Monthly Archives: September 2014

Go Sober for October – go on, you know you want to ;)

Go sober for October

Sharing this piece written by James Morris from Alcohol Policy UK:

Following the growing popularity of ‘Dry January’, MacMillan cancer support are promoting ‘Go Sober for October’. Currently around 36,000 people have signed up to take part, pledging over £160,000 so far.

Earlier this year we reported on the growing popularity of Dry January, Alcohol Concern’s campaign which attracted over 17,000 sign ups – up 400% on its 2013 launch year. In addition, Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon challenge reported over 54,000 ‘dry athletes’, reportedly raising a massive £5.7 million.

There are however question marks over the true health value of such ‘month off’ approaches, mainly over whether any lasting impact on drinking behaviour is likely. Andrew Langford of the British Liver Trust has warned against the appeal of a “quick fix in January” rather than messages such as two or three alcohol free days in every week of the year; a month off may do little to reduce longer term risks of regularly drinking above the guidelines.

However a New Scientist study reported promising short term health benefits, albeit a very small sample of ‘normal drinkers’ who took time off drinking. Participants indicated reduced liver fat, cholesterol and blood sugar, and also lost weight, but also reported less socialising. Interestingly though the most common reason for attempting a ‘Dry January’ was saving money, according to a poll

Interestingly, as part of the ‘Go Sober for October’, a ‘golden ticket’ opportunity appears to offer a ‘get out clause’ – for a donation ‘the Sober-Hero will be emailed their Golden Ticket stating the date they are entitled to drink.’ MacMillan say ‘The Golden Ticket is there for ’emergencies’, but we’d prefer you to raise money by staying true to the challenge.’ Some may regard this as cheating, others as pragmatic given many people admit to failing or not expecting to last Dry January attempts.

Public Health England are looking into the potential benefits of such ‘month off’ approaches, as well as the review into recommended consumption guidelines being due to report this year.

One final question one might feel compelled to wonder is whether any other months might soon have their own campaign? ‘Moderation March’ anyone? ‘Drinks Diary December’ perhaps?

If you’re reading this and drinking, here’s a great excuse to give a spell at not drinking a go! 🙂

Short and Long Term Damage of Alcohol Abuse

I recently wrote a guest post for Florida Beach Rehab on the Short and Long Term Damage of Alcohol Abuse which was posted up today and you can find here:

It’s a more detailed (hopefully non-medical jargon) explanation of what happens to the body and mind if you misuse alcohol either for a short period of time, say a binge, or over a longer period of time where the damage is more cumulative.

Thanks to them for giving me the opportunity to speak in more detail about this and share my experience with them and you further 🙂

When Friends Stop Drinking

I get sent some excellent things and this is no exception.  I was contacted on email by Steve and this is what he said:

Just wanted to send you over a sketch I created, which highlights how people react when you give up drinking. It’s based on the negative responses I received from friends when I recently gave up alcohol.

Having a break from alcohol? With friends like these, who needs it…



This made me smile and laugh 🙂

Hope you like it too!

Year two sober and one week on

So how was that day for me?  Amazing! Bit up and down and must have been a big deal as I had some anxiety going on and slept really badly because of having a drinking dream!  Big milestones can destabilise is what I’ve learned this year so gird your loins as it could get bumpy around these times!

I had a lovely day with a session of CBT in the morning which is going really well and will write more about soon.  Then went to our monthly village tea (we are a very small village and the pub is long gone so this is how we get together as a community) for tea and lemon drizzle cake and home-made apple and blackberry crumble.  Yum!  Then a visit to some close family for more tea and then mexican food and chocolate cake back home.  I completely sugar binged (sound familiar?!)

