Category Archives: Social

Ho Ho Ho Tis the season to be sober ;)

12-days-of-christmas-drinking-wine-memeSo it’s almost that time of year again, the season where your social media feed will be more full than usual with memes celebrating everything that is great about this booze sodden month (such as this one to the left) peaking with Christmas and New Year.

I’ve been in touch with Arthur Cauty and he has pulled a rabbit out of the ‘A Royal Hangover‘ hat again for us!! If you haven’t yet watched his superb British documentary film go to the image of Queenie on a postage stamp with a bottle in her hand to the right of this blog post and click and it’ll take you to iTunes where you can rent or buy the film.  It really is fabulous (you can read my review here) and will help you gird your loins for the drinking mayhem that is about to descend upon  us ….

Following the success and popularity of last year’s sober advent calendar (which is archived under sober heroes & heroines in the ‘life without booze’ tab at the top of the blog or you can find them here) we have a NEW 2016 sober advent calendar to support you on a daily basis during these sometimes trying times.  Starting tomorrow and rolling all the way to the big day itself 😉

Today and for the next month we raise an AF glass & remind ourselves of our choice of why we don’t drink anymore in the company of the good and the great of the screen, music and written word.

Tomorrow Arthur’s quote and image delights will begin and we hope you like and it keeps you on the straight and narrow fellow sober warriors during this trickiest of times.  I’ll be here so reach out if you need support.

Watch what they do, not what they say

minimum-unit-pricingSo only a week ago I was so happy to watch and celebrate the success of the Scottish courts regarding minimum unit pricing with the caveat that the date by which an appeal could be launched had not yet passed so that I was holding my breath.  I was hopeful yet cynical that this was a success that would be honoured and hold – but no.  Today I read with dismay that sure enough the Scottish Whisky Association will be appealing the decision AGAIN 🙁

Over to Alcohol Policy UK’s coverage:

Further minimum pricing delay as SWA appeal again

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) have confirmed they will appeal the recent decision by the Scottish Courts that minimum unit pricing (MUP) was legal and proportionate. The appeal was announced on the final day of the deadline, ignoring calls from health groups and the Scottish Government for the industry to accept the decision.

The latest announcement brings renewed uncertainty over when MUP will be implemented, but arguably less so as to whether it eventually will be. A common interpretation amongst MUP supporters is all the opposing arguments have been addressed and as such the further appeal simply amounts to ‘delaying tactics’. The Scottish Government first passed legislation to implement MUP in 2012 but have been forced through various legal hurdles primarily as a result of opposition claims that it contravened EU law. However the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled it was for the Scottish Inner House of the Court of Session to decide on MUP who decided it was proportionate and justifiable on health grounds.

The decision on the grant of permission to appeal will be judged by the Inner House of the Court of Session who will decide if they are satisfied that the appeal ‘raises an arguable point of law of general public importance’. If they consider it does, the appeal will go to the UK Supreme Court for consideration. Perhaps more likely, the Inner House may deny permission and the SWA can then apply for permission directly to the Supreme Court who will also consider if the appeal stated raises an issue of ‘general public importance’. If they decide not, the case will be concluded and Scotland will have no legal bar to implementation.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive, said the decision came “after wide consultation with our member companies” but were appealing given their “strong view that minimum pricing is incompatible with EU law and likely to be ineffective”.

Alison Douglas of Alcohol Focus Scotland said the SWA was “ignoring both the will of the Scottish Parliament and the court’s decision”. She also said “SWA members like Diageo and Pernod Ricard continue to put their shareholders’ profits above the public interest” and were “borrowing from the tactics of the tobacco companies in delaying this live-saving measure”.

Eric Carlin, Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) said the SWA’s decision “beggars belief” adding:

“They know that they will not win this case in London. Everyone knows that. Meanwhile 22 people die every week. One can only assume that their accountants have calculated that delaying the implementation of MUP will prolong, albeit for a short period, their profit-making from cheap booze, which damages the poor most of all.”

The Daily Record also strongly criticised the decision, stating the SWA ‘are the puppets of the powerful international drinks industry and their concerns about the health of the country are unconvincing’ and that MUP ‘would not affect the image of the prestigious malt brands that the SWA purport to defend. But it would hit sales of the low-cost white spirits that the same companies produce and which fuel the chaotically bad health outcomes for Scotland.’

