Monthly Archives: October 2015

Neuron responsible for alcoholism found

This research was published on the Medical Express website in September this year and was reporting on the fact that the neuron responsible for alcoholism had been found.

multi-gnerational models of alcoholismThis finding would be representative of the genetic/physiological model or integrative bio-psycho-social model (which is my preferred approach) of understanding addiction.



Scientists have pinpointed a population of neurons in the brain that influences whether one drink leads to two, which could ultimately lead to a cure for alcoholism and other addictions.

A study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, finds that consumption alters the structure and function of neurons in the dorsomedial striatum, a part of the brain known to be important in goal-driven behaviors. The findings could be an important step toward creation of a drug to combat alcoholism.

“Alcoholism is a very common disease,” said Jun Wang, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author on the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, “but the mechanism is not understood very well.”

Now, Wang and his team have helped come a little closer to that understanding. Using an animal model, the researchers determined that alcohol actually changes the physical structure of medium spiny neurons, the main type of cell in the striatum. These neurons can be thought of like a tree, with many branches, and many small protrusions, or spines, coming off of them. They each have one of two types of dopamine receptors, D1 or D2, and so can be thought of as either D1 or D2 neurons. D1 neurons are informally called part of a “go” pathway in the brain, while D2 neurons are in the “no-go” pathway. In other words, when D2 neurons are activated, they discourage action—telling you to wait, to stop, to do nothing.

Although it is well known that the neurotransmitter dopamine is involved in addiction, this study goes further, showing that the dopamine D1 receptor also plays an important role in addiction. The team found that periodic consumption of large amounts of alcohol acts on D1 neurons, making them much more excitable, which means that they activate with less stimulation.

“If these neurons are excited, you will want to drink alcohol,” Wang said. “You’ll have a craving.” That is to say, when neurons with D1 receptors are activated, they compel you to perform an action—reaching for another bottle of tequila, in this case. This then creates a cycle, where causes easier activation, and activation causes more drinking.

These changes in activation of D1 neurons might be related to the physical changes happening at the sub-cellular level in brains that have been exposed to alcohol. They have longer branching and more of the mature, mushroom-shaped spines—the type that stores long-term memories—than their abstaining counterparts.

Conversely, the placebo group, the ones not exposed to alcohol, tended to have more of the immature versions of the mushroom-shaped spines in D1 neurons of their brains. The total number of spines didn’t change in the two groups, but the ratio between mature and immature was dramatically different between the alcohol group and the placebo group. This has important implications for memory and learning in .

“When you drink alcohol, long-term memory is enhanced, in a way,” Wang said. “But this memory process is not useful—in fact, it underlies addiction since it affects the ‘go’ neurons.” Because there was no difference in the number of each type of spine in the D2 (no-go) neurons of alcohol-consuming and control models, the researchers realized there was a specific relationship between D1 neurons and alcohol consumption.

“We’re now able to study the brain at the neuron-specific and even spine-specific level,” Wang said.

How do you determine which neuron, which type of neurons or which group of neurons is responsible for a specific disease? That’s what the next part of the study tried to answer.

The alcohol-consuming animal models with the increased mature spines in D1 neurons also showed an increased preference to drink large quantities of alcohol when given the choice.

“Even though they’re small, D1 receptors are essential for alcohol consumption,” Wang said.

Furthermore, and perhaps most excitingly, when those same animal models were given a drug to at least partially block the D1 receptor, they showed much-reduced desire to drink alcohol. However, a drug that inhibited the D2 had no effect. “If we suppress this activity, we’re able to suppress ,” Wang said. “This is the major finding. Perhaps in the future, researchers can use these findings to develop a specific treatment targeting these .”

The study, which was co-authored with from the University of California San Francisco, was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

“My ultimate goal is to understand how the addicted works,” Wang said, “and once we do, one day, we’ll be able to suppress the craving for another round of drinks and ultimately, stop the cycle of alcoholism.”

Explore further: Receptor limits the rewarding effects of food and cocaine

More information: Journal of Neuroscience,

Journal reference: Journal of Neuroscience

Any research that helps us understand further what is going on in the brain when cravings are triggered is a good thing as far as I’m concerned although I’m wary of relying too heavily on only the medical model to explain alcoholism or addiction more generally as this is a reductionist approach and the issue is more complex than that.  What are your thoughts?

