Monthly Archives: October 2015

Alcopop review written by 12-year-old named year’s worst alcohol advertising

This was covered by The Guardian in September and was looking at a review of alcohol advertising in Australia.  And this image pretty much sums it up, although it uses humour to vocalise my utter despair.  A laugh or cry moment ……..

implied facepalmA review of a two-litre cask of pineapple punch-flavoured Vodka Cruiser (alcopop) on the website of a major alcohol retailer apparently written by a 12-year-old – who described the drink as having a “gr8 flava” and as being good value for money – has been named the worst alcohol advertisement of 2014-15.  “Had a sip on my 12th birthday, went off my head,” the review on the Dan Murphy’s website, which has since been removed by the retailer, read.

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) released its annual report on Monday at parliament house in Canberra, highlighting the most troubling of the 165 complaints it received in the past year, 92 of which were upheld in full.

Large alcohol advertisements on bus shelters located just outside of school gates; a social media promotion by Thirsty Camel bottle-shops advertising for a ‘minister for thirst’; and the Instagram accounts of various alcohol brands which can be followed by children were also highlighted in the report.

Guardian Australia has contacted Thirsty Camel for comment. A spokeswoman for Dan Murphy’s said the review was removed as soon as it was brought to the attention of the online staff, and that “state-of-the-art filters to automatically remove inappropriate content from product reviews” had been added to prevent similar reviews from being posted in future.

The AARB, run by health organisations, is chaired by paediatric epidemiologist Fiona Stanley and reviews complaints from the public based on the Alcohol Advertising Review Board.

It was established as an alternative to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC), which is run by the Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia and the Winemakers Federation of Australia.

The ABAC voluntary system of self-regulation was ineffective, with many alcohol companies ignoring young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising and ABAC unable to penalise companies in breach of the code, the AARB report said.

For the third successive year, AARB received more complaints about alcohol advertising than ABAC had, the report said.

But ABAC chair Alan Ferguson said there was no need for further restrictions to the code because it had been strengthened in 2014 in response to changes in community standards.

ABAC also pre-vetted ads before they went out to the public, Ferguson said, with more than 1,000 ads scrutinised last year before being aired. The industry maintained a high standard of social responsibility, he added.

He said that while he respected the people on the board of AARB, that they were all from the health field was potentially problematic.

“They’re only looking at the issue from a certain point of view,” Ferguson said, adding that the Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code was robust.

The director of the McCusker Centre for Alcohol on Action and Youth, Professor Mike Daube, described Ferguson’s comments as “appallingly complacent”.

“Anyone who thinks the alcohol industry maintains high levels of social responsibility is living in a parallel universe,” Daube said.

“The statement doesn’t defend the way kids are exposed to massive alcohol promotion because there is no defence.”

Launching the report, the CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, said alcohol companies defended self-regulation because they knew it did not work.

“Industry self-regulation didn’t work for tobacco and it doesn’t work for alcohol,” Moore said.

“It’s time to legislate so that there are controls that work.”

Governments must legislate to place restrictions on alcohol companies and their advertising to protect children in particular from alcohol-related harms, AARB found. Companies could not be compelled to adhere to codes of conduct and did not suffer consequences for breaches.

An independent national survey of 1,098 people conducted by AARB in July and commissioned by the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth found 72% of Australians supported legal controls to reduce young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising. Only 10% opposed alcohol advertising being phased out of sport, while 76% agreed alcohol advertising should be limited on television to late-night programming.

A loophole in the current Free TV code meant alcohol advertisements could be broadcast during live sporting events on weekdays and public holidays, the report found, with up to 19% of the viewing audience for major sporting events in the past year under the age of 18.

Liberal backbencher Sharman Stone, Greens leader Richard Di Natale and Labor MP Melissa Parke endorsed the report at its launch on Thursday.

Stone criticised voluntary codes of conduct for the industry and called for tougher restrictions on advertising and labelling on products.

“Why are we still so captured by the alcohol industry?” she said.

Why are we indeed Sharman? What do you think?

PS This article also features an embedded link to the article I wrote for The Guardian too 🙂


Friday Sober Jukebox – Rock the boat

As Halloween approaches I couldn’t decide whether this should have more of a horror feel as it seems pretty apt with the content of this post.  But this was the track that sprang to mind so I’m rolling with ‘rock the boat’ 😉

halloween thrillerYes this is how things feel psychologically currently! ……… (and it ain’t so thrilling).

I’m half way through the first term of my PG Dip at the University of Cambridge and as I may have mentioned before we have to be in weekly personal therapy and we have group therapy every week as part of the curriculum.