See also:

  • Scotch whisky body accused of arrogance over minimum pricing – The Guardian
  • SWA poised for one last round in MUP legal battle – Scottish Licensed Trade News
  • Whisky group takes fight over minimum alcohol pricing to Supreme Court – The Telegraph
  • Bid to appeal against minimum alcohol pricing to Supreme Court – The BBC
  • Scottish whisky industry to appeal minimum alcohol pricing in UK Supreme Court – Drink Business Review

Beggars belief indeed but sadly actions speak louder than words and yes the drinks industry shareholder profits appear to be more important than the health of the Scottish public …….

Edited to add: (source)

At least half of the alcohol sold in Scotland is below the sought 50 pence MUP, a survey suggests. More than two-thirds (69%) of the spirits currently sold fall below the 50p per unit threshold, according to analysts Nielsen – BBC news

The case for minimum alcohol pricing in Wales was published in a Wales Online essay by Professor Jonathan Shepherd. It claims a 50p per unit minimum price would save nearly £900m over 20 years by cutting crime and illness, with 50 fewer deaths a year. It highlights a three litre bottle of white cider, about same amount of alcohol as 22 shots  of vodka, are available in supermarkets for just £3.49.

 

Making a difference to the child of an alcoholic

nacoa-webWhile the battle about Minimum Unit Pricing rages on this for me is the most important progress being made.  As Liam Byrne promised the Government now wants to “put every child of an alcoholic drinker in contact with help that would make a difference.”

As the Institute of Alcohol Studies reported in September: the National Association for Children Of Alcoholics (NACOA) held their first All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Children of Alcoholics.

Who are NACOA?

Nacoa (The National Association for Children of Alcoholics) is a charity founded in 1990 to address the needs of children growing up in families where one or both parents suffer from alcoholism or a similar addictive problem. We provide a a free and confidential telephone and email helpline that is open to people of all ages, from all walks of life, to offer support and advice to anybody affected. Professionals or concerned others can contact us for information, advice and support. Soon, we will also host an online message board service, where users may record their thoughts and share experiences online. Nacoa aims to promote research into the problems children of alcohol dependent parents face and the prevention of alcoholism developing in this vulnerable group. It is exciting therefore to be connected with the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) as part of the government’s new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children of Alcoholics, which wants to put every child of an alcoholic drinker in contact with help that would make a difference.

The problem?

As the IAS report Alcohol’s harm to others shows, prevalence of alcohol harm on others in the UK is high, and younger people are more likely to report having experienced a number of harms than older age groups. Research suggests that approximately 1 in 5 children in the UK are living in a household where one or both parents drink hazardously (Manning et al., 2009). Nacoa’s survey of over 4,000 respondents also found that those identifying as children of alcoholics, when compared to a control group, were six times more likely to witness domestic violence, five times more likely to develop an eating problem, three times more likely to consider suicide, and four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol themselves.

How do we help?

Since 1990, staff and volunteers have seen profound changes to the way that children of parents with alcohol problems are discussed in the public domain. As well as providing a national service, Nacoa aims to break down social taboos and afford young people the agency to address their problems rather than hiding away. While alcohol problems are often associated with deprivation, Nacoa also hears from young people suffering in families who, to the outside world, seem functional and successful. These individuals can feel stranded between maintaining the family secret and seeking help for themselves. In these cases, more often than not, young people fall between services and feel totally isolated. Nacoa’s helpline offers the opportunity to discuss problems confidentially with trained helpline counsellors and make plans for a better future. Our nationwide service delivers help to those suffering in silence to all corners of the UK. Through our campaigns with prominent patrons – such as Calum Best, Elle Macpherson and Liam Byrne MP – we aim to share stories, break down stigma, and let people know they are not alone.

NACOA and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics

From September 2016, Nacoa is hoping to use its breadth of experience to influence major policy change in the UK through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics. Since the APPG’s inception, Nacoa has worked hard to encourage people in the public eye to take part as well as facilitating case studies for press and media to change how parental alcoholism is addressed at a national level.