PS I seem to have gone a bit bonkers this week-end and have two posts queued up for both today and tomorrow.  I would rejig things to spread them out but I’m dropping to posting every other day in November and that’ll completely throw that out of kilter!  I tell you what it’s my birthday on Monday so consider the extras an early birthday sober treat 😉

Friday Sober Jukebox – Ten Storey Love Song (in thanks) :)

So the lovely Binki over at the FB SWANS group on Wednesday bought to my attention a piece on After Party Magazine called The 20 Best Recovery Blogs.  Well blow me down with a feather – I was on that list!!!!  I came over all Happy Days 😉

happy daysAnd this is what they wrote:

This is a cool blog wrapped in a super cute package. Maybe it’s my adoration for the British POV but Lou, who is virtually anonymous in the majority of her posts, is just an upbeat sober lady who loves being sober and likes keeping it simple. She offers a lot on her site: news stories, personal blog posts, how-to guides, workshops, interviews and other great resources for the sober community. Since I (and ever other sober person dating a normal drinker) am always looking for fun, non-alcoholic alternatives to enjoy with my bourbon-swigging boyfriend, I especially love her section on mocktails—complete with photos and recipes!

So firstly thank you Danielle Stewart and After Party Magazine!  To be listed by you is truly an honour – and such a lovely review too  🙂 And among such heroes of mine  – Veronica Valli, Magz @ Sober Courage, Chris @ Since Right Now, I Fly At Night, Hip Sobriety, Laura over @ The Sobriety Collective, the lovely Lotta, aka Mrs D, and Amy @ Soberbia to name but a few other sober rock stars *blushing*

So as a way of showing my gratitude for your kindness a tune in return.  A Ten Storey Love Song for a top 20 recovery blog listing ……  The Stone Roses – a British band through and through.  Thank you again and if I can ever help you out with a Reader Spotlight then just ask! 😀


Drinkers are not a burden on the state

This was picked up by the Daily Mail in September regarding why there is no incentive for the Govt to resolve the issue of alcohol dependence.  Why? It’s because drinkers are NOT a burden on the state as alcohol taxes raises £6.5 BILLION more than the cost of alcohol abuse.

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: A reveler stops to help her friend after leaving a bar in Bristol City Centre on October 15, 2005 in Bristol, England. Pubs and clubs prepare for the new Licensing laws due to come into force on November 24 2005, which will allow pubs and clubs longer and more flexible opening hours. Opponents of the law believe this will lead to more binge-drinking with increased alcohol related crime, violence and disorder while health experts fear an increase in alcohol related illnesses and alcoholism. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Drinkers in England pay billions of pounds more in alcohol taxes every year than they take out in healthcare, police and other costs, a report has revealed.

The cost of alcohol abuse – including treatment on the NHS and the amount spent tackling booze-fuelled crime – amounts to £3.9 billion each year. 

But the Treasury receives revenues from alcohol taxes amounting to some £10.4 billion, according to a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The study, taking into account recent health, crime and drinking data, finds that contrary to popular belief, drinkers are not a burden to the taxpayer.

The net benefit of alcohol to the taxpayer is £6.5 billion, and even if the Government halved all forms of alcohol duty, it would still receive more money in tax than it spends dealing with booze-related problems, the report claims.

The study’s author Christopher Snowdon said: ‘It is time to stop pretending that drinkers are a burden on taxpayers.

‘Drinkers are taxpayers and they pay billions of pounds more than they cost the NHS, police service and welfare system combined.

‘The economic evidence is very clear on this.

‘Forty per cent of the EU’s entire alcohol tax bill is paid by drinkers in Britain and, as this new research shows, teetotallers in England are being subsidised by drinkers to the tune of at least six-and-a-half billion pounds a year.’

In 2003 a report produced by Dr Rannia Leontaridi for the Cabinet Office suggested that alcohol use cost Britain £20 billion a year.

But Mr Snowdon claims that it applied to England, not Britain, and is misleading because it conflates social and economic costs with the costs to government departments – the cost to the taxpayer.

He found that alcohol-related crime costs the taxpayer nearly £1 billion per year, while other alcohol-related crimes, including drink-driving, add a further £627 million, making a total cost to the police and criminal justice system of £1.6 billion.