Now as you know from past blogs therapy is not a new thing for me and I’ve been very lucky to have had an excellent relational therapist in the past and she signposted me to a great CBT therapist who I did all the work with that formed the basis of these posts.  It was recommended at the Cambridge interview that we seek a new therapist to give us a variety of experiences so this is what I’ve done (even though I have to tell my family of origin story again).  She is also superb and luckily for me I’ve chosen someone whose speciality is addiction, family and trauma.  I don’t talk much here about why the second two elements of what she specialises in are necessary but suffice it to say she is perfect for the embodied emotional issues I need to process.  That is not where I am struggling.

I’m struggling with group therapy and came home last night with a chest crushing anxiety that had me sobbing in the bath, while running and woke me at 5am.  This is all stuff that I wasn’t expecting and haven’t experienced for a while in this journey.  For the first time in a long time the mind and emotion numbing appeal of booze crossed my mind. This anxiety is also one of the reasons why I struggle with AA and attending meetings and sharing in a public type forum.  It feels incredibly unsafe to me and not because of the other people there but because of my own internal issues.  Suffice it to say my emotional boat has been well and truly rocked.

For those unfamiliar with group therapy here is the Wiki page and here is the bit that explains (bearing in mind that I am working on family and trauma issues in my personal therapy) why I might be struggling with it:

  • Corrective recapitulation of the primary family experience
Members often unconsciously identify the group therapist and other group members with their own parents and siblings in a process that is a form of transference specific to group psychotherapy. The therapist’s interpretations can help group members gain understanding of the impact of childhood experiences on their personality, and they may learn to avoid unconsciously repeating unhelpful past interactive patterns in present-day relationships.

Yep I’ve re-entered my worst nightmare as part of my educational experience – nice one Lou!!  I know that I will be okay but it is causing some serious psychological push back from me and writing this blog post has (as usual) been extremely helpful for me.

For you as a reader the take-away is be careful when entering therapy early in sobriety and if you feel it is too much too soon, postpone it.  Sobriety comes first and above pretty much everything else.  I’m over 2 years now and if I wasn’t fairly stable in my recovery I think this would be prime relapse territory – and it’s not too late yet!!  I’ve had to be really mindful and that has also really helped me manage this emotionally stressful time too so thank you to Mrs D and A Rewarding Life for alerting me to The Mindfulness Summit that’s been running this month..  It has been an absolute life saver this last month.



Involving recovering alcohol and drug users in the delivery and design of treatment and recovery

This was on the Public Health England blog in September looking at the issue of mutual aid and involving those in recovery from substance misuse in treatment service design and delivery. This is what they had to say:

PHEalcoholSupport networks across communities and among those in treatment and recovery are an essential cornerstone of this journey.

The latest available figures show that over 300,000 adults (aged 18 and over) were in treatment for alcohol and/or drug dependency in 2013/14. Achieving the best possible recovery outcomes for those in recovery is a key public health concern in England.

To support the development of quality and effective treatment and recovery services, Public Health England (PHE) has produced a suite of resources to highlight the benefits of, and encourage local services to adopt, mutual aid and service user involvement.

PHE’s service user involvement guide was launched at our national ‘Experts by Experience: The assets brought by recovering drug and alcohol users to treatment and recovery substance misuse’ conference in Birmingham, which celebrated the positive contributions made by people in recovery to formal treatment services, including the delivery of mutual aid and the development of innovative community projects.

Support at every stage of recovery

By strengthening effective links between treatment services and mutual aid groups we can improve recovery rates. We know that mutual aid provides a platform to community integration and developing the wider assets needed to achieve recovery. NICE guidance supports this (CG51 and CG115), recommending that treatment staff not only inform service users about local mutual aid groups but actively facilitate their initial contact with a group, and support their sustained attendance.

“Mutual Aid refers to the social, emotional and information-based support provided by, and to, members of a group at every stage of recovery.”

Mutual aid groups may include people who are abstinent and want help to remain so, as well as people who are thinking about stopping and/or actively trying to stop their alcohol or drug use. The most common groups in England being 12-step fellowships, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and SMART Recovery, which apply cognitive behavioural techniques and therapeutic lifestyle change to its mutual aid groups to help people manage their recovery.

There are also mutual aid groups that exist to support families and friends of people with addictions to alcohol and drugs, such as Al-anon.

The suite of PHE guidance documents below, co-produced with representatives of mutual aid groups, commissioners and service managers, provide advice, support and further resources for creating effective links with mutual aid groups.

The individual and community benefits of service user developed support

Involving those who are in recovery from addiction in the design and delivery of support services has contributed significantly to the evolution of effective alcohol and drug treatment systems in England. PHE’s service user involvement (SUI) guidance looks at the evidence, the different levels of involvement and the impact of involvement on both service users and treatment effectiveness.