My I’m done drinking app says I’ve not consumed 1460 drinks (although this is based on beer and I believe they’ve updated the app to include wine now so I need to re-download to be more accurate for me). I’ve saved 175,226 calories – which I would debate what with all the cake and chocolate I’ve scoffed in the last year!  That said I am 10lbs lighter than when I quit a year ago even with all the extra sweet stuff 🙂  And I’ve saved £2178 so x2 for me and MrHOF makes us £4356 better off – enough for a lovely family holiday if we so desire 😉

My health and fitness are just generally better all round and am achieving faster run times and I just feel better and I look well – really well.  I had not appreciated how crap I looked and felt most of the time a year ago.  And I’m suffering much less from all the lurgies that my job exposes me too and my kids bring home from school!

Relationships are much improved all round although some still struggle to understand the decision we have made but I’ll trade that for our much happier and calmer household on a daily basis.  Personally my job situation is shifting, my Masters starts in a couple of weeks and I’m pursuing other ideas and possibilities which I’ll talk about more in the coming months.

Oh and I bought myself a sober treat 🙂

Aurora Borealis Butterfly

And I have all of you to share this journey with thanks to getting sober! Happy Days 😀



Drinking and How It Changed My Life



Drinking and how it changed my life:  Ann Dowsett-Johnston at TEDxHomeBushRdWomen

This is just fabulous!!  Recorded in January of this year she talks about her book ‘The Intimate Relationship between Women and Alcohol

I agree with EVERY SINGLE THING SHE SAYS <sorry for shouting>

She absolutely nails it and introduces me to a word I’d not heard before ALCOGENIC

To quote Ann in a Guardian article which you can find here and is absolutely a must read:

We live in an alcogenic culture, awash with cheap liquor, where drunkenness is normalised. It should come as no surprise children are mimicking their parents.

We’re swimming in an ocean of cheap alcohol. Our children are in trouble. Women are too. We’re medicating what ails us with our culture’s cheapest drug. And as a culture, we’re in deep denial.

A Royal Hangover: further coverage

A Royal Hangover excessive drinking encouraged at all times

Shared from

Football? No…Then maybe cricket? Not at all. Then what is Brit’s favorite sport these days? No doubt the booze race… Great Britain, the homeland of William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and the Beatles is in trouble. About the scale of the drinking problem in UK and film making challenges of associating with intoxicated people, we talked to Arthur Cauty – director of  feature documentary A Royal Hangover.

FMB. You’ve made a documentary about drinking problem in UK. How is UK different from other countries in terms of over-drinking?

A.C. I think drinking can cause problems everywhere, let me make that clear – this is definitely not a problem specific to the UK. But I do think that alcohol is perhaps more embedded in British culture than in many other countries. For us Brits, it’s a crutch, an excuse, a social lubricant, a medicine, an enabler. It’s an integral part of our economy, and a huge part of our heritage.

FMB. Why was it important for you to make this documentary? Is this a personal film for you?

A.C. This film really was a personal journey for me, as someone who doesn’t drink, or even really understand the appeal of alcohol, to attempt to get to the bottom of it all. The question of why we all go out every night of the week and drink ourselves to oblivion is something that really fascinates and baffles me.

It’s also an attempt to shed some light on what is essentially a public health crisis which nobody seems to be taking seriously. The general attitude seems to be that, alcohol is legal, therefore it’s not even really a proper drug, and so we can drink as much of it as we like. It’s certainly not seen in the same light as heroin, or even drugs like cannabis, which are arguably less dangerous than alcohol. There’s a serious lack of support for people suffering from alcohol dependency, with more of a focus on illegal drugs. This really needs to change, and hopefully A Royal Hangover will take us one step closer to that goal. (Yes Yes Yes!  Arthur Cauty you so ABSOLUTELY get it and I COMPLETELY agree!! )

FMB. A Royal Hangover contains interviews with specialists from different fields, who have encountered the problem of alcohol abuse. What was their reaction to the film concept?

A.C. We managed to secure an impressive cast, from A-list celebrities such as Russell Brand to the controversial Professor David Nutt, who was infamously sacked from his position of Chief Drugs Advisor to the UK Government. We have historians, scientists, doctors and health specialists, charities, law enforcement and addicts.