Alcohol-related health problems cost £1.9 billion annually, with half of these coming from alcohol-related hospital admissions, and a further £530 million spent on Accident and Emergency attendances.

Welfare payments given to those unable to work because of mental or physical ill health attributable to alcohol consumption amount to £289 million.

Mr Snowden arrived at his results by using the 2003 figures and adjusting for inflation for all expenses which are costs to the taxpayer, but not social costs.

He used some more up-to-date statistics – such as A&E attendance figures from 2015 – where available.

Full study findings here:

Alcohol and the public purse (PDF)

So that’s alright then isn’t it? We’ll gloss over the small matter of the social costs that are not accounted for in these numbers.  Clearly they aren’t as important as the financial gains that the govt make from all us boozers, whether we get sick because of it or beat the crap out of someone while under the influence 🙁  FFS ……

Sticking two fingers up

This was a feature I read in September on The Conversation and the piece was entitled: Sticking two fingers up to sensible guidance fuels drinking appeal – and alcohol brands know it.  It was essentially a look at the use of counter-culture to promote and market products.  I’ll let you read it first before I comment further 🙂

counter culture





A few years ago I helped a member of the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Unit (now a private business) draft a radical new approach to alcohol policy. Our proposal was based on a simple but seldom acknowledged insight – alcohol companies understand that heavy drinkers are often counter-cultural consumers. They are more likely to transgress official instructions to drink “sensibly” than obey them. And brands that are positioned as counter-cultural will be more appealing to these consumers.

My collaborator had previously worked in marketing. He understood that positioning is often implicit, and brands are secretive about it. Regulators such as the Advertising Standards Authority tend to focus on the literal content of advertisements. We thought that more effective regulation might be possible if the industry was forced to share what it knows about what brands mean to consumers.

As it turned out, the civil servants didn’t want to get into the quicksands of interpretation and the proposal was rejected. My academic colleagues and I, though, made our point in a recent research paper: that it is a mistake for alcohol policy initiatives to ignore the counter-cultural appeal of heavy drinking.

Anti-mainstream appeal

The idea that consumption can be counter-cultural might seem like a contradiction – what could be more conformist than buying the stuff marketers tell us to? Marketing resolves the contradiction by co-opting our counter-cultural impulses.

Anthropologists tell us that the transgression of social norms is necessary in order to reinforce them, and Western consumer culture has been a theatre for controlled transgression since the 1960s when brands first co-opted the culture of youth, popular music, fashion, biker gangs, surfers, urban street culture and more, to facilitate the expression of consumer identity.

Harley Davidson was one of the early brands to pioneer counter-cultural market positioning. Today, the quintessential motorbike brand beloved of outlaw gangs and middle-aged bankers with an identity crisis still focus their marketing on an anti-mainstream appeal, even if many of their customers are anything but.

Many other sectors from fashion to fragrance soon followed. Thomas Frank noted in his classic The Conquest of Cool that when sports brand Nike featured beat poet William S Burroughs in a 1994 TV ad it was less of a radical departure in brand positioning than a tacit admission of the role of business in co-opting and normalising counter-culture. When anti-capitalist website Adbusters launched a branded training shoe it seemed the last word on how marketing absorbs activism.

A source of escape

Alcohol is a prime site for counter-cultural marketing because drinking has been a source of escape from officialdom and a time-out from formal social structures for some 400 years in the UK. Historically, UK alcohol policy has exposed tensions between state control, markets, and individual freedom. It is telling that popular media stories around alcohol have now moved to label the “middle class over-50s” as problem drinkers. The evidence behind such claims might be arguable, but one thing is certain – if the supply of counter-culture doesn’t keep up with the demand for it, vested interests can manufacture some more.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the UK market began to exploit alcohol’s rich counter-cultural potential. Alcohol advertising jettisoned actors who looked like middle managers and began to feature lairy, rebellious characters like the Hofmeister Bear and Australian comic Paul Hogan (watch the tv ad here).

Soon, high alcohol mixer drinks came into the market positioned as recreational with brand names like “RAVE” and “DNA”. The Advertising Standards Authority insists to this day that alcohol advertising cannot target under 18s, but health lobbies are sceptical and want an outright ban. Some studies have suggested that under-age drinkers think alcohol brands are cool from early childhood.

