Booze brand back responsible driving campaign

Oh what to say and where to begin on this one …….

Johnnie Walker, the world’s leading Scotch Whisky*, today announced a new partnership with the Formula One group that will enhance the brand’s global positioning and significantly expand the platform for its highly successful responsible drinking initiative, Join the Pact.

The announcement of the new multi-year arrangement, which also sees Johnnie Walker become the Official Whisky of Formula 1, was made today at an event at the Conrad Centennial Hotel in Singapore by Nick Blazquez, President of Diageo in Africa and Asia, ahead of this weekend’s 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit.

Mr Blazquez said Johnnie Walker, as a pioneering whisky brand with a progressive spirit, was the perfect whisky to partner with the world’s most progressive and technologically-advanced sport.

The new partnership greatly strengthens the historical connections that the Walker family has with the world of motorsport and Grand Prix racing which go back to the 1950s. Building on those historic links, in 2005 Johnnie Walker established a partnership with McLaren Mercedes which, over the past nine years, has enabled the brand to deliver successful marketing and responsible drinking programmes around the world.

Speaking at the announcement today, Nick Blazquez said: “Becoming the Official Whisky of Formula 1 will enable Johnnie Walker to greatly extend its reach to race fans. As a result of our new arrangement, we will have access to a global television audience of more than 450 million people and a track attendance audience of around 1.5 million every year.

“Equally important, and a key reason for Johnnie Walker to become the Official Whisky of Formula 1, is the huge opportunity we have through this expanded global platform to reach even more F1 fans around the world with responsible drinking messages.

“We believe there is great potential in what we can achieve together. The Johnnie Walker Join the Pact campaign is a proven, powerful programme that is already driving positive change. More than 1 million people around the world have signed the Join the Pact pledge to ‘Never Drink and Drive’. We are therefore announcing today our intention to increase our investment behind this programme, activating it in new territories with an ambition of gaining a further five million personal commitments over the next four years.”

Mr Blazquez was accompanied at the announcement by Mika Hakkinen, Johnnie Walker Global Responsible Drinking Ambassador, who said: “Since 2006 I’ve travelled to some 40 countries talking to media, consumers, governments and other stakeholders about the importance of our call to action. Through Join the Pact well over a million people have pledged never to drink and drive, that’s one million people who would never actively have made this commitment without the programme. The new partnership that the brand has forged with the Formula One group is an enormous boost to our campaign and will significantly expand the scale of this wonderful initiative by reaching out to many millions more people around the world.”

*IWSR (2013)

So a spirit brand with a 40% ABV backs responsible (hahahahaha there’s that word again) drink driving campaign by sponsoring Formula 1 racing  <good grief Charlie Brown>

This just needs to stop like it did with tobacco advertising before it.

Gamble responsibly

There are some statements that just strike me as oxymoronic – gamble responsibly and drink responsibly being two of them. Both are addictive, one a behaviour and the other a behaviour driven by a substance.  Yet the purveyor’s of these industries feel that if they’ve made this statement that somehow what happens to that person has nothing to do with them.  No lawsuits here – we told you and you didn’t listen …… GRRRR

In every bookies/betting shop window here in the UK are big signs showing the odds of a particular game or race and then underneath: Gamble Responsibly.  And a telephone number to call if  you need help.  Laudible I’m sure but not really helpful for the gambling addict who is about to cross the threshold to place a bet.  Oh and it’s also a charity funded by the winnings of the industry – conflict of interest much?

I suppose I shouldn’t complain as at least there is a phone number advertised as with drink – not so.  Yes the bottle says ‘drink responsibly’ but there is no telephone number to call if you need help with this substance on the bottle.  Well the industry wouldn’t want you thinking that anyone actually has a problem with booze or controlling the amount they drink now would you?  You have to find your way on to the Drinkaware website to find any helpful numbers.  It all just smacks of ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware – doesn’t it?  You are the problem not the substance or the betting shop.

I guess a post about sports sponsorship by the alcohol industry would follow on nicely from this wouldn’t it? ;)

What do you think?  Is it just me getting crimped about this?

Institute of Alcohol Studies report into alcohol and domestic abuse

The full title of this report is ‘Alcohol, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault’ by the Institute of Alcohol Studies and was shared recently by Alcohol Policy UK.

Here are the reports key findings:

  • Typically between 25% and 50% of those who perpetrate domestic abuse have been drinking at the time of assault, although in some studies the figure is as high as 73%. Cases involving severe violence are twice as likely as others to include alcohol.
  • Research suggests that those who mix energy drinks and alcohol on a night out are almost twice as likely to be taken advantage of sexually.
  • There is a strong link between alcohol and violence, and research suggests that pricing policies such as minimum unit pricing for alcohol would reduce rates of domestic violence.
  • In light of poor conviction rates and general misunderstanding about alcohol sexual assault and rape, there have been calls for a change in the law around consent so that intoxication is seen as a possible indicator that abuse has taken place.
  • There is a need for improved training for law enforcement agencies on the impact of alcohol, sexual assault and the capacity to consent.