The Group’s first meeting took place on the 15th September at the House of Commons, and the committee heard evidence from IAS, Nacoa patrons – Calum Best, Lauren Booth and Nacoa supporter Kim Woodburn – as well as other charities and research specialists. Nacoa’s Chief Executive and co-founder, Hilary Henriques MBE, presented to the committee and argued that government could and should do more to provide vital lifelines direct to children who may feel scared to speak out and compelled to ‘keep the family secret’. While locally provisioned adult treatment services and support are in need of reform and further assistance, services also need to be provided directly to young people in their own right. On the ITV Good Morning sofa, Liam Byrne said that he hopes this parliamentary attention ‘sends a message out to the 1 in 5 children who are children of alcoholics that says this is not your fault, you are not alone, and there is help available to you, like the brilliant Nacoa helpline.’

Call for evidence

To provide evidence to the APPG from your personal or professional experience, visit: liambyrne.co.uk/coa/. Together, we will be able to reach out to the 2.6 million children living in the UK with a parent who drinks too much and let them know that they are not alone and Nacoa is here to help. Our helpline number is 0800 358 3456 and email is helpline@nacoa.org.uk. You can find further information and research on our website nacoa.org.uk. For regular updates please follow @NacoaUK and like us on Facebook.

This was picked up by The Mirror newspaper:

The Mirror reported shock as 2.6m British children with alcoholic parents are left with ‘no hope and no help from authorities’, as MP Liam Byrne seeks to raise the profile of the harm to children from parental alcohol abuse | Alcohol Policy, UK

This truly swells my heart that the Govt is now seeking to make a difference for this silent and truly vulnerable group.  Now we need to extend that support to include offering restorative therapeutic relationships for these young people 😉

Edited to add: a new resource to add to my list is the blog coa is a thing and this is just one of their many brilliant blog posts:

7 myths about alcoholism, through a child of an alcoholic’s eyes. 

Research highlights issue of alcohol in the criminal justice system

alcohol and criminal justice systemThis image comes from this report published in December 2013 which is not the focus of this blog post but certainly compliments it!  This post is about alcohol and the criminal justice system as detailed in a new research study from Teeside University.

Three quarters of people in the criminal justice system in the UK have a problem with alcohol, new research at Teesside University has found.

The study also found that those in the criminal justice system are almost 10 times more likely to be dependent on alcohol compared with the general population.

The research was led by Professor Newbury-Birch, Professor of Alcohol and Public Health Research in Teesside University’s Health and Social Care Institute.

Professor Newbury-Birch and her team carried out a systematic review of the literature to determine prevalence levels of alcohol in the various stages of the criminal justice system in the UK.

Figures showed that around three quarters of people in contact with the criminal justice system in the UK have a problem with alcohol – compared to around a quarter in the general population. This applies to those who have been arrested in police custody, those in the probation setting and those in the prison system.

And, over a third of people in the criminal justice system are dependent on alcohol compared to around 4% in the general population.

Those classified as having a problem with alcohol are people whose pattern of drinking increases the risk of either physical or psychological problems.

Dependency implies the person has a cluster of physiological, behavioural and cognitive patterns which conform to the ‘alcohol dependence syndrome’.

Professor Newbury-Birch, who has recently been nominated for the renowned Stockholm Criminology Prize for her work around alcohol, public health and knowledge exchange in the criminal justice system, said: ‘This study was the first of its kind to synthesise what we know about risky drinking in the criminal justice system in the UK. It shows that alcohol dependency and risky drinking are prevalent throughout all stages of the criminal justice system.’

The research found that up to 88% of adults in the police custody setting, 69% in the probation setting and 86% in the prison system are risky drinkers. Furthermore, using adults risky drinking limits, 64% of young people aged between 11 and 17 in the criminal justice system were risky drinkers. The study also found that up to 38% of people in the police custody setting, 33% in the probation setting and 43% in the prison system scored positive for dependency.

Professor Newbury-Birch added: ‘This work is so important to the field, it gives us the information we need to develop appropriate interventions in the criminal justice setting for those with alcohol problems.’