We wanted to create a film which would stand apart from the sensationalist reporting around alcohol in the media, and the typical “Booze Britain” programmes you see on the TV which do little but glamourize this shameful part of our culture. Because of this fresh approach to the topic, and the fact that there?s really no other film out there tackling the issue in this way, everyone was really keen to get involved.

Keep Calm and Have Another Drink Promo

FMB. Does A Royal Hangover gives the solution to the drinking problem or is it more like an observation of the problem itself?

A.C. A Royal Hangover is more than an observation, it’s a complete dissection of a nation consumed by alcohol. We look at everything from science to politics, religion to education, history to advertising and marketing, and how they all influence our culture when it comes to drinking.

Alcohol is never going to go away, and the aim of the film was never to do that. But we do suggest ways we could improve things through things like advertising and marketing restrictions, government policies, and generally just greater awareness of alcohol and the problems it can cause people and society, with the aim of helping individuals transition towards a healthier attitude towards drinking.

FMB. What is Britain’s favorite drink these days?

A.C. I have absolutely no idea. There’s the old saying “beer and Britannia”. But from the people I have spoken to and filmed with, I would say that for the vast majority of British people, it is not the taste, or the actual drink itself, it’s the alcohol they are interested in. We drink to get drunk, so what you drink isn’t important, it’s the drug inside it we are after.

FMB. What was the biggest challenge from cinematographic point of view?

A.C. Capturing decent footage, filming on poorly lit streets outside nightclubs in the early hours of the morning, while trying to remain fairly inconspicuous is always going to be difficult. Especially when you’re focusing on the intoxicated and inebriated. You tend to get hugged and kissed a lot, by random people you’ve never met. They will run up to you and grab your camera or stroke your microphone, or scream in your face and be sick on your shoe. On occasion they will threaten you, or even physically attack you. So you’ve got that going on, whilst bouncers and club owners try to intimidate you, or scare you away from their premises, they assume you’re trying to single them out, and they don’t want to be associated with anything negative that could harm their trade, which is understandable, but their trade harms thousands of people every year, and that’s something that needs to be seen. You’ve got people fighting around you, and kebabs exploding on the floor in front if you like meaty grenades. You have to kind of expect these things though, with the nature of this film. Every night was a challenge. And we were lucky not to get seriously hurt on more than one occasion.

FMB. Where and when we will be able to see A Royal Hangover?

A.C. A Royal Hangover is set to premiere in Los Angeles at the Sunscreen Film Festival, 10th – 12th October 2014. Further screenings are to announced in the US, UK, Europe and elsewhere.

FMB. Thank you Arthur, good luck with Royal Hangover premiere and festival round up.

See a Royal Hangover trailer and get in touch on Twitter (@aroyalhangover) and Facebook ( for all the latest screening and broadcast. dates.

This documentary film can not come soon enough for me ………

Britons ‘spend an average of one year of their lives hungover’

Courtesy of the London Evening Standard

The average Briton spends almost a year of their lives hungover, a charity has said.  Macmillan Cancer Support has estimated that people spend 315 days of their lives battling with headaches and nausea caused by drinking.

The charity, which is running a Go Sober for October fundraising campaign, surveyed 2,000 British adults and found that one in 14 will have more than 3,000 hangovers in their lifetime. It calculated the figures by multiplying the average amount of time people spend hungover each month with their life expectancy.

The poll also revealed a north-south divide with the frequency of hangovers, with 22% of people from the north likely to have more than four hangovers each month compared to 15% of people from the south.

Women’s hangovers appear to last longer – with the average lasting nine hours – compared to a seven hour hangover suffered by men.

One in every 13 of those surveyed said they had missed a first date because they were too hungover and one in ten said they had missed a job interview.

“This research shows hangovers are a waste of time and are causing people to miss out on everything from romance to their dream job,” said Hannah Redmond, head of national events marketing for Macmillan Cancer Support.