Download ‘Alcohol, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault’. A briefing summary and a podcast are also available.  The podcast features interviews with Professor Jonathan Shepherd (Cardiff Violence & Society Research Group, Director) and Jennifer Holly (Against Violence & Abuse)

Another consequence of booze that the alcohol industry appears to ignore …….

Meditation to help Addiction

Meditation is talked about a great deal out here on the blogs that I read and follow as a way of quieting the mind when the urge to escape takes over and it is something that I have been trying to learn and practising for a few years.

iTunes has many meditations that you access for free and the one that I like is called The Meditation Podcast with Jesse and Jean Stearn.  All of their meditations are good but there is one which is specifically designed for addiction: Episode Nine – June 2007 – Addiction

They have a full series of meditations on many subjects so their whole podcast series is worth a look :)

Alcohol responsible for ‘nearly 10 per cent’ of calories consumed in adults who drink

This article was written by Glenis Willmott who is a member of parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee and you can read the full article here

Because alcohol is so high in sugar it contains a significant amount of calories, with an energy content of 7.1 kilocalories per gram. Only fat has a higher energy value per gram than this. A glass of wine contains roughly the same amount of calories as a bar of chocolate, and studies in the UK have shown that alcohol accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the total energy intake amongst adults who drink. Putting aside the other health problems it can cause, such as liver disease and cancer, alcohol is seriously contributing to Europe’s obesity problem.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to keep track of the amount of calories you are consuming from alcohol. Unlike all other food and drink, where ingredients and nutritional information is labelled as standard, the most basic of information on alcohol bottles is missing. Most consumers would find it perplexing. If you buy a bottle of tonic water you will know how much sugar is in it, but if you buy a pre-mixed gin and tonic, you will not.

When I was involved in negotiating the EU food labelling rules, I was calling for alcohol to comply with the same rules as all other food and drink. However, due to opposition from some MEPs and industry, alcoholic beverages were exempted from the legislation. This is something we must rethink. By December this year the European commission should report on including alcohol under the food information regulation, particularly on whether information on the calorie content should be provided. I would like to see the commission propose legislative steps to address the problem.

So yet again the industry lobby hard to make sure that there are no labels on their products so far showing the harm that alcohol does but that it doesn’t show the calories either.  Now if I was cynical I would argue that is because their new growing market is young girls and women who are perhaps keener than most on knowing the calorific value of everything.  I find the industry’s over-arching power and influence at all levels, both UK and EU parliament, deeply concerning and worrying.  And for me I have to question how much alcohol is driving the obesity epidemic we have as a public health concern?  If we tackled the issue of alcohol would we see obesity rates start to drop too?  I suspect the answer to this would be yes ………


First alcohol free nightclub in the world opens in Sweden

Saw this news story in my FB feed – thank you Umbrella Cafe ;)

Believed to be the first of its kind in the world “Sober”, the brand child of Swedish entrepreneur Mårten Andersson, will launch this weekend at the Sodra Theatre in Stockholm – a club night at which alcohol is banned.

Upon arrival clubbers with be breath-tested and turned away if they register a blood-alcohol reading with staff trained to spot, and boot out, anyone using drugs.

What’s more, the event is almost sold out.

Mr Andersson, a popular Scandinavian television host and comedian, has said he came up with the idea having quit drinking and wanted to create an adult space for people who chose not to drink.

Launching in Sweden, Anderson believes the concept would work in other locations.

He said: “I strongly believe the world has only seen the start of this movement.

”We’re just trapped inside this dangerous bubble of alcohol and can’t see clearly until we step out of it.”

And this was the news report post the opening night.  It’s worth reading the full story as there’s some video of the night for you to watch should you want to see that sober dancing is possible!  ;)

Champagne ice buckets lined the bar, while hipster staff shook brightly-coloured cocktails above their heads. One worker was sipping a beer at the same time. But there was no chance of getting in trouble for drinking on duty. All beverages were non-alcoholic.

Outside, excited clubbers queued patiently along the cobbled street, before being ordered to blow into a breathalyser to check that they hadn’t been on the booze earlier in the evening. Specially trained staff also kept an eye out for people who might have taken drugs instead. Only a few ticket holders got turned away from the event, which sold out weeks in advance.
Once safely indoors, guests moved between a room offering house and techno from US Grammy and BRIT Award nominated Zoo Brazil, to another playing commercial classics from Snap’s 90’s anthem Rhythm is a Dancer, to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees.
By 11pm, the venue was rammed, with few seeing the need for a traditional pre-club gathering at home or in a bar if the aim of the night wasn’t to get tipsy.
The night is set to run once a month and the owner already had plans to take his clubbing concept to other Swedish and European cities.

LOVE this idea and good on you Sweden !! :)

But what’s with an alcohol free night being controversial?!  If they’d been giving out free legal highs that would be controversial but no booze – c’mon really??


Young People and Drinking, Smoking and Drug Use

The National Centre for Social Research UK published their findings recently.