Professor Newbury-Birch and her team of researchers are also involved in a collaborative research project with Dr Aisha Holloway from the University of Edinburgh, examining a new approach to help male remand prisoners tackle drinking problems.

They will conduct in-depth interviews and surveys with male remand prisoners in a Scottish and English Prison to create an intervention to help reduce alcohol related crime.

Professor Newbury-Birch said: ‘In order to get appropriate interventions in place around alcohol we need to be working with practitioners and individuals involved in the criminal justice system – I am lucky to be involved with a group of dedicated researchers, practitioners and policy makers to take this work forward.’

Someone then asked these question of our politicians:

Alcoholic Drinks: Misuse

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what recent assessment he has made of the level of alcohol dependency in the criminal justice system | They work for you, UK

Alcoholic Drinks: Misuse

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to develop (a) interventions for people with alcohol problems before they commit criminal offences and (b) support for people with alcohol problems within the criminal justice system; and if he will make an assessment of the implications for his policies of the findings of research by Professor Newbury-Birch of Teesside University, published in June 2016, on alcohol and the criminal justice system | They work for you, UK

MrHOF is a teacher in a prison and can personally attest regarding the lengths that his client group will go to create and distill illegal hooch – collecting up apple cores and other discarded fruit from bins to ferment a vile and dangerous brew.

Edited to add: And this arrived in my inbox today too!

Alcohol Concern call for attention on alcohol and youth offending

 

Student debt worries causing depression and alcohol dependency

common-peopleAs alcohol awareness week continues the focus here turns to what appears to be an increasingly common experience for students.   As the cost of higher education continues to rise increasing student debt load new research has found this is causing increasing levels of anxiety and depression which is being self-medicated with alcohol leading to further spiraling problems.

Over to the August coverage in The Independent:

Students who experience financial difficulties and worry about debt have a higher chance of suffering from depression and alcohol dependency, new research has found.

Conducted by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust, the study showed symptoms of anxiety and alcoholism worsened over time for those who struggled to pay the bills, while those who were more stressed about graduate debt had higher levels of stress and depression. 

The study asked more than 400 undergraduate freshers from across the UK to assess a range of financial factors, including family affluence, recent financial difficulties, and attitudes towards their finances at four time points across their first year, allowing researchers to examine which came first: financial difficulties or poor mental health.

The study also found students who had considered not going to university or had considered abandoning their studies for financial reasons had a greater deterioration in mental health over time.

Leader of the study and visiting academic at Southampton University, Dr Thomas Richardson, described how the findings suggest “a vicious cycle” whereby anxiety and problem drinking “exacerbate financial difficulties,” which then go on to increase anxiety and alcohol intake. He said: “Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective.”

One occupational therapy student told researchers how he had been forced to quit university because of depression and not being able to support himself financially. He said: “When I was not very well, I was not able to work part-time, so was unable to supplement my income during university. Having financial difficulties increased my day-to-day stress levels and something usually had to give – it was usually my academic studies. It was a vicious cycle.”

Students and the wider higher education community have already been speaking out and campaigning against the rising cost of university as tuition fees rise, maintenance grants are axed, and the Tories make a retrospective hike in student loan repayments.

According to the Sutton Trust, English graduates are leaving university with substantially higher levels of debt than those from any other English-speaking nation. 

Dr Richardson, who has been conducting staff training at English universities on debt and mental health, acknowledged how starting university can be “a stressful and daunting time” for young people where finances can cause worry. He said: “We might not be able to change how much debt students are in, but we can work with them to help them  manage their finances and worries about money in order to mitigate the impact of these worries on mental health.”

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware, the alcohol education charity, acknowledged how alcohol can have a temporary, positive impact on mood, but warned: “Regular, excessive drinking can have long-term implications for students’ mental health.”

She continued: “Alcohol is a depressant and can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals that affect mood. This can lead to increased anxiety and stress, and even depression.”

The rise in mental health issues among students is a growing problem in the UK and has been widely-reported in recent months. According to a report put together for the vice-chancellor of York University in May, comparing 2014 to 2015, 80 per cent of UK universities highlighted a noticeable increase in complex mental health crises among their student population.