“Service User Involvement (service user being a person who is a past or present user of drug or alcohol recovery services) is about making sure that the people who use services are meaningfully involved in the planning, development and, where appropriate, delivery of effective support and other interventions provided by those and other services.”

People recovering from addiction can have very limited skills or employment experience, and often have significant problems with unstable accommodation – we know that addressing these issues gives people the best chance at life-long recovery. SUI is an opportunity to engage these people in their own long-term recovery, while at the same time inspiring others. Seeing successful stories of recovery from alcohol and drug use motivates those still suffering from addiction to engage with treatment.

They have expertise to share as well as, and an important contribution to make to the design, development and delivery of initiatives to help people affected by alcohol and drug use. Because of their direct experiences of services, service users know better than anyone what works – and what does not.

Across the country we have seen much enthusiasm for SUI with a mixture of creative and tailored SUI services, for example a furniture up-cycle project in Hertfordshire  and a community interest company in Birmingham that provides accommodation, business opportunities and accredited training.

PHE’s guide highlights four different levels that commissioners, providers and service users may want to consider in their development of SUI:

  1. Involvement in their own care or treatment plan
  2. Involvement in strategic development and commissioning
  3. Developing and delivering peer mentoring and support
  4. Developing and delivering user-led, recovery-focused enterprises

To further support the growth of tailored services, earlier this year PHE awarded £10 million of capital funding for services that are helping people in England with alcohol or drug problems. A substantial proportion of this went to projects that provide tailored education, training, skills and employment support to people in recovery, and to projects that provide safe and secure accommodation from which it’s possible to recover.

PHE continues to support local authorities and their communities in assessing and improving the effect of their substance misuse services. This is vital to ensure local prevention and treatment interventions meet the wide range of needs in the local area and we know that tailored approaches that invest in the individual and the community will lead to the best outcomes.

Maybe I could access some of that £10 million of PHE capital funding to improve the support and grow the reach of A HOF Life to help more of you out here too as a fellow traveller on the road to recovery? A girl can dream 😉

Inquiry launched into the impact of alcohol on Emergency Services

This was reported by Alcohol Concern in early September.

alcohol and A&E

Image courtesy of Peter Dench, Alcohol and England




The All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm has today launched an Inquiry into the ‘Impact of alcohol on the Emergency Services’.

The Inquiry will examine the way in which alcohol-related incidents and injuries place a strain on emergency services in the UK and how this impacts our emergency workers and their ability to carry out their jobs.

Alcohol-related harm costs the NHS £3 billion per year and places a huge amount of pressure on our emergency services, particularly at the weekends. The APPG Chair, Fiona Bruce MP and officers welcome the opportunity to hear from emergency workers, professionals and stakeholders to learn about key front-line issues and how they relate to alcohol.

Fiona Bruce, Chair of Alcohol Harm APPG, said: “The costs of alcohol harm to the UK are huge, not only in terms on lives lost but also through the significant impact on society. The strain that is placed on our emergency services is enormous and I encourage the public, emergency workers and interested bodies to submit evidence.

“A central objective of the inquiry will be to build a clear picture of the time and resources that alcohol related harm has across the Emergency Services. The Inquiry will also be holding oral evidence sessions in Parliament in October, where we have invited representatives from the Emergency Services to speak.”

Notes to editors

For further on the Inquiry, please click here.

Alcohol Concern provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm with funding from the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck Ltd.

The APPG on Alcohol Harm exists to promote discussion of alcohol-related issues, raise issues of concern and make recommendations to Government and other policy makers.

So following the collation of the  written evidence the completed findings were published on Monday which you can read here courtesy of Alcohol Policy UK:

Alcohol’s impact on emergency services: IAS report

Key findings include:

  • Violence against emergency services is ubiquitous, with 76% of police, and 50% of ambulance staff having been injured on the job as a result of drunken violence
  • Between a third and a half of emergency service staff have suffered sexual harassment or assault in the line of duty
  • Alcohol takes up as much as half of emergency service time
  • Emergency services are increasingly stretched, with over 90% of police and ambulance staff reporting they have performed the role of another blue light service in dealing with alcohol-related incidents
  • Over half of emergency service staff feel inadequately trained to deal with alcohol-related incidents

If you’re more of a visual learner then this excellent video sums it all up:

As a nurse who has staffed in A&E and on a ward taking drug and alcohol post A&E admission patients I can vouch for the level of verbal abuse, physical threats and sexual harassment we are subject to.

Not just us nurses object and are asking for change, so are the police:

Police call for end to 24-hour licensing over alcohol-related violence

So All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm now you have the evidence and it is compelling .  So in the words of one of my former patients, who having verbally threatened me and who I then tried to defend myself against replied by way of taunt ‘what are you going to do about it?’ ……….

