Monthly Archives: August 2014

Royal Navy alcohol consumption ‘curbed’ after fatal submarine shooting

The Navy is taking steps to tackle binge drinking after the shooting of a commander on a nuclear powered submarine by a drunken colleague, the government has said.

Coroner Keith Wiseman wrote to the Ministry of Defence after the inquest of Lt Cdr Ian Molyneux in January 2013.

The ministry responded in a letter and said new practices had “moderated” alcohol consumption, according to a letter obtained by the BBC.

Mr Wiseman raised concern about a “culture of excessive drinking” in the Navy following Mr Molyneux’s death.

Mr Molyneux was shot by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan on nuclear submarine HMS Astute, which was docked in Southampton in April 2011.

Donovan, from Dartford in Kent, was seen “extremely intoxicated” during the night before his shift, and was in charge of a rifle from 12:00 BST.

He killed Mr Molyneux, a 36-year-old husband and father-of-four from Wigan, Greater Manchester, and injured two others after seven shots in 13 seconds fired from the hip. He was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court in 2011 and told he must serve at least 25 years.

During the inquest in January last year it was estimated he had 139mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

During the inquest into the death of Mr Molyneux it was heard that binge drinking was endemic among crew and many would get “drunk out of their minds”.

The hearing had previously heard that Donovan had drunk 20 pints of cider and lager, cocktails and double vodkas in the 48 hours before he was put on a guard duty with the SA80 rifle.

The Navy allows personnel to consume no more than 35mg of alcohol per 100ml when they are on safety-critical duty, the same as the UK drink-drive limit. For personnel handling weapons the limit is 9mg per 100ml.

Mr Wiseman, Southampton’s former coroner, recommended random alcohol testing and said that no alcohol should be consumed within 24 hours of personnel starting duty, especially when handling weapons.

The MoD said new Navy rules, under the Armed Forces Act 2011, prohibited the consumption of more than five units of alcohol 24 hours before duty. It said no alcohol was to be consumed in the 10 hours before duty.

Taken from a Daily Telegraph article which you can read the full copy of here

My condolences to the family of Lt Cdr Molyneaux.

21 days to go

Honest booze bottle labels

 

These Honest Alcohol Labels Tell Exactly What You’re In For When You Drink (Photos)

What if the labelling on the booze we drank actually reflected the truth of what drinking does to us physically and to our behaviour?  This brilliant article and it’s images does exactly that!

Advertisements for alcohol always manage to focus on the glamour and glitz that comes with drinking whatever light beer or “top shelf” vodka is being peddled.

But really, alcohol can cause to people make stupid decisions regardless of how much a particular bottle (or its advertisement) goes for.

Companies can spend millions of dollars on the perfect marketing strategy, but it isn’t their job to accurately represent their products — they just want you to buy it.

You can have a sexy label, but it’s probably not going to tell you much about the contents.

Total Sorority Move dreamed up what it would look like if  bottles were forced to be more candid about the possible side effects of different alcohols.

These were my favourites!

Tequila only leads to good decisions ( I called this stuff to-kill-ya)

honest-alcohol-label-elite-daily-4

They say licorice is good for your stomach, but not when it’s mixed with alcohol.

honest-alcohol-label-elite-daily-3
Great stuff and a welcome reminder of what the reality of drinking can actually be 😉
22 day to go

Study into drinking and pricing choices of 404 UK liver disease patients

Following on from the You and Yours radio show shared yesterday, Dr Nick Sheron who was one of the guests on the show has carried out this piece of research:

A new study looks at the impact of minimum unit pricing (MUP) on patients with liver disease, as the lead author urges policy makers not to forget minimum unit pricing as “an almost perfect alcohol policy”. Dr Nick Sheron, a liver doctor and academic clinical hepatologist at University of Southampton led on the study which explored drinking and pricing choices of 404 liver disease patients.