According to ambulance call-out figures – from 1 January to 8 February 2016 alone – from the 24 emergency call-outs the university received, half were for self-harm or suicide attempts. Last year, 43 out of 134 emergency call-outs were for self-harm or suicide attempts.

A staggering 63 per cent of students also told specialist student loan lender, Future Finance, they are worrying about their finances all the time or very often, something which is set to increase with the rise of tuition fees.

Shortly after this survey, figures from the ONS revealed the number of student suicides across England and Wales to have soared to their highest level since 2007; there were 130 suicides among both nations’ full-time students aged 18 and over in 2014, with the number considerably higher among men (97). In In 2007, there were 75 suicides.

Ulster University’s Professor Siobhan O’Neill described to a wellbeing conference in June that student life today is “fraught with loneliness and anxiety,” as she addressed the issues of self-harm, alcohol, and suicide, presenting, for the first time, findings from a study of 355 suicides in young people aged under 25 years in Northern Ireland.

She told the conference young people who die by suicide are “somewhat different” from the older age groups, and explained: “Over half will have had a prior attempt; around 64 per cent of the males will have used alcohol at the time of death, and a third of females who die by suicide in this group are students.”

Student finance site Save the Student also recently revealed how students are being “short-changed” by the UK finance system as they scramble to find an extra £3,000 a year amid soaring living costs, something which is driving desperate students to gamble and sell used underwear and laughing gas in order to make ends meet.

If you’re a student and feel you need help or support while at university, contact your university’s student services or students’ union advice service. You can also find out more about mental health support at Student Minds and Drinkaware

 

Judge rejects appeal against plans to introduce alcohol minimum unit pricing

one-thousandSo this post is a double celebration.  One major victory and one minor achievement 🙂  The major victory is by the Scottish law courts and their battle with the Scottish Whisky Association regarding the implementation of minimum unit pricing.  Those of you who have read this blog for a while will know that I have been banging the minimum unit pricing drum at every given opportunity and you can read all my posts here on the subject.  I am so pleased and proud of the Scottish for not giving up on this and putting the public health of their nation above the profits of the drinks industry which is as present in Scotland as anywhere else.  That said the industry have 28 days to appeal from the ruling on the 21st October which expires in two days time.  This may not be over just yet!

Over to the Scottish Herald who shared the good news:

Judges at Scotland’s highest civil court have rejected an appeal against plans to bring in minimum pricing for alcohol.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh refused the case, which had been brought by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and others, saying that “the grounds submitted in the appeal were not well founded”.

They made their final ruling after considering whether the infringement of European trade laws that minimum pricing would bring are justified by the benefits to public health – and if this could be achieved by any other means.

MSPs passed legislation at Holyrood in 2012 to bring in minimum pricing, which would initially be set at 50p per unit.

But implementation of the policy stalled after the SWA and other European wine and spirits producers took legal action, arguing minimum pricing would breach European law.

The ruling has been welcomed by groups including Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP).

Dr Peter Rice, SHAAP Chair, said: “As the heaviest drinkers in Scotland have switched from drinking in pubs to drinking at home, and from whisky and beer to vodka and strong cider, doctors and health professionals have seen the impact on our patients.

“We are satisfied that the Scottish courts have concluded that MUP is legal, as we have argued for many years, and we now call for it to be implemented without delay.

“During the years when the SWA and its backers have prevented implementation, front line staff have seen hundreds of deaths and thousands of lives damaged. Much of this harm would have been avoided if MUP had been in place.

“We now call for the SWA to step aside and allow this life saving measure to go ahead.”

Alison Douglas Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “This is a great day for Scotland’s health! Minimum pricing is widely supported by doctors, social workers, children’s charities and many more who want to get rid of the cheap vodkas and super-strength ciders that cause so much damage.

“Scotland has been waiting more than four years to implement this policy which will prevent thousands of hospital admissions and crimes, and save hundreds of lives. We hope that minimum pricing will now be put in place as quickly as possible so we can start seeing the benefits.”

The judges said the previous Court of Session ruling “correctly concluded that whatever arguments may be deployed against it, there was evidence which demonstrated that the alternative of increased tax, with or without a prohibition on below cost sales, would be less effective than minimum pricing”.