PS Yesterday was the 2nd anniversary of the start of this blog (you can read that first blog post here & yes this used to be called the electrum blog!).  I can’t believe I’ve been here writing pretty much every day for all of that time!!  From next week I’m dropping my post frequency to every other day as recommended by many of you when I asked the question here, excluding Alcohol Awareness Week in November and my sober advent calendar when I’ll be back every day  😉

Can six lessons over 2 years in school on alcohol really affect the age that teenagers start drinking?

This was some research from the Alcohol Education Trust looking at whether six lessons over 2 years in school can affect the age at which teenagers starts drinking.  I had my fingers crossed reading this that the outcome was positive 🙂

parental drinking advice and teenagers

And here’s some practical tips for parents to help in the meantime 🙂



  • Over 40% of all the 4,400 children surveyed at outset had already had a whole drink, usually at home by age 12 or 13 (year 8).
  • 36% of these children who were then taught the AET programme, chose not to drink at 15/16 years old, compared to only 21% who had not been exposed to the programme.
  • Teens are more likely to drink if they have more siblings, have a poor relationship with their father or if their parents drink.

A small charity based in the depths of Dorset has successfully proved that talking to children early enough in an engaging way, without preaching about alcohol, in just a few lessons over 2 years taught by the schools non-specialist teachers, can significantly delay the age kids decide to start drinking.

The National Foundation for Education Research, leading evaluators who conduct the annual Smoking, drinking and drug use of young people report, followed the effect of the Alcohol Education Trust’s  ‘Talk about Alcohol’ programme among school children in England over 3 years (2011 – 2015). At the outset 4,500 pupils in 34 schools were recruited – 16 schools who delivered the lessons and 17 schools who didn’t were carefully matched for Ofsted ranking, number of free school meals and ethnic mix, for example.  You can read the executive summary of the report via

By the end of Year 9 when the kids were on average aged 14, 4,000 children in 30 schools completed detailed questionnaires on their attitudes and behaviour around alcohol. Finally 18 schools and 2,000 of the original pupils responded in detail about how much, when, where and if they were drinking alcohol when aged 15/16 (Year 11), two years after the Talk about Alcohol lessons were delivered.

Already at age 12/13, over 40% of kids in all the schools had had a whole alcoholic drink, usually on a special occasion with family. The number who chose to take up drinking rose over the subsequent years to 79% of the teenagers in their GCSE year in schools who hadn’t had the programme, versus just 64% of teenagers who’d had 6 lessons on alcohol two years earlier.

Interestingly, knowledge about alcohol and its effects was similar among all the teenagers, meaning this didn’t affect whether they chose to drink or not. Across all students in the sample at age 15-16, 29% of the intervention group and 37% of the comparison group drank frequently.

In terms of the negative consequences of drinking alcohol when aged 15/16, a quarter of those taught the Talk about Alcohol programme compared with 32% of the comparison schools had ever had a hangover; 18% compared with 24% respectively had ever got sick, while 17% compared with 21% had ever done something they regretted.

The AET believe that their class based activities, that get younger children to think about what they would do in risky situations and provide enough information before they begin drinking, is what makes the difference.

Helena Conibear Director of The Trust comments ‘children are fascinated by pictures of diseased livers being shown, or ex addicts coming into schools with cautionary tales of what could happen to them, but think, ‘well that’s not me I’d never let that happen’. Evidence from other research shows that such approaches are limited in impact. We’ve found that by relating to their world and getting kids to work things out for themselves through working in groups and through fun activities, thankfully, we can delay the age they start drinking. Our approach is very much around letting them work out for themselves why it makes sense to wait until they’re older if they choose to drink. We also reach out to parents, who are the key suppliers of alcohol to teenagers, and make teachers feel more comfortable and confident around the subject.’

Sarah Lynch, Senior Research Manager at NFER, said: “We have evaluated the Talk about Alcohol programme over the last four years and our evidence has consistently shown that it is effective at delaying the age at which teenagers start to drink. Young people told us that they prefer to receive information about alcohol from lessons at school and teachers find the Talk about Alcohol sessions straightforward to deliver and engaging for students. This evidence suggests that Talk about Alcohol is an effective early intervention programme”.

Notes for Editors:

You can read the full report and findings here:

About the Alcohol Education Trust

Supporting over 1,000 schools and 700 organisations across the UK, the evidence-based and peer-reviewed programme, aimed at 11-18 year olds, provides teachers with a structured approach to discussing issues around drinking, and includes a 100-page paper and online teacher workbook of lesson plans, work-sheets, games and ideas which can be adapted to suit the knowledge, ability and experience of the age group. To learn more visit

About NFER
NFER has a worldwide reputation for providing independent and rigorous research and evaluation in education. As a charity, any surplus generated by the Foundation is reinvested in research projects to provide evidence that improves education and the life chances of learners.