There have been signs that binge drinking has passed its peak in the UK. Nonetheless, alarm persists among health lobbies and central government at the economic and social cost of drinking.

So how can alcohol policy respond to the paradox that policy messages to drink less can be interpreted from a counter-cultural perspective as cues to drink more? One line of argument is that the state should leave marketing to the market and refrain from mass media campaigns, instead focusing on treatment, factual information and supply side measures such as licensing.

An alternative view is that state-sanctioned “social” marketing around health issues should try harder to engage with target groups in ways that are not seen as patronising or irrelevant. Either way, policy makers need to acknowledge the huge challenge presented by the counter-cultural appeal of thumbing one’s nose at official rules and recommendations.

SC and I had a conversation about straight-edged back at the end of the summer and if you don’t know about this counter-culture then go here.

This is the bit that grabbed me: ‘Straight Edge refers to a subculture of hardcore punk which was a direct reaction to the sexual revolution, hedonism, and excess associated with punk rock.  The foundation underlying the sXe identity is positive, clean living. Straight edge is fundamentally about subverting the drug scene and creating an alternative, drug-free environment. Clean living is the key precursor to a positive life.’ Sound familiar?

Straight Edgers claim that resisting social standards and expectations allows them to follow their own, more meaningful, path in life, toward greater self-actualization.

I feel like we are a new kind of straight edge counter culture growing out of a direct reaction to the mass advertising and marketing of alcohol in all of its guises.  If you really want to stick two fingers up to them then don’t consume it at all.  Vote with your feet and don’t provide profits to this industry and it’s lobbying and funding of govt.  Rebel by not playing the game at all …….. 😉 What do you think?

PS This week, ITV are looking at different types of addictions in the region – speaking to addicts, their families, medical experts and law chiefs to show the emotional, financial and physical toll it takes on all involved and starts.

Addiction and Me

Drinkers ‘raided London hospitals for alcohol-based hand gel’

This news piece was covered by the BBC in  September and was reporting on how drinkers were raiding London hospitals and stealing the alcohol-based hand gel to drink.





A man who nearly died from drinking hand gel containing alcohol, has detailed how he was part of a group which systematically raided London hospitals for a drink.

Bartek, 30, who has received treatment in his native Poland, lost 1.5 litres of blood in a haemorrhage caused by his habit.

Meanwhile, Freedom of Information requests revealed dozens of reports of thefts across seven hospitals.

Experts warn that there are serious health risks involved.

This isn’t news to me as the ward where I used to work had to get locked cabinets for hand gel when patients were found drinking it.

If you carry one of these be very careful of them around small children who like looking through your bag contents.  This substance is exceptionally toxic and there are some stories of its impact on young children here.

Here’s a bit more about alcohol hand gels:

A typical 240 ml container of hand sanitizer gel contains comparable alcohol to 5 shots of hard liquor. It’s hard to say when drinking hand sanitizer came into vogue, but reports of its use as an intoxicant with prison inmates started surfacing around 2009. (The one I have for work has 85g Ethanol in 60mls)

Recent trends, mainly practiced by teens, include mixing hand sanitizer with Listerine to make a strong minty cocktail, mixing the gel with salt to separate the alcohol from the gel and distilling the alcohol from hand sanitizer. 

Drinking the resulting cocktail is called ‘hand sanitrippin’, getting a hand sanity fix, getting drunk on Mr. Clean’s Tears or getting hand sanitized’.

Chemical Composition of Hand Sanitizer

The problem here is that there are different types of alcohol that may be used as the disinfectant in hand sanitizer and only one of them isn’t deadly poisonous! Methanol is not used in hand sanitizer because it is toxic and is absorbed through skin.

Hand sanitizer containing isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is used in hand sanitizer. While it is not absorbed through the skin as much as methanol, this alcohol is toxic and will damage your nervous system and internal organs if you drink it. Possible effects may include blindness, brain damage and kidney and liver damage. These effects may be permanent, plus it’s possible to die from drinking this chemical.

Although rubbing alcohol is not good to drink, it’s unlikely a person would be able to tell the effects apart from those caused by drinking grain alcohol. Drinking isopropyl alcohol initially causes intoxication, slurred speech, blurred vision and dizziness.