SWA chief executive David Frost said the organisation will now consult with its members before deciding on any further action, which could see the case taken to the UK Supreme Court.

Holyrood’s Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell hailed the “landmark” verdict from the Court of Session.

She said: “I am delighted that the highest court in Scotland has reinforced the initial judgment in our favour from 2013. This follows the opinion of the European Court of Justice, which ruled that it was for our domestic courts to make a final judgment on the scheme.

“The Scotch Whisky Association represents some of Scotland’s finest whisky brands, and while they were entitled to raise this action, they and the wider drinks industry must now respect the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament and the ruling of the Court of Session and enable this life-saving measure to be introduced.

“This policy was passed by the Scottish Parliament unopposed more than four years ago.

“In that time, the democratic will of our national Parliament has been thwarted by this ongoing legal challenge, while many people in Scotland have continued to die from the effects of alcohol misuse.

“Today’s ruling is a landmark one, and should mark the end of the legal process, allowing this important policy to finally be brought forward.”

The Scottish Government has consistently argued minimum pricing is the “most effective mechanism” for tackling alcohol misuse and reducing the harm it can cause.

But the SWA claimed it would be ineffective in its aims, penalise responsible drinkers and was beyond the powers of Holyrood.

Judge Lord Doherty initially rejected the challenge at the Court of Session in 2013 but it was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg the following year.

Last December, an ECJ ruling said the plan would breach European Union law if alternative tax measures could be introduced.

The court concluded a tax rise on alcoholic drinks ”is liable to be less restrictive of trade” than minimum pricing.

The ECJ said it would be for the Court of Session to make a final decision after determining whether any alternative measure could equal the stated public health benefit while being less restrictive of trade.

Mr Frost said: “We regret the Court of Session’s ruling in favour of the Scottish Government on minimum unit pricing (MUP).

“We continue to believe that MUP is a restriction on trade and that there are more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse.

“However, we of course remain committed to working with all partners to address this problem so that the long-term trend of declining alcohol-related harm in Scotland continues.

“We will study the details of the judgement and consult our members before deciding on next steps, including any possible appeal to the UK Supreme Court.”

The opinion, delivered by Lord President Lord Carloway, said the “targeted objective” of the MUP policy is “the consumption of cheap alcohol by those whose health is most likely to be adversely affected by it”.

It said: “In practical terms, the measure achieves the targeted objective by setting a floor price below which alcohol cannot be sold. Alcohol will not be sold for less than 50p per unit. Those who currently consume cheap alcohol at a harmful and hazardous level will not be able to switch to another product to maintain their consumption levels.

“The true area for debate is whether modification of taxation, within the permissible bounds of EU law, can achieve similar results in targeting cheap alcohol as is undoubtedly achievable with minimum pricing.

“Here, of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that the Scottish Government has no power to raise taxation on alcohol. That is a matter reserved to the United Kingdom Government.

“Conversely, the UK Government has little responsibility for the health of the inhabitants of Scotland; that being a devolved matter.”

It also said a “fundamental problem with an increase in tax is simply that it does not produce a minimum price”, adding that supermarkets have in the past “absorbed any tax increases by off-setting them against the price of other products unrelated to alcohol”.

Increasing tax could also have “a disproportionate, undesirable and unnecessary effect on moderate drinkers, who do not generally represent a significant problem in societal terms”, according to the ruling.

It added: “It is reasonable to conclude that alternative measures, including increases in taxation, are not capable of protecting life and health as effectively as minimum pricing, while being less restrictive of trade.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who took minimum pricing legislation through Holyrood when she served as health secretary, said she is “delighted” the policy has been upheld by the Court of Session.

She tweeted: “Minimum pricing is a vital public health measure with strong support from those who work in frontline of alcohol misuse. It will save lives.”

The ruling was also welcomed by academics at Sheffield University who carried out research for the Scottish Government on the likely impact of minimum pricing.

Professor Petra Meier, director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, said: “Our analyses of minimum unit pricing have consistently shown that the policy is an effective and well-targeted approach to reducing the harm caused by alcohol.