I hope that this is implemented nationwide before my children become teenagers!

A letter to … my brilliant brother who became an alcoholic

From the Guardian in September and the title says it all really: A letter to … my brilliant brother who became an alcoholic.   Thanks to the Club Soda member who bought this to my attention.

tubular bellsWe shared a bedroom until your wedding day at the crazy age of 19. You’d sat up the night before and emptied a bottle of rum alone. I knew you wanted out, but everything had already been arranged. You were seven years older than me and sobbing.

We were an ordinary family but you connected us to everything that was changing. You bunked off school to lie on the waterbed in the Virgin record shop. You played Tubular Bells, Gong and you left Oz magazine for me to figure out. You wore an Afghan coat, lemon loons, three-stage platform boots and long hair. We were ambushed once by stone-throwing neighbourhood kids just for walking to the bus stop. Hairy Fairy is what they called you. We all loved your independence, your cynicism and your insane humour and you had many friends.

You passed your first job interview and started in the Forensic Services without even going to university and you stayed in that job, in that same building for 37 years. Your work was structured with its routines and you used your analytical brain to eliminate uncertainties. You were commended for your work, which put murderers, counterfeiters, arsonists and drug dealers behind bars. You rarely fed us the gory details but soaked up the grisly crime scenes day after day, year after year. What long-term impact did those things have on you?

You had a cutting wit and revelled in the gallows humour of your colleagues. You kept chocolate bars in the walk-in fridge where the corpses lay waiting to be examined. Your team had special ties made to celebrate solving famous cases, using a cryptic series of symbols that only you could identify. There could always be a humorous payoff from the most terrible of crimes.

You only talked to me about one of your cases – perhaps the most infamous murder spree of all. You described the body cocooned in gold lamé thread, which had survived after the cotton dress had rotted away. A breathtaking image that I can never forget and I can’t imagine how you could either.

Away from work you crashed through two marriages and several failed relationships, but you never confided in any of us. You could fix anything mechanical with ease and solve the most complex crimes at work, but you were hopeless at maintaining yourself. Was alcohol the reason or the outcome, or both?

I opened your email account after your death and saw how you’d been groomed by an online wine company. Why did you fall for that nonsense? With each email they said you were getting closer to the top of the queue until, as they described, you became a priority customer who qualified for a great deal.

You always lied about your health but we’d been worried by your rapid weight loss and confusion. In the final few weeks we found that you’d survived on bitter lemon drink, red wine and fruit gums. I removed 75 empty wine bottles from your stinking flat.

At the end, you were unrecognisable, lying in your hospital bed with five of us holding on to you. As you drifted in and out of consciousness, I know you knew I was there.

Your younger brother

PS Thank you to all of you who sent kind birthday wishes via here or FB or email.  I had a lovely day despite being struck down with a heavy cold on Sunday.  We did the London trip as planned with me dosed up and powering through it like I used to do back in the day with hangovers!!  A timely reminder of why I don’t do that sh*t anymore 😉  Today I shan’t be getting out of my jim-jams as I implement some self-care to shift it and head back to bed.

PPS Two people subscribed yesterday so your free Udemy online course places are waiting for you and now it rolls over to subscriber no 1500 for the next free place 🙂

Coping with Alcoholism in the Family

This was another excellent Castle Craig blog looking at coping with alcoholism in the family.

Alanonby Ellen

Alanon is a fellowship of friends and families of alcoholics and I have been a member for many years. Anyone who is affected by someone else’s drinking is welcome.

I came into Alanon while my husband was still drinking. A member of AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] had come to see my husband and said there is also a fellowship for me. I said what I think every family says: “as long as you get him sober I’ll be fine.”

But I wasn’t fine. My husband continued to drink and so eventually I phoned this chap up and asked what I could do? I had tried everything else to get the man I loved sober but it was impossible.

I tried taking drink away from him, giving it to him, hiding the bottles, filling them up with water, taking money from him, giving him money; I tried to hate him and I loved him to bits. Nothing worked and I wore myself out trying. I was also raising two girls.

I talked at him until he was sick of the sound of me. I thought I would find the right words and a light would go on in this man’s head and he would do what I suggested – and then he would be sober. Of course, as I now know, that just doesn’t work.

When I first went to Alanon I hoped they would tell me how to get him sober. That was what I wanted – someone to give me the diet sheet and tell me “if you feed him this, and do that, it will work.” I was told at my first meeting that Alanon was for me and my family, not for the alcoholic, and one of the things I found at that first meeting was hope.