Hand sanitizer containing ethyl alcohol (ethanol or grain alcohol) theoretically could be drunk, except it may be denatured. This means the alcohol has purposely been adulterated to make it undrinkable. Back in the days of Prohibition, denaturing agents included arsenic and benzene. Modern denaturing agents range from toxic chemicals to non-toxic, foul-tasting chemicals. The problem is that you can’t tell from the label what denaturing chemical was used.

Hand Sanitizer Ingredient List

When you read a bottle of hand sanitizer, you’ll likely see ethyl alcohol listed as the active ingredient, usually around 60%, which is equivalent to 120-proof liquor. In comparison, straight vodka is only 80-proof. Other ingredients (inactive ingredients) include benzophenone-4, carbomer, fragrance, glycerin, isopropyl myristate, propylene glycol, tocopheryl acetate and water. Some of these ingredients are harmless; others are toxic. Of this sample list, the fragrance is the additive most likely to cause problems. You can’t tell the composition of the fragrance and many common scents derive from petrochemicals.

Can You Drink It?

You can, but the bottom line is that you shouldn’t! Even if the label lists ethyl alcohol as the only active ingredient, it’s unlikely that alcohol is in a drink-able form. Plus, the other ingredients may be toxic. Yes, it’s possible to distill alcohol from hand sanitizer, but you’ll likely have a low-purity (contaminated) product.

However, the main risk of drinking hand sanitizer isn’t from the toxic chemicals, but from the extremely high alcohol content. Most people who are hospitalized from drinking hand sanitizer get there because of alcohol poisoning (overdose). The alcohol content is so high that it is easy to drink a dangerous amount of alcohol before feeling the initial effects.


Prisoner “Drunk on Swine Flu Gel”, BBC News Online
Isopropyl Alcohol Material Safety Data Sheet,
Isopropyl Alcohol, BDH.
MSDS for Benzophenone-4, Spectrum Chemicals

There are alcohol free hand gels and I suspect they will slowly replace these to reduce the risk …..

Hangover Cures & Lost Hours

This research was picked up and covered by The Independent over the August Bank Holiday week-end!


Hangover cures: The only way to avoid suffering the morning after is ‘to drink less alcohol’, say scientists

Hangover cures, whether it be drinking coffee, downing a fizzy drink, tucking into a fry-up or even the ‘hair of the dog that bit you’ are pretty much a waste of time and effort, scientists have concluded.

Even drinking water, they say, will fail to prevent anyone incautious enough to overdo the alcohol from suffering a hangover the morning after.

There is, they say, no escape. Everyone pays the price for boozing, according to tests carried out with 826 Dutch students who answered questions – once the worst effects had worn off – about their most recent heavy drinking session.

Just over half said they had eaten after drinking but this appeared to have little effect on the severity of their hangovers.

Lead scientist Dr Joris Verster, from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, said: “From what we know from the surveys so far, the only practical way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol.

“Those who took food or water showed a slight statistical improvement in how they felt over those who didn’t, but this didn’t really translate into a meaningful difference.”

Researchers concluded that even seasoned drinkers who consider themselves immune to hangovers are simply deluding themselves.

An estimated 25 to 30 per cent of drinkers maintain they can down unlimited amounts of beer or wine safe in the knowledge that they will wake up refreshed and clear-headed the next day.

The scientists calculated the blood alcohol levels of a group of 789 Canadian students who were questioned about their drinking in the previous month and found that four fifths (79 per cent) of those who claimed not to experience hangovers had actually drunk less than they thought.

Their average post-drinking blood alcohol level was less than 10 per cent. While still around twice the safe driving limits of many European countries, it was not enough to lay them low the next day.

“In general, we found a pretty straight relationship; the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover,” said Dr Verster. “The majority of those who in fact reported never having a hangover tended to drink less – perhaps less than they themselves thought would lead to a hangover.”

The results of the study were presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s annual meeting in Amsterdam.

Commenting on the research, psychologist Dr Michael Bloomfield, from University College London, said: “Throughout the world the economic and social costs of alcohol abuse run into hundreds of billions of euros per year. It’s therefore very important to answer simple questions like ‘how do you avoid a hangover?’

“Whilst further research is needed, this new research tells us that the answer is simple – ‘drink less’.”