“Increasing alcohol taxation is also an effective approach but large tax increases would be required to achieve the same effects as a 50p minimum unit price. This is because minimum unit pricing targets the high-strength and low-cost alcohol which is disproportionately purchased by heavier drinkers.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said Tories had backed the policy “on the condition it would be legally sound and could be dropped if found not to be working”.

He added: “It’s taken the SNP a considerable length of time to get to this stage. But now it’s happened, we need to monitor the results closely to see what impact it has on Scotland’s damaging and complex relationship with alcohol.”

Scottish Green Party health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone said: “The big drinks firms stalling this sensible piece of public health legislation are copying the historic behaviour of the tobacco industry.

“Let’s hope the Scotch Whisky Association gets the message and allows the Scottish Government to get on and implement this urgent public health priority.”

Hear hear!!

Research conducted by experts from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG)1 at the University of Sheffield have been influential in providing evidence to inform policy which now paves the way for the Scottish government to implement the new plan, passed by MSPs in 2012 (source)

And further coverage from Alcohol Policy UK:

Scottish Courts approve minimum pricing – but further delay still possible

The second more minor achievement is that yesterday was my 1000th blog post.  I would not still be here without you so I now owe you 1001th thanks! 😉

 

Soberistas launch new website

soberistas-new-siteSo today is the day that Lucy Rocca of Soberistas launch their new website!  This is a screen grab of the new live site 🙂

This is why:

Hopefully you will be aware that we are currently in the process of having a new website built which will be a much improved Soberistas and result in a better user experience for all our members.

We are aware that the current site is not perfect and there have been issues that will be eliminated in the new Soberistas.

One of the main issues has been the complicated login process. On the new site there will be one simple login process and the site will know if you are a paying member with out having to sign into Tinypass and this can be done on any device.

I’ve always been a fan of the community that Lucy has built because it was one of the first that I discovered.  In fact I talked about Soberistas in my very first blog post which you can read here 🙂  I’ve talked about Soberistas more than once too!  If you want to read all the blog posts where they’ve had a mention you can go here to read them all!

I’m all for supporting other UK initiatives that help us ex-drinkers, alcohol free warriors or recovery folk – whatever you liked to be known as and having met Lucy know that she is doing an amazing job over there in supporting thousands in their sober journey.

Do go check out the new platform and raise a cuppa in thanks.  I will be 🙂

Well done and good luck Lucy with the continued growth of Soberistas <3

PS Apologies for posting this up this morning and then taking it down until this evening.  The new site launched this afternoon so I was a bit premature in my announcement earlier!

Sober for October Starts Here :)

Go sober for OctoberThat time of year starts here again when we ask you to think of your liver and go Sober for October 🙂  I will be 😉

I read this in The Independent and rather liked so I thought I’d share here:

What one man learned from a decade of drink-free dating

As the nights draw in and garden parties and festivals become a distant memory, you may be considering cutting down on your drinking. But it can be easier said than done – especially for those on the dating scene.  

But meeting someone you fancy is entirely possible, and in many ways better, if you skip the booze, says Eden Blackman, a dating expert and founder of ‘Would Like to Meet’, who is backing cancer charity Macmillan’s Go Sober for October campaign.

And he would know. After he realised it was taking longer and longer to recover after a night out, he challenged himself and succeeded in not drinking for 10 years. That’s a decade of sober dating. 

Here’s what Blackman learned by dating without drink. 

You’ll actually remember what your date said 

It sounds obvious, but being able to recall what your date has said scores major points. “When I stopped drinking I was remembering more, I wasn’t asking embarrassing questions about where they live and if they have brothers and sisters,” says Blackman. And that’s crucial to winning a second or third date. 

Embarrassing texts become less likely

“We’ve all sent that drunken text,” says Blackman. “If it isn’t something you’d say in person then don’t say it via text,” he warns. If you think you missed the chance to say something when you met, just save it for next time.

Your date will feel appreciated 

Drinking can make you distracted says Blackman. “When I stopped drinking I was a lot more on point, a lot more conscious and a lot more attentive to what my date was saying. If you’re constantly looking behind your date, they’ll be wondering if you are more interested in them or Sky Sports.” Blackman’s dates noticed that he was more interested and attentive towards them. 