Negative Preconceptions of Alanon

I went to Alanon thinking it was going to be a witches coven, full of women feeling sorry for themselves and without any money in their pockets – not the sort of people I mixed with. How clever was I? I was married to the local alcoholic!

I went into the Alanon meeting and found that they all had a story to tell. They were laughing and enjoying their life, but when they each said what had happened in their week I realised that some of them were having a worse time than me.

At Alanon I found the hope that my life could improve. Not my husband’s life but my life and my children’s lives. At Alanon we believe the family is important and sometimes, with the best will in the world, the family gets forgotten in the alcoholic’s recovery.

My husband eventually came into Castle Craig and I can remember the resentment I felt when people asked me “how’s he doing?” Inside my head I was shouting “What about me?”. Nobody was asking about me and my children and how we’re coping. Alanon helped me to put all that into perspective, to realise that I too am a child of God and entitled to a good life – and my children are too. So I had to put them and myself first and that wasn’t easy.

I learned in Alanon that what I had been doing for my husband was the opposite of what I should have been doing. I thought that if I deal with every crisis, every money problem, if I lied to employers and friends for him, if I made excuses for him – at the end of the day he would stop drinking. I was enabling him to drink because he didn’t have to face a crisis by himself.

Today I don’t have any guilt about what I did because I know that, at the time, I didn’t have the right tools. I was doing what I thought was the best thing at the time: keeping my family together and trying to keep my husband as restrained as I could.

I continued in Alanon and learned that I had to take my eyes off him. I had to find the support for myself and my family within Alanon, and let my husband find his own recovery. I thank God that he did.

Resenting my Husband’s Rehab

Our GP had suggested my husband go to Castle Craig and my husband agreed to go. He later told me that he thought he would get 6 weeks away from me and get some peace and quiet. That was 20 years ago. He’s done well but so have we – my kids and I.

At the time I resented the fact that he was being looked after. Who was looking after me? For months I would come to visit him on Sundays with my sandwiches and can of coke and he would tell me about his roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Then there was the day I got a phone call and asked to bring sun cream as he was getting burned by the sun. I was working to pay bills, looking after children and trying to support him all at the same time.  He never really saw what was wrong with that.

In Alanon you will find the understanding, fellowship and friendship that you will find nowhere else, because people understand what you are trying to say and on the days you can’t say it they understand that too.

I’m glad I found Alanon before my husband got sober because afterwards I might not have thought it necessary. I could have thought “I’m fine”. But I still had all those resentments. In Alanon I was able to work on those resentments, and get rid of them.

The journey that we travel makes us who we are. It has not been easy living with a sober alcoholic, but it’s not easy living with me either. I suffer from the effects of my husband’s alcoholism and 20 years later I am still in Alanon because I need to be there for my own wellbeing.

If I  had my time again and had realised what was going on within my family around drink earlier I would have gone to Alanon.  If you are the family member of a loved one who is still drinking and you need support why not give Alanon a go?

I’m sharing this on my birthday because I have a close friend who I would so like to support more with their loved ones drinking.  I have supported them as much as they would allow and I shared the details of Alanon.  I would love for their partner to not drink so much but this is outside of our control.  So instead my birthday wish is for more support for them, to keep them strong and if you’re reading this I’m always here for you 🙂

Plus true to my promise in this post I am celebrating my birthday with an experience rather than asking for gifts that I probably don’t need.  The HOF clan are all going to the cravings exhibition at the Science Museum in London today!  Maybe we can all learn something new about cravings that will help us all understand why we are drawn to  the things we love to do too much? If you’d like to go the exhibition it’s running until the end of January 2016 🙂

PS Subscriber no 1399 has signed up for my free ebook – which means the next person to subscribe gets a free place on my online Udemy course.  Hell, it’s my birthday so anyone who subscribes today (before 12 midnight GMT) will get a free place 😉

The Scotch Whisky Association and Others v The Lord Advocate The Advocate General for Scotland

The day before my birthday and an extra dry post <excuse the pun>  This was news regarding Scotland’s desire to implement Minimum Unit Pricing and how the Scottish Whisky Association on behalf of the drinks industry has tied them up in the European Central Court in an attempt to delay or stop this legislature completely.

This is exactly the kind of law that TTIP, if allowed, will override and therefore prioritise the rights of the corporation above those of the Scottish govt.  Meaning that corporations would be able to sue govts for lost revenue irrespective of the public health issue.  In fact I would cynically argue the the industry is stalling for time in the hope that TTIP will be approved thereby making MUP illegal under these new regulations.  It is all very insidious …..

First minister will ‘vigorously’ defend policy after European court of justice advocate general said plans risk infringing EU law on free trade

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “vigorously” defend her plans to fix a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland despite a European court being told that the policy could be discriminatory and breach EU free trade rules.