States it pretty simply doesn’t it?  And The Indy followed it up the next day with this research from Cancer Research:

Hungover Britons lost 22 hours of their summer this year recovering from nights of heavy drinking, research has found.

While much of July and August has been a washout, the study found that boozing cost drinkers almost an entire day in the sun (or rain) over the past three months.

New figures released today by Cancer Research UK show that an average hangover lasted six and a half hours, while one in eight sufferers admitted their most recent one dragged on for more than 12 hours.

The survey of 2,000 drinkers also found that 24 per cent admitted the after-effects of their boozing stopped them going outside to enjoy good weather, rising to 40 per cent for 18- to 34-year-olds.

Close to 280,000 Britons have missed a flight due to a hangover, according to Office for National Statistics figures, and 23 per cent of young Britons admit they have missed a day out after a binge.

Edited to add: 23/10/2015

Hangover cures: Drinking water will do nothing to cure a headache, say experts

Alcohol sales in Scotland increase

This was picked up by BBC Scotland at the end of August and reported on the increase in alcohol sales in Scotland in 2014.


This is the impact that minimum unit pricing would have on supermarket multi-buy deals which they sell as loss leaders …..





Alcohol sales in Scotland increased last year, according to the latest figures.

An NHS report said the equivalent of 41 bottles of vodka or 114 bottles of wine per adult were sold in 2014.

The Scottish government said the figures reinforced the need for minimum unit pricing.

NHS Scotland warned that increased consumption would result in higher levels of alcohol-related illness and deaths.

The figures are in contrast to a trend for declining alcohol sales seen in recent years.

‘Irresponsible promotions’

They showed most of the alcohol – 72% – was bought through supermarkets or off-licences, rather than in pubs and clubs – the highest market share since recording began in 1994.

Scots continue to drink almost a fifth more than in England and Wales.

The statistics also highlighted that for the first time since 2007, the average price per unit in the off-trade has not increased and remains at 52p.

However, more than half of alcohol sold in off-trade costs below 50p per unit – the initial level proposed for minimum unit pricing.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “It’s concerning that the decline in consumption seen in recent years now appears to have stalled, especially after figures published last week showed alcohol-related deaths have increased for the second year running.

“That is why we remain absolutely committed to tackling Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol head on. In particular championing the introduction of minimum unit pricing.

“We recognise that no single measure will help change our relationship with alcohol.”

She added: “Our Alcohol Framework has more than 40 measures to reduce alcohol-related harm, such as the multi-buy discount ban, increased investment in alcohol treatment and care services, increased delivery of Alcohol Brief Interventions, legislation to ban irresponsible promotions, and introduction of a lower drink drive limit.

“The Framework has had a positive impact so far, but while an average of around 22 people a week still die because of alcohol, there can be no room for complacency.”

41 bottles of vodka per adult – so almost one a week per person is a shocker of a statistic.  No wonder the drinks industry is fighting MUP in Scotland.

And this is 72% supermarket/off-license sales – and I bet this was mostly supermarkets who sell some alcohol as loss leaders.

Here is a lovely infographic that supports those two shocking statistics:

MESAS alcohol sales and price update 2015

Sales increasing and alcohol related deaths increasing too – hmm no causal effect there then ……….  🙁

In light of this report:

The Scottish Government is considering resurrecting its “social responsibility” tax on alcohol retailers as more Scots abandon pubs in favour of off licences.

72% of alcohol sales ‘in off licences rather than pubs’

At least the Scottish govt is looking to do something about it – as is Liverpool it would seem 🙂

Let’s start talking about alcohol

Liverpool council and the local NHS want to hear your views on what they should be doing in the coming years on alcohol. 

The citywide conversation about alcohol is taking place now and people can share their views in an online forum, as well as read and respond to a draft strategy by clicking here.

The consultation is particularly interested in people’s views on: what impact alcohol has; what support exists for people and if it is working; alcohol sales being controlled appropriately and what needs to be done differently?

If you’re reading this and live in Liverpool (and even if you don’t) and would like to share your views now’s your chance!

Edited to add: 27/10/15 new research in the Public Health Journal too:

Alcohol purchasing by ill heavy drinkers; cheap alcohol is no single commodity

  • We surveyed drinking behaviour in 639 patients with alcohol-related harm.
  • Consumption was predominantly from off-sale settings (median = 184.8 UK units/week).
  • Popular drinks were cheap varieties of white cider and vodka.
  • Price and location of point of sale were key drivers of consumption.
  • 85% of units cost less that the proposed minimum unit price for alcohol.