Drinking doesn’t make you interesting 

“The first couple of dates were a bit daunting,” admits Blackman, but he soon realised alcohol was just a social crutch. “You don’t need to have a drink. You realise you’re a good person and you can find confidence without it. It’s rewarding and you find out exactly what kind of person you are.”

You find out what your date is really like

If your date is put off by the fact you’re not drinking then alarm bells should ring. “Never apologise or say ‘sorry I’m not drinking’ because it suggests you feel bad.” Stopping drinking – whether or not it’s to raise money – is something to be proud of. The sort of person you will want to date will be interested in finding out more, and your sober-stint will be a conversation starter.

Find out more about Macmillan Cancer Support’s Go Sober for October campaign.

Am I getting cold feet?

cold-feetSo I’m sneaking in an extra post on the eve of my 3rd year soberversary.  This time 3 years ago I was having my last drinking session.  I’ve been reminded and reminiscent of the not so recent past what with the return of an old TV series that I watched back in my drinking days glass in hand – Cold Feet.  What’s interesting to me about this programme is that I have grown up with this show – it was like the UK equivalent to Friends and the characters were the same age in the show as I was in real life so it felt very current to me.  The same applies now as they are approaching 50 as am I.

My two favourite characters were Karen and Pete who interestingly both have troubled relationships with alcohol.  John Thomson who plays Pete has been in recovery for many years and was actively in his addiction when the last series was filmed 13 years ago and you can see him here talking about it recently:

Karen’s character (played by Hermione Norris) develops alcoholism during Series 4 and there are some key scene’s where she discusses her drinking with fellow colleague, who becomes lover, Mark:

I so identified with Karen’s character and on rewatching these scenes I thought these discussions felt very real and honest.  The irony is that when these were airing in 2002-2003 I had no idea that I would become far more like Karen than I could ever imagine at the time!!  I’ve been watching her closely in the new series and she’s still abstinent which means her character has now been in recovery for 13-14 years, much like her then dishy co-star Mark played by Sean Pertwee 😉

There’s something really heartening about this for me.  It feels really great that I am watching the show and know that Karen and I do now share that similarity, that we both are living happily in recovery and that it isn’t just in the show because the actors involved have also shared their struggles with booze and are long term role models of recovery too 🙂

No cold feet here about the decision I made 3 years ago, not one bit!

 

Youthful Abandon

youthful abandonAnother excellent report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies this time looking at why young people are drinking less with the apt title of ‘Youthful abandon’.

Underage drinking has fallen in recent years.  We do not fully understand why.  Yet if we are to maintain this
welcome progress and to take effective action to
support further reductions, it would be useful to
understand its underlying causes.  This report sifts the evidence on the topic to summarise what we do know,
and to scope out promising areas for future research.
It is split into three sections.  The first section draws on national statistics to provide an overview of the key numbers behind the trend.
The second section surveys the academic literature and popular press and collates the full range of explanations that have been offered as to why young people are drinking less.  Rather than just presenting these theories uncritically, we make a preliminary assessment of their plausibility based on the available information.  These are relatively quick judgements, based on limited evidence.
Therefore, even where we are sceptical of  a particular theory, this should not be read as a complete rejection, but merely a remark on the lack of existing support (as we see it) for the hypothesis.
The third section then highlights a number of unresolved questions that we think would be fruitful for further research in order to be more confident in our assessment of the trend.

Their theories centre around these key themes:

  1. Better Legal Enforcement
  2. Rise of New Technology
  3. Changing Social Norms
  4. Happier and more conscientious children
  5. Better parenting
  6. Demographic Shifts
  7. Lower affordability and economic confidence

To read the full report go here (pdf format)

The report was picked up the national press and covered in this article:

Better parenting has led to decline in underage drinking, report finds

Charity says improved family relationships may be one of main reasons fewer young people are trying alcohol | Guardian, UK

Plus this came out the same day:

Everyone’s *not* doing it message offers hope for prevention

Normative education (contrasting how common people think substance use is among their peers with the reality) retains some of its shine, but what seemed the great hope for school- and college-based prevention has become contested territory; part of the problem is that youngsters who drink heavily or use drugs often *do* have friends who do the same | Drug and Alcohol Findings, UK