Scotland’s first minister said she believed the advice from the European court of justice’s (ECJ) advocate general, Yves Bot, to the court of justice would ultimately give the Scottish government a fresh chance to win legal approval for the measure despite heavy opposition from the whisky industry and other member states.

The case would eventually come back to Scotland’s civil court, the court of session, and Sturgeon said: “We believe minimum unit pricing would save hundreds of lives in coming years and we will continue to vigorously make the case for this policy.”

In a major blow to Sturgeon’s government, Bot has advised the ECJ that he believes her flagship policy of setting an across-the-board 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol, which would raise prices for all consumers, clearly breached EU competition and free trade laws.

The court’s final decisions rarely contradict opinions from the advocate general.

Bot said the measure could be justified on public health grounds – the central justification put forward by Sturgeon – but only if the Scottish government could prove it was more effective and less damaging than other measures such as targeted taxation, and was a measure of last resort.

His opinion will heavily influence a decision by the ECJ, which is studying a legal challenge to the policy on competition and free trade grounds from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), several European drinks industry groups and nine member states.

The court’s decisions rarely contradict opinions from the advocate general, and his analysis was welcomed by the SWA. “The opinion encourages us in our long-held view that minimum unit pricing is illegal when there are less trade restrictive measures available,” said David Frost, the association’s chief executive.

But Sturgeon said it was highly significant that Bot had confirmed that minimum pricing was not of itself illegal under EU law – a point made forcibly by health campaigners who back the policy on Thursday.

“While we must await the final outcome of this legal process, the Scottish government remains certain that minimum unit pricing is the right measure for Scotland to reduce the harm that cheap, high-strength alcohol causes our communities,” she said.

The ECJ said Bot was “of the opinion that such a system risks infringing the principle of the free movement of goods and would only be legal if it could be shown that no other mechanism was capable of achieving the desired result of protecting public health.”

Graeme Young, a competition law partner with the global law firm CMS, said: “The advocate general restates well established principles of EU law, and assuming it is followed by the court of justice, will set a very high bar for the Scottish government in terms of defending its minimum price per unit legislation in the court of session.”

And here’s the full legal document should you wish to peruse:

The Scotch Whisky Association and Others v The Lord Advocate The Advocate General for Scotland

This was Alcohol Policy UK’s view:

Pro and anti minimum pricing groups claim good news over latest ruling

The European Court of Justices’ Advocate-General (AG) Lord Bot delivered his Opinion on Scotland’s bid to implement Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP). The views of the AG though were claimed as good news by both opponents and supporters of MUP, demonstrating the complexity of the challenge in the context of EU law.

Apologies for the brevity of a pre-celebration day post but this issue bothers me very much and a reminder about MUP and the lengths the industry will go to protect their profits NOT our health is important.

“The drinks industry is reliant, 70% of its shareholder value comes from people who are drinking too much and a third of its shareholder value comes from people who are drinking far too much. Quite simply, it’s not prepared to lose that market share.”

Professor Nick Sheron

Alcohol and Depression – Dual Diagnosis response still inadequate?

This comes courtesy of Alcohol Policy UK and Alcohol Concern regarding depression and dual diagnosis.

alcohol and depressionAlcohol Concern have released a new alcohol and depression factsheet [pdf], which highlights ‘a complex, powerful and mutually reinforcing relationship between alcohol and depression’.

The factsheet says depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK – experienced by as many as one in ten people in any year and costing around £11 billion in England. However treatment offered to those with alcohol problems and depression often falls short, a long running issue for the field.

Clinical research shows that regular drinking disrupts the brain’s chemistry, lowering the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood changes may lead to the development of depressive-like symptoms. Whilst for some alcohol may induce depression, others may turn to alcohol in an attempt to relieve it. However ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol has been shown to be one of the least effective methods of dealing with depression.

Dual Diagnosis – any further on?

Between a third and a half of people of who have a mental health problem also use drugs or drink to excess, and those experiencing depression while seeking alcohol treatment are both more likely to relapse and to relapse earlier, acccording to the factsheet.

However because of the complex nature of dual diagnosis, inadequate treatment has often resulted. As such the factsheet states it is important that the NHS and treatment services are equipped to deal with people who have a dual diagnosis, and ensure dual diagnosis patients receive comprehensive and coordinated care.

However a poor response to dual diagnosis has been a long running issue as identified in this Alcohol Policy UK post last year, following new research on the issue. Compared to other psychological therapies, cognitive based therapy (CBT) and/or motivational interviewing (MI) produced small but robust beneficial effects on both depression and alcohol consumption amongst the dually diagnosed.

Most promisingly, it suggested clinicians don’t need to identify a ‘primary’ diagnosis and treat that in the hope that the other will resolve; both can be treated at once.