Here’s a bit about them:

Since 1982 we’ve been speaking to young people, aged 11-15, in schools across England about how smoking, drinking and drug use affects their lives.

We collect this information to make sure that the government, charities and health professionals make the right decisions about how to help young people. It also shows how things are changing over the years.

This short animation shows some of our key findings from last year’s study.

I found the statistics about smoking and the impact of people you live with interesting although this did not carry over to alcohol.  Useful information and good to see that alcohol consumption among this age group is going down.

Early intervention is thought to be the best strategy for this age group and schools are a good place for this work to be done.  Here is a link to a briefing paper aimed at informing teachers and practitioners involved in the delivery of alcohol and drug education and prevention in case you’re interested :)

Edited to add: 20/10/2014

New evidence review from Scotland looking at alcohol and the developing adolescent brain can be read here


This looks interesting :)  Gained a new Twitter follower that goes by the name of SoberGrid.

Their Twitter description says:

Three guys in Boston building a sober app for iPhone and Android phones. Our goal is to provide an app to help sober people.

Launched on the 6th September you can join them here and this is their launch invitation.



I appreciate that it’s design is US based but I’m hoping that it will be open to you where ever you are in the world.  I’ve signed up as the ability to connect with sober people in real life is an ongoing issue for me, although I have been lucky in that people have reached out to me and helped me out and I am now reaching out to others and helping them out :)

Veronica Valli & I (3) Psychological vs physical alcohol addiction

So as promised Veronica &  I got together on Skype for another chat which we both love as we learn from each other.   We hope that you also value us sharing our conversations? Please do let us know what you think :)

Today we discuss the question posed by Lori to explain further what is meant by, and our understanding of, psychological vs physical alcohol dependence and addiction.  It is longer than our other conversations at about 18 minutes but that’s because there is a lot to say and we both had good stuff to share.

Two amendments to what I said: I mixed up want and need having tried to correct myself!  You end up needing to drink, it goes beyond want.  Also I talk about putting an ascitic tap into the stomach but technically it goes into the peritoneal cavity, so the abdomen.

If anyone else has a question for us please do drop me an email, contact Veronica or put it in the comments section below.

Veronica Valli is an Addictions Therapist and the author of Why you drink and How to stop:…

2013 How to Stop Cover 960x1280


Study on mindfulness based relapse prevention

I’m including this study here because I personally ascribe to this approach and if I think about the sober bloggers that I know, Mrs D in particular, I know that this is a tool used with great success.

Promising signs – but from a single study at a single treatment agency – that integrating Buddhism-inspired mindfulness-based elements creates a more effective supplement to usual (in the US context) 12-step based aftercare than a purely cognitive behavioural approach, helping patients sustain gains from initial intensive treatment.

Summary The featured study tested an intervention based on Buddhism-inspired mindfulness meditation as way of sustaining the gains made by patients who have completed initial intensive treatment. The therapy trains people to focus their attention on emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment and to adopt an accepting and nonjudgmental stance to these experiences. Such controlled attention can be learned through training in meditation, hence ‘mindfulness meditation’. Benefits may for example include the detached self-observation of one’s desires and plans to obtain and use drugs, dissociating these from their emotional force.

Meditation has been incorporated in many therapeutic programmes, commonly in the form of mindfulness-based stress reduction, originally developed for management of chronic pain and stress-related disorders. The usual course consists of eight weekly therapist-led group sessions, one full-day retreat, and daily ‘homework’ assignments. Mindfulness is central to dialectical behaviour therapy developed for borderline personality disorder, acceptance and commitment therapy for mental health problems, and spiritual self-schema therapy for substance use problems. This approach has also been allied with cognitive-behavioural elements, notably in mindfulness-based relapse prevention programmes developed for substance use patients – a version of which was tested in the featured study.

The 286 patients in the study had completed initial 28-day inpatient or 90-day intensive outpatient treatment at one of the two clinics of a US service. Typically they were unemployed men in their thirties and forties who used several drugs with or without alcohol; for just 14% were their substance use problems confined to alcohol.

Authors conclusions:

These findings suggest that the three aftercare options may have been equally effective in the three months after the two relapse prevention programmes ended. After that, these programmes gained greater benefits compared to usual treatment alone, blunting the probability and severity of relapses at the six-month follow-up. By a year after they had ended, the approach incorporating mindfulness elements emerged as preferable to one based solely on cognitive-behavioural elements. Longer-term benefits may be explained by the therapy’s ability to help patients recognise and tolerate discomfort associated with craving or negative emotions and moods. Continued practice in mindfulness over time can strengthen the ability to monitor and address factors contributing to well-being, bolstering long-term outcomes.

Go to the link  below to read the full summary:

In my personal experience, and that is all it is,  I believe that CBT and mindfulness are a good way to manage long term recovery and minimise the danger of relapse.  I will continue to share what I learn about mindfulness and as I learn more myself over the coming months at Cambridge.  If you’ve been using mindfulness has it been helping you?