In the press release Dr Sheron states:

“Setting a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol is an almost perfect alcohol policy because it targets cheap booze bought by very heavy drinkers and leaves moderate drinkers completely unaffected. Our research shows that an MUP set at 50p per unit would affect the liver patients killing themselves with cheap alcohol two hundred times more than low risk drinkers.”

See here for the: Nick Sheron research 2014

Just what we need – good research evidence to support minimum unit pricing policy.  This will be hard for the govt and  industry to dismiss as he is both a clinical and academic specialist in the field.  Hoorah!! 🙂

23 days to go

You and Yours: Do you drink too much?

Excellent Radio 4 programme about alcohol dependence:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d4hpy

Programme synopsis:

What would make YOU cut down your drinking? A group of MPs and Peers wants compulsory health warnings on bottles of wine and beer, just like cigarette packets. Would that make you drink less?

They also want a minimum price for alcohol, and to reduce the alcohol limit for drink driving, particularly for young drivers.

More than a million hospital admissions a year are caused by alcohol, and more than 15,000 deaths. Alcohol increases the risk of illnesses including cancer and heart disease, and has led to liver disease in young people doubling in 20 years.

The risks of drinking alcohol have been known for many years, but we’re still drinking too much.

What would it take to make you cut your drinking? Or if you have managed to cut down – how did you do it, and what prompted you to make the change?

Highlights:

  • 75% of patients present not knowing that they are in end stage liver disease as the liver has no nerve fibres therefore we experience no pain from our liver
  • Average alcohol intake for patients in end stage liver disease seen by Consultant is 150 units, so 2 bottles of wine a night.
  • Alcohol is the single biggest cause of premature mortality of people of working age in the UK.
  • Increase in liver disease driven by affordability and availability of alcohol
  • Recommends if you are a daily drinker to reduce your drinking to every other day or to take a couple of days off in a row to try to reset your tolerance
  • Alcohol is a drug of dependence and you increase tolerance in your brain
  • He also talks about a new ‘Traffic lights’ blood test for liver disease that has been developed at Southampton University and the city general hospital which you can read more about here

Features:

Dr Nick Sheron, Consultant Liver Specialist who runs the Liver Unit at Southampton General Hospital and academic clinical hepatologist at University of Southampton.

Sarah Hanratty, Head of Corporate Affairs from the Portman Group.  Interestingly her former roles included Press Secretary to the Leader of the House of Lords and Strategic Communications Manager for the Cabinet Office.

It’s a good show and absolutely worth a listen if you are able to access it.

24 days to go

No-man’s land

Gah life is proving tough at the moment and I don’t know what to do to be honest – actually that’s not quite true – I am giving it another week and if I still feel the same I’m going to see my GP.

See I went ‘over the top’ of the booze trench and away from alcohol, my perceived comrade and safe place, propelled by courage and the rallying cry of other sober bloggers to try to conquer the, again perceived, enemy of the life lived sober and straight-edged.  But now here I stand in no-man’s land, so called because it was left unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty.

And that so aptly explains it.  I am a swirl of free floating fear and uncertainty that is hounding me night and day.  I know I can’t go back to booze, as that was not the answer and will not help, but I am finding life so damn hard with no chemical escape hatch.  I have heard said so many times that stopping drinking is the easy part – it’s the doing life that is the hard part and now I truly get it.  I am muttering the serenity prayer like a mantra, changing the things I can change, meditating, soaking in the bath, going to bed early and the anxiety still won’t shift.

It has reached the point where I am beginning to wonder if I self-medicated all these years for some kind of low grade General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and am concluding that maybe I need some pharmaceutical support.  I’m not overly keen on this idea but I am unsure of what else to do.  I am already doing CBT, which is the gold standard anxiety treatment, hence the planned conversation with my GP.

Is there anything I’m missing?  Is there a tool in my sober toolbox I’ve overlooked or a new one you can recommend to me?