More recently, further recent research has also demonstrated the positive impact of treatment approaches – as summarised in this Mental Elf blog: ‘combined treatment for co-morbid depression and alcohol use disorders is associated with a large early improvement in depression, irrespective of whether the depression is independent of alcohol misuse’.

Further reading :

I’ve also written a couple of blog posts about depression and dual diagnosis which you can revisit here and my good friend Libby Ranzetta writes extensively about depression over at her blog  Depression Lab.

Children should be informed about alcohol dangers from age 9, say experts

This was an interesting report published by the American Association of Pediatrics stating that children should be educated about the dangers of alcohol from the age of 9.  This is particularly close to home for me as my eldest son is 9 years old …….

Nancy Cartwright voices the mischievous 10-year-old son, Bart, in the animated TV show, The Simpsons. "I don't know of any other character that has more catch-phrases than Bart," she says.

Given the high prevalence of binge drinking among adolescents, parents and pediatricians should talk to children about the dangers of alcohol use from the age of 9 years. This is according to a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Co-authored by Dr. Lorena Siqueira, clinical professor of pediatrics at Florida International University and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee of Substance Abuse, the report is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Alcohol use among children and adolescents has become a major concern in the US. According to the AAP report, around 21% of adolescents have had at least one sip of alcohol before the age of 13, with almost 80% having done so by 12th grade.

In addition, the report notes that around 36-50% of high school students drink alcohol, with 28-60% reporting binge drinking. Of these, almost two-thirds report binge drinking on at least one occasion in the past 30 days.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) define binge drinking as a “pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL,” which normally occurs after the consumption of four alcoholic beverages within 2 hours for women and five or more drinks within 2 hours for men.

However, Dr. Siqueira and colleagues note that because children and teenagers typically weigh less than adults, it is likely to take less alcohol to reach unsafe BAC levels.

Children ‘start to think positively about alcohol’ from the age of 9

Three or more alcoholic beverages in 2 hours is considered binge drinking among girls aged 9-17 and boys aged 9-13, according to the report authors. For boys aged 14-15, four or more drinks in 2 hours is defined as binge drinking, rising to five or more drinks in 2 hours for boys aged 16-17.

“Given their lack of experience with alcohol and smaller bodies, children and adolescents can have serious consequences – including death – with their first episode of binge drinking,” says Dr. Siqueira.

“Studies have indicated that continued alcohol use during this growth period can interfere with important aspects of brain development that can lead to cognitive impairment, alcohol-induced brain damage and substance use disorders later in life,” she adds.

What is more, Dr. Siqueira points out that adolescents who engage in binge drinking are more likely to engage in risky behaviors – such as drunk driving – and have higher rates of suicide.

“As with most high-risk behaviors, early prevention proves to be more effective than later intervention,” she notes. As such, the report authors say both pediatricians and parents should be aware of the dangers alcohol use can pose to children and teenagers and recommend that they communicate these risks to children from the age of 9 years.

Explaining the reasons for their recommendation, the authors say:

“Surveys indicate that children start to think positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13 years. The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure leads them to drink more.

Therefore, it is very important to start talking to children about the dangers of drinking as early as 9 years of age.”

Guidelines for pediatricians

The report suggests pediatricians should inform parents about the key role they play in their child’s alcohol use, pointing to a 2013 study that found parental communication about alcohol use before children went to college reduced the likelihood of heavy drinking in adolescence by 20 times.

In addition, the authors say pediatricians should assess all adolescents for alcohol use using “structured screening instruments.”

They recommend the use of a screening tool created by the AAP and NIAAA consisting of two questions that vary by age group. For children aged 9-11, for example, the tool would ask: “Do you have any friends who drank beer, wine, or any drink containing alcohol in the past year?” and “How about you – have you ever had more than a few sips of beer, wine, or any drink containing alcohol?”

“This very brief screen can detect risk early, is empirically based, and is a good predictor of current and future negative consequences of alcohol use,” say the authors.

While adolescent drinking remains a key concern in the US, a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released in June found the rate of alcohol use among youths aged 12-20 drinking has reduced significantly over the past decade, falling from 28.8% in 2002 to 22.7% in 2013.

I find that an impressive statistic – parental communication reducing likelihood of heavy drinking by 20 times but equally am not sure about using a screening tool with my own children.  As a professional seeing children it would be appropriate.

My two haven’t seen us drinking for 2 years so since my eldest was 7 and even before then most of our drinking was done once they were in bed.  I’m really hoping that this non-alcohol consumption role-modelling has been a good grounding for them and they do ask questions about our NA beer so we’ve had brief conversations with them both already.  If I need to step it up a gear that’s fine by me 🙂  What do you think?