‘non problem’ drinkers, the public health
    will most likely benefit.(4)

    In conclusion it seems to this writer that if the DoH is serious about reducing the collective and total harms inflicted by alcohol, they would serve their purpose better by taking notice of the exisiting established empirical evidence, rather than seeking to introduce ‘cosmetic’ changes to existing strategies. However since I submitted most of the above to the DoH in response the the first publication of ‘Safe, Sensible’ etc and up unil now have yet to receive the courtesy of a response, or acknowledgement, I am not convinced that they intende to tackel the serious and growing problems that the drug of alcohol is causing.

    1 Poikolainen K, Paljärvi T, Mäkelä P. Alcohol and the preventive paradox: serious harms and drinking patterns. Addiction.2007;102(4):571–578.

    2. Kari Poikolainen, Tapio Paljärvi,
    Pia Mäkelä (2007)H!
    Alcohol and the preventative paradox: serious harms and drinking patterns: ‘Addiction’, vol 102 Issue 4 Pages 571-578

    3. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

    4.Peter D. Friedmann, MD, MPH:Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Health: Current Evidence: http://www.bu.edu/aodhealth/issues/issue_jul07/friedman

  3. Madeleine Keogh says:

    It would not be possible to ban alcohol as so many people are addicted. The only way it can be dealt with is to educate the population and reduce drastically outlets selling it as it is too much in your face and readily available. Also more effective and accessible inpatient rehabilitation, as the way NHS alcohol services work ie reducing the consumption of alcohol gradually rarely works, it is necessary to stop drinking with detox and then have access to inpatient rehabilitation. This is very difficult to get access to as I have found with my mentally ill daughter who also has a alcohol addiction. I was told by her psychiatrist today that she has to break the law and go to prison to access inpatient rehab., this is called rock bottom apparently. Still haven’t managed it any advice from anyone would be welcome.

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