Edited to add: 28/08/14 Thank  you so much for all the kind comments and suggestions, it really means a great deal to me.  Went for a run this morning and this track shuffled round and I wanted to share it as it really helped.  I appreciate that dance music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this is a great track and is about ‘being free’.  I need to put listening to music on my sober treat list again – I’d forgotten about it 🙂

Are you an Oblivion Drinker?

‘Are you an Oblivion Drinker’ was a feature article headline for a Daily Mail piece written last October that I discovered recently.

The key paragraphs were these:

Indeed, experts are suggesting that alcohol abuse has become the modern ‘mother’s little helper’, replacing the widespread Valium addiction of Sixties housewives and offering multi-tasking women a temporary escape from the pressure to look, behave and perform as the perfect wife, mother and colleague.

Psychoanalyst Jan Bauer, author of Alcoholism and Women: The Background And The Psychology, who coined the term oblivion drinking, explains: ‘Alcohol offers a time out from doing it all – “Take me out of my perfectionism”.

‘Superwoman is a cliche now, but it is extremely dangerous. I’ve seen such a perversion of feminism, where everything becomes work: raising children, reading all the books, not listening to [your] instincts.

‘The main question is: what self are these women trying to turn off? They have climbed so high that when they fall, they crash – and alcohol’s a perfect way to crash.’

A recent British survey confirmed her observations, with 81 per cent of women who admitted they drank above the safety guidelines every week saying they did so ‘to wind down from a stressful day’.

‘This is an epidemic. High-functioning, intelligent women are using alcohol as a coping mechanism to take the edge off and stop their brain going at 300 miles an hour,’ explains Sarah Turner, co-author of The Sober Revolution and owner of the Harrogate Sanctuary for middle-aged, middle-class women who drink too much.

While relaxing after a hard day with a drink is nothing new, it’s the scale and sudden increase in the problem that has now worried experts. Thanks to the recession and an uncertain job market, more than half of 35 to 54-year-old women say they are more stressed than they were in 2008 – and many are relying on drink on a daily basis to help.

Oblivion drinking is insidious. ‘It’s now seen as acceptable to knock back two or three glasses of wine a night, but if they’re large ones, then that’s a whole bottle,’ says Sarah Turner, who regularly sees clients at Harrogate Sanctuary who have been drinking one or two bottles a night.

The article doesn’t link to the recent British survey so it is difficult to assess the quality and size of the sample group to ascertain it’s credibility unfortunately but as a eye ball grabbing headline statistic it certainly got my attention!  81% is a truly shocking statistic.
What I find equally puzzling is all of us out here felt alone at the beginning and know nobody sober in our real lives and yet this statistic suggests we are absolutely not alone in sharing the same issue.  It makes me wonder how many others are out there struggling with this even within our own groups of friends and acquaintances?  If it is 8 out of the 10 females we each know then that is staggering ……
26 days to go

 

Follow through on alcohol policy UK Govt!

An All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse (APPG) manifesto has been released, urging political parties to adopt ten key alcohol measures ahead of the 2015 election. See reports from the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph and Alcohol Concern, who researched the report.

Last year a coalition of over 70 health organisations from across the UK released an independent alcohol strategy with similar recommendations.

Earlier this year it was reported a Labour Government elected in 2015 would implement some of the same measures, including minimum unit pricing and ending sports sponsorship by alcohol companies, according to leaked documents.