“That’s why we’re asking people to sign up for Macmillan’s Go Sober fundraising event, abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of October and ask family and friends to sponsor them. The money raised will provide vital funds to support people affected by cancer so they don’t have to face it alone.”

So you could Go Sober in October and then keep going until the end of Dry January if you wanted! 😉

PS Thank you to the kind person on Belle’s conference call last week that mentioned my blog and a specific documentary.  There are a few UK documentaries that I have shared on this blog but these are the one’s that this person was referring to: Drinking Yourself to Death and Old Before My Time.  The other one I suggested is Rain in my Heart.  None of these are easy watching but if you want to see the truth of what alcohol does then these 3 should leave you under no illusion ……

Which country drinks the most alcohol?

I love this!  Ever wondered which country drinks the most alcohol?  Well this interactive online map shows which countries drink the most alcohol (and which don’t).  Thanks to this new map you can see exactly how much alcohol is drunk in each country of the world during a week, broken down into units of wine, beer, and spirits, just by clicking your mouse.

The map was created by Italian designer and developer Piero Ciarfaglia using data provided by the World Health Organisation and is called

It provides a fascinating insight into our different cultures (and also kind of makes us want to hang our boozy heads in shame).

In the UK we drink 56ml of wine, 1476ml of beer and 109ml every week per person over the age of 15. At the other end of the spectrum, people in Jordan drink just 2ml of wine, 44ml of beer and 19ml of spirits every week per person over the age of 15.

This news story comes from HuffPost UK and you can read it here.

Alcohol is by far the most dangerous ‘date rape drug’

This is taken from a really interesting blog article on The Guardian yesterday and you can read the full piece here.  The article was talking about some of the discussions surrounding products being developed to identify the presence of date rape drugs.  Because the liquid used to carry these drugs is invariably alcohol it then became a wider issue discussion:

Alcohol is such an integral part of our culture we frequently underestimate its potency. Among its toxic effects are memory impairment, which typically begins after just one or two drinks. Alcohol-induced blackouts are common among young, social drinkers. A study in 1999 found that 35% of trainees in a large paediatric residency programme in the US had experienced an alcohol-induced blackout. Another study in 1995 found a third of first–year medical students had experienced alcohol-induced amnesia. An investigation of 2,076 Finnish males found 35% had had at least one blackout in the previous 12 months.

Research suggests that alcohol-induced blackouts are even more common among university students. A 2002 study in the US surveyed 772 undergraduates asking them if they had ever awoken after a night of drinking unable to remember things that they did or places they had gone. Just over half of drinkers, 51%, reported blacking out and later learning that they had engaged in a range of activities they could not recall, including vandalism, unprotected sex and even driving.

Despite males in the survey drinking significantly more, men and women experienced an equal blackout rate, probably as a result of gender-specific differences in alcohol metabolism. Other investigations suggest that women may be more susceptible than men to milder forms of alcohol–induced memory impairments. In a subsequent study, 50 undergraduates who had experienced at least one blackout were interviewed. While the blackouts were deeply disconcerting to both men and women, women were far more likely (59%) to change their drinking habits after such an episode than men (25%).

While we may think we know our limits, alcohol metabolism is hugely variable and influenced by a range of factors, only some of which we control. Blood-alcohol content is strongly affected by the amount of food we have eaten prior to drinking, permeability of the gastric and intestinal tissues and body mass, among numerous other factors. Worse, alcohol reacts strongly with other drugs, particularly cannabis and benzodiazepines making blackouts far more likely. The latter is particularly problematic, as this drug type is the basis of many anti-anxiety and muscle-relaxant medication.

It is vital to remember that sexual activity with someone who cannot give informed consent is assault, regardless of the particular agent that rendered them incapacitated, and cannot be justified. Whether their becoming intoxicated is their own fault or someone else’s is irrelevant. The mentality that an inebriated victim is somehow “asking for it” should never be accepted.