Median consumption was 184.8 (IQR = 162.2) UK units/week paying a mean of 39.7 pence per alcohol unit (£0.397). Off-sales accounted for 95% of purchases with 85% of those <50 pence (£0.5 UK) per alcohol unit. Corresponding figures for the Scottish population are 69% and 60%. The most popular low-priced drinks were white cider, beer and vodka with the most common off-sales outlet being the corner shop, despite supermarkets offering cheaper options. Consumption levels of the cheapest drink (white cider) were similar across all quintiles apart from the least deprived.

Edited to add 28th May 2016:

Scottish alcohol sales increase to equivalent of 41 bottles of vodka per adult

SNP ministers have attempted to bolster their fragile legal case for introducing alcohol minimum pricing by pointing to new figures showing Scottish sales increased last year to the equivalent of 41 bottles of vodka per adult.| The Telegraph

Exploring the rise and fall of alcohol-related mortality in Scotland: Affordability

The rise and fall of alcohol-related mortality in Scotland is partly due to changes in affordability, according to recent reports | Science Daily, UK

Alcohol and Cancer

A new factsheet was published by Alcohol Concern and launched earlier this year relating to alcohol and cancer.

Cancer UK cancer types







Around 4% of cancers in the UK are directly attributable to alcohol – around 12,800 individual cases every year.

  1. This makes alcohol one of the most preventable causes of cancer after smoking.
  2. Worldwide, one in five of alcohol-related deaths are caused by cancer.
  3. Just one alcoholic drink a day can increase the risk of developing cancer – and the risk increases with every drink

Alcohol was classified as a teratogen back in the late 80’s by the WHO so this is not new.  However what is new is the robustness of the evidence about alcohol and its impact on cancer risk.

And even I, as a nurse who worked on a GI (gastro-intestinal) medical and surgical ward, and so cared for many patients impacted by these types of cancers, didn’t connect the rates of cancer I was seeing with drinking:

  • Mouth and throat 30.4%
  • Voice box 24.6%
  • Oesophageal 20.6%
  • Colorectal 11.6%

I knew and expected the maxillo-facial (so top two listed above) but was stunned by the oesophageal and colorectal percentages.  It could be argued that the majority of patients I cared for were there because of booze 🙁

But it’s not really a surprise is it seeing as that is how alcohol travels through our system when we drink?  Into our mouth, down our throat and over our voice box and then down the oesophagus and into our stomach and then onto our small and large bowel (colorectal).  Poisoning our system and mutating the cell lining as it goes …….

We’ve known for a good few years (well I’ve known since I started my nurse training in 1989!) that if we want to increase the chances of us living long and healthy lives, particularly as regards cancer, then best not to smoke.  You can add to that list now best not to drink either!!

Edited to add: 9th January 2016

Statement on consumption of alcoholic beverages and risk of cancer (PDF)

We looked at a number of publications estimating how many cancers occur in the UK each year as a result of people drinking alcohol.  While there were some differences in how the analyses were carried out, using the two most appropriate studies produced useful estimates.  We found that 4-6% of all new cancers in the UK in 2013 were caused by alcohol consumption | Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COC), UK

Mutagenicity of alcohol (ethanol) and its metabolite acetaldehyde

This statement details the conclusions reached by the COM with regard to the published evidence on the genotoxicity and mutagenicity of ethanol, acetaldehyde and alcoholic beverages from January 2000 to May 2014, including the modifications made to the conclusions drawn in 2000 | PHE, UK

Edited to add: 10/10/16

Alcohol the cause of 5% of new cancer cases

135,000 alcohol-related cancer deaths predicted by 2035

ALCOHOL SNAPSHOT: Alcohol-related cancers will get worse before they get better

Edited to add: 04/01/18

New study identifies key alcohol and cancer mechanism

A combined parent-student alcohol prevention programme

This research report that was published in August on Findings makes sense to me although the language is a little dry!

Alcohol proofing your kids(This book is shown as I liked the idea of booze proofing our kids but as it happens it had 5 five star reviews on Amazon so probably worth a read!)

