December 2020 - Page 9

‘ We did a survey ... about five years ago of nearly 17,000 people and identified things like loss of sense of purpose as factors that led to increased alcohol use for people over 50 ...
are significantly worsening these problems , as head of With You ’ s Drink Wise , Age Well programme , Julie Breslin , tells DDN . ‘ We did a survey at the start of the programme about five years ago of nearly 17,000 people and identified things like loss of sense of purpose as factors that led to increased alcohol use for people over 50 ,’ she says . ‘ What we ’ re seeing is that those similar factors as a result of lockdown – loss of routine and , very sadly for some , bereavement – are going to make that a lot worse for people .’
REACHING OUT In response , With You has launched a free , national and confidential over-50s alcohol-specific helpline , available seven days a week . The idea was partly to try to reach out to people who would normally be unlikely to consider accessing treatment services , she says . ‘ We already know that only about one in five people who are alcoholdependent are in treatment anyway , and we feel that would be even less as people get older . There are more and more barriers to treatment as we age , which is down to lots of things – individual stigma , system-level stigma , and ageism . We really need to look at the design of our services and whether they ’ re
age-inclusive . So the helpline is very much about being as accessible as we can for people who maybe want to start having that conversation about changing their alcohol use .’ But even among those who have already accessed treatment COVID-19 restrictions are having an effect , with a peer-led survey by Kaleidoscope finding that 34 per cent of dependent drinkers receiving support in Wales had relapsed during first lockdown .
RAISING AWARENESS There is still a huge amount of work to be done in terms of getting vital health information out there , Breslin stresses . ‘ That level of awareness around wider health conditions really needs to be increased . People very much think of alcohol in relation to liver disease , they don ’ t think of the other factors – cancer , heart disease , dementia , cognitive impairment . People need to understand the wider implications .’
Change Grow Live has now launched a short online alcohol advice quiz to provide people with fast and accurate evaluation of their drinking and the kind of support they might need ( www . changegrowlive . org / advice-info / alcohol-drugs / alcohol-drinkinglevels-quiz-self-assessment ), with executive director Nic Adamson
Dmytro Zinkevych | Dreamstime . com
stating that unless the government acts to address the recent increases in people drinking at risky levels the long-term implications for public health would be ‘ disastrous ’ ( see news , page 5 ).
Alcohol Awareness Week also saw Turning Point organise an online forum focusing on areas such as mental health and alcohol ’ s effects on relationships and loved ones , as well as sharing additional content on the Recovery News Channel with videos from Swindon & Wiltshire IMPACT and its Leicester , Leicestershire and Rutland ‘ Dear Albert ’ services . The charity also used its Twitter account to highlight different aspects of its available support throughout the week .
‘ It is estimated that 82 per cent of dependent drinkers are not in treatment and that hospital admissions due to alcohol have risen almost a fifth in the last decade ,’ said Nat Travis , Turning Point ’ s national head of public health and substance misuse . ‘ There is still a long way to go , but occasions like Alcohol Awareness Week are a great opportunity to open up the dialogue and start making changes .’
RECOVERY , RIGHTS AND RESPECT So when an alcohol strategy does finally come along , what should be in it ? ‘ What I ’ d like to see is
What we ’ re seeing is that those similar factors as a result of lockdown – loss of routine and , very sadly for some , bereavement – are going to make that a lot worse for people .’
JULIE BRESLIN
a strategy that ’ s much more focused on human rights and health promotion ,’ says Breslin . ‘ When you look at the Scottish strategy compared to the UK ’ s it ’ s really focused on recovery , rights and respect . I think we need to have much more of a focus on the issues that people are actually experiencing , whereas up until the now the strategy has very much been around the criminal justice side of things . Obviously , regulation is crucial – things like MUP – but what I would like to see is a much more compassionate strategy .’ DDN
Next issue : Mike Ashton looks at ‘ controlled drinking ’ and some of the most controversial studies seen in alcohol treatment
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