While fears over exotic rape drugs might be unfounded, rape is all too common and alcohol frequently plays a role. Rather than fixating on unlikely scenarios of drink spiking, we might be better served by reexamining our collective relationship with alcohol and reinforcing the message that sex with someone incapable of giving consent is assault.

I wonder which one of the four key ‘benefits’ as identified within the Drinkaware drunken nights out report and described as  ‘escape’, ‘bonding and belonging’, ‘social adventures’ and ‘stories’ this would fit ……

Drunken Nights Out

Drinkaware have released a review on ‘Drunken nights out’, intending to inform possible future action the industry funded education charity could take.

I am going to share the email I received from Alcohol Policy UK which summarises this 290 report far better than I could so I am not going to re-invent the wheel.  However, what I will say is that this report makes me uncomfortable because of the language it uses.  Language is an important tool both to communicate a direct and indirect message and I find myself squirming at their indirect message.  What we need to remember first and foremost is that Drinkaware is the industries own mouth-piece and so we should approach their messages with caution as it is a double-edged sword.  Appearing to be helpful on the one hand but re-inforcing the message of it’s paymasters that alcohol is not only normal but also beneficial on the other hand.  This is divisive in my mind and does more harm than good.  What it does acknowledge though is the limited value of education as a tool to address behaviours and yet this is their chosen focus of activity.  Make of that what you will …….

The review attracted some headlines, largely relating to the finding that sexual harassment on nights out was common but often tolerated. Whilst much of the report describes what might be expected or previously identified in terms of attitudes and motivations towards what might more commonly be described as ‘binge drinking’, it offers a detailed exploration into these motives and other contributing factors.

The review drew on qualitative research including interviews and workshops with 80 drinkers aged 18 to 29, a review of literature, and interviews with key informants. By ‘drunken nights out’, the report refers to a package of behaviours, rejecting ‘binge drinking’ due to its inconsistent and often stereotyped use.

The full report and 20 page executive summary can be found here, press release here, and below we look at some of the key findings and implications.

Attitudes and motivations for ‘drunken nights out’

In the review, ‘drunken nights out’ were found to deliver clear recognised benefits to participants, something previously highlighted by research criticising over-simplified attempts to address such behaviours via messaging about risks. The report explores four key ‘benefits’ identified with drunken nights out under headings of ‘escape’, ‘bonding and belonging’, ‘social adventures’ and ‘stories’. It states there are few alternatives “which provide the same mix of benefits” and drinkers found hard to think of other things they could do.

Alcohol itself plays a crucial though not universal role in ‘drunken nights out’:

‘Alcoholic drinks are treated as ethanol-delivery mechanisms, with calculations of ‘units per pence’ and appropriate concentrations guiding choice of drink. People value the effects of alcohol, which they see as giving them the confidence and reduced self-consciousness needed to do things they would not normally do; take on their drunken night out identity; and access the benefits of a drunken night out.’

It states that “drunkenness is therefore prized, not only for its direct effects, but also because it is an entry ticket to the social permissions afforded by the drunken night out.” Furthermore, experiences of being sober in the night-time economy were experienced as “abnormal and uncomfortable”, and so “drunkenness is a required condition of participation in the drunken night out.”

Limits and attitudes to health

Such drinkers do express personal “limits” but not as a health consideration, rather than a point at which they do not intend to pass in terms of ability to control their behaviour. Reasons for doing so may include avoiding shame (beyond just embarrassment), but particularly for women, protecting themselves against vulnerability was valued. Groups played an important function in terms of perceived safety. However “as people become more drunk, they are less likely to regulate their consumption consciously, and more likely to respond to situational prompts to drink and conform to social norms.”

Longer-term risks “were discounted altogether”, in part as drinkers saw health problems associated with “alcoholics” or daily drinkers who overall were thought to drink more. Even where health harms were accepted, their young age and cutting back in the future were seen as reasons not to consider health risks.


In the review “pre-drinking” (or pre-loading) is considered “part of the overall package” of behaviours, and drinking games were common. Although the review, and Drinkaware in general, are not