Effects of a combined parent-student alcohol prevention program on intermediate factors and adolescents’ drinking behavior: a sequential mediation model.

First get the parents to set and communicate strict limits on their children’s drinking was the implication of this analysis of how in the Netherlands a combined adolescent education and parenting programme exerted unusually strong impacts on later drinking.

Summary The featured report derives from a previously analysed evaluation conducted in the Netherlands of an intervention aimed at reducing drinking in adolescents by educating pupils and prompting parents to set and communicate explicit limits to their children’s drinking. First this account offers a résumé of the study and findings on the effectiveness of the interventions, before turning to the featured report’s findings on how these results were achieved.

The study had randomly assigned participating schools to receive either just the parent intervention, just the adolescent education intervention, both interventions, or to act as control schools which simply carried on with the normal alcohol education.

The programme’s parental limit-setting component was based on the Örebro programme developed and tested in Sweden. It entailed a brief presentation from an alcohol expert at the first parents’ meeting in each school year on the adverse effects of youth drinking and of permissive parental attitudes to drinking. After this parents of children from the same class were meant to meet to agree rules about their children’s drinking. The other component was classroom-based education providing children alcohol-related information and skills-training.

At the start of the study the children were 12–13-years-old. Nearly three years later the study assessed how many had started drinking at least weekly or routinely started drinking heavily each weekend. To measure adolescent self-control and parental limit-setting, adolescents were given statements like, “I have trouble saying no,” or, “I am allowed to have one glass of alcohol when my parents are at home,” and asked to rate how far these applied to them.

When – and only when – parental and child components were combined did the programme restrain the adolescents’ drinking, effects several times greater and more consistent than those typical of education-based alcohol prevention programmes; at the final 34-month follow-up, for every four pupils allocated to parenting plus alcohol education, one was prevented from drinking weekly and also one from drinking heavily each week at age 15.

Logically this makes sense to me.  So for example if my kids when they reach that age are educated by me and MrHOF about alcohol and restrained in how much we let them drink and then they have a good quality educational training about it in school too I would expect them to be protected against excess.  We shall see won’t we! 🙂

Friday Sober Jukebox – Spit It Out

So this is a special edition Friday Sober Jukebox as I had a bit of a hiccup ……..

keep-calm-and-spit-it-out-6This is what I put in the email to Prim:

So last night I drank booze – accidentally mind you …… Freaked myself right out!!  Was at jewellery and crystal party at my sisters.  She had me acting as waitress so was busy pouring and handing everyone else pink fizz (which was completely unbothered by btw).  I had an elderflower fizz but somehow glasses got mixed up and I ended up taking a swig of the booze fizz.  Knew the minute I swallowed but was too late by then.  Tasted vile but for a split second my brain said ‘oh well may as well finish it …….’.  Didn’t obvs, drank elderflower and munched on crisps to try and get rid of taste in mouth.  Then swapped to herbal tea.  Was really acidic in my mouth and then in my guts and could feel it go to my head.  Jeepers – wasn’t expecting that!!
Her reply:

Wolfie’s last-ditch attempt do you think?!

Do you remember something similar happening to Paul at message in a bottle (and you can read his blog post about it here) And he is FINE now and podcasting away (which you can visit  here) 😉

V v unsettling I am sure but well done for not listening to that fucked up voice in yr head. Carry on trucking sober super hero ! xxx

Ps no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition 😉

To which I said:

Who knows and honestly don’t know how it happened as was very conscious of hanging on to my glass!!  I do remember Paul’s experience and reading it at the time.

Club Soda Social tomorrow night and team building at Focus on Friday so sober toolkit on full alert 😉

To which she added:

Circle the wagons missy! Love to you and always here xxx

So a bit of The Maccabee’s to round off my (wished I’d) spit it out moment 😉

And back to our usual broadcasting service  …… 🙂

PS Perhaps you’d like to help with this anonymous survey too?  I have.

Addiction Personified – survey

I am currently researching for a new theatre project about addiction. I am interested in exploring the relationship between a person and their addiction. To elaborate – I want to explore the relationship between someone who is experiencing or has experienced addiction, and the substance they use or have used – as if that substance was a character or person in their life. This is in order to gain a deeper understanding of life lived with an addiction | Anna Jordan, UK