These are the full ten recommendations in the report are:

1. Make reducing alcohol harms the responsibility of a single government minister with clear accountability

2. Introduce a minimum unit price for alcoholic drinks

3. Introduce public health as a fifth licensing objective, enabling local authorities to make licensing decisions based on local population health need and the density of existing outlets

4. Strengthen regulation of alcohol marketing to protect children and young people

5. Increase funding for treatment and raise access levels from 6% to 15% of problem drinkers

6. Commissioners should prioritise the delivery of Identification and Brief Advice. Identification and Brief Advice should be delivered in a wide range of different settings including health care, involving GPs routinely asking questions, and in-workplace programmes

7. Include a health warning on all alcohol labels and deliver a government-funded national public awareness campaign on alcohol-related health issues

8. For all social workers, midwives and healthcare professionals, introduce mandatory training on parental substance misuse, foetal alcohol syndrome disorder and alcohol-related domestic violence

9. Reduce the blood alcohol limit for driving in England and Wales to 50mg/100ml, starting with drivers under the age of 21

10. Introduce the widespread use of sobriety orders to break the cycle of alcohol and crime, antisocial behaviour and domestic violence

I would agree with every single one of these suggestions and add one of my own:
For the NHS to introduce and fund on an ongoing basis an Alcohol Free Service to support people who would like to reduce the amount they drink or stop completely with wider access to supportive medication, information, text messages, emails and phone calls and one on one support via a GP surgery, just like that which is available to you currently if you decide to stop smoking.  Plus for QOF payments to be available to GP practices who support and provide this service.

27 days to go

Alcohol industry sponsorship and hazardous drinking

This was a piece of research published recently in Addiction that looked at alcohol industry sponsorship and hazardous drinking in UK university students who play sport.

The aim of the study  was to examine whether receipt of alcohol industry sponsorship is associated with problematic drinking in UK university students who play sport and looked at 2450 students, so a good sample size, with a response rate of 83%.  Alcohol industry sponsorship was reported by 36% of the sample.

The abstract details of the methods and results you can find here but the conclusion was pretty clear:

University students in the United Kingdom who play sport and who personally receive alcohol industry sponsorship or whose club or team receives alcohol industry sponsorship appear to have more problematic drinking behaviour than UK university students who play sport and receive no alcohol industry sponsorship. Policy to reduce or cease such sponsorship should be considered.

O’Brien, K. S., Ferris, J., Greenlees, I., Jowett, S., Rhind, D., Cook, P. A. and Kypri, K. (2014), Alcohol industry sponsorship and hazardous drinking in UK university students who play sport. Addiction. doi: 10.1111/add.12604

I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a stuck record about this but the industry needs reigning in and challenging by our illustrious leaders in Govt and Public Health England need to grow some teeth and balls ……… Oh and these students are mostly under 21 which ties in with the post yesterday about forming dependence to alcohol in adolescence 🙁

28 days to go

 

 

Chunking and addiction formation in adolescents

Amy, a US public health nurse and I were discussing after the PHE and alcohol (2) post the issue of catching addiction in adolescents before it became entrenched.  I said in the comments  A great deal of research has been done between smoking cannabis at a young age and the pruning of the neural network that happens at that time in adolescents and how it pretty much locks in the addiction but the same has not been done with drinking. I’d be interested in that as I think many of us started drinking at this young age and I wonder if the same neural network pruning also happens around booze.

Well low and behold if later that day I didn’t read an article discussing exactly that!! I love it when that happens 🙂   The piece by Aeon Magazine was shared on FB and is a debate about the 12 step approach which I am going to side-step and focus on these bits that I found interesting:

Her multiple relapses, according to recent science, are no ethical or moral failing – no failure of will. Instead, they are the brain reigniting the neurological and chemical pathways of addiction. Ruben Baler, a health scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the US, told me that, once the circuitry of habituation is in place, it cannot be destroyed or fully overwritten. ‘The brain will never go back to a pristine, naïve, drug-free state,’ Baler said. It would be like reversing time itself.

This permanence is the result of a process that researchers call ‘chunking’: a person using drugs or alcohol experiences a burst of the activating neurotransmitter, dopamine, encoding memories and stimuli associated with that high in the brain. As substance use turns chronic, that same networks in the brain are increasingly engaged, and eventually the habit becomes automatic. Baler likens it to riding a bicycle – once the brain knows what to do with the pedals, brakes and handlebars, the action is inevitable. When any part of this chain, or chunking, is triggered – maybe it’s a visit from an addict friend, or the sight of a McDonald’s where you once got high in the bathroom – it can lead to a full-blown relapse. That’s why lifelong abstinence can be such an impossible goal for even the most committed of recovering addicts.

Research describes a powerful chemical inertia that can begin early in life. In 96.5 per cent of cases, addiction risk is tied to age; using a substance before the age of 21 is highly predictive of dependence because of the brain’s vulnerability during development. And childhood trauma drives substance use in adolescence. A study of 8,400 adults, published in 2006 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that enduring one of several adverse childhood experiences led to a two- to three-fold increase in the likelihood of drinking by age 14.

Bingo! – this was exactly what we were discussing.  So if you started drinking around the age of 14/15 when your brain is undergoing an extensive growth phase with increased plasticity then it will literally hard wire in the dependence.  And this is what is so worrying as so many young are drinking before 18 and the industry encourages it with their brightly coloured spirit based alco-pops.  They are creating dependence at adolescence.  This is going to sound like a retrograde step but I would encourage the increasing of the age that you can drink in this country to be like the US where it is 21.  I appreciate there are ways round this with false ID’s, I did it too, but it would go some way to protecting the brain during this highly developing stage.  God the more I read and learn the more afraid I become for my children and the greater the urgency feels to do something about this before they reach adolescence ……

29 days to go

Edited to add 20th May 2016:

Hayle will be home to the UK’s first specialist drug and alcohol rehab unit for children

Bosence Farm Community in Hayle, Cornwall will treat youngsters for alcohol, drug and legal high abuse and is scheduled to open in November 2016

Once-a-day pill to beat alcoholism gains backing from health officials

The Independent recently had a news article discussing a once-a-day pill to help alcoholics quit drinking that has won the backing of health officials in England.

It reads:

Nalmefene, which is already used in Scotland, helps people cope with the craving for alcohol by reducing the “buzz” they get from drinking.

Nearly 600,000 people could benefit from the drug, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which said in draft guidance published today that nalmefene should be available as an option. Treating that number of people would cost about £600m a year.

Professor Carole Longson, of NICE, said: “Alcohol addiction is a serious issue for so many. Those who could be prescribed nalmefene have already taken the first big steps in their fight against their addiction by visiting their doctor and taking part in therapy programmes.”

She added: “When used alongside psychosocial interventions, nalmefene is clinically and cost effective for the NHS compared with psychosocial interventions alone.”

NICE said nalmefene “should only be prescribed in conjunction with continuous psychosocial support”.

A consultation period on the idea of offering nalmefene on the NHS is now open and the final guidance is expected in November. A separate decision will be taken by the authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scotland became the first European country to prescribe nalmefene in October last year after trials showed some success. Men who usually drank eight units a day and women who drank six a day cut those amounts by half while taking the drug over six months.

However, Dr Des Spence, a GP in Glasgow, wrote an article in the British Medical Journal in February criticising the decision to give nalmefene on the NHS in Scotland at a cost of £84 a month per patient and casting doubt on the significance of the trial findings.

“Surely these resources would be better spent improving alcohol counselling services?” he wrote. “The drugs in alcohol addiction have tiny benefits and are a distraction from the real challenges of limiting the availability and increasing the cost of alcohol. This bad medicine is all too familiar.”

This is a welcome development in that NICE are looking at this as an option but I would have to agree that, similar to using pharmaceuticals to manage heroin addiction as discussed in the last post, this is a quick, easy and inexpensive option compared to dealing with the real issues of addiction and alcoholism.  I would worry that these would be handed out without psychosocial support in place.  Plus the pharmaceutical industry would gain without the  alcohol industry having to engage with the Govt to look at pricing and availability issues, thus saving the Govt any pain either.  So the corporatocracy win again at the expense of health and the general public.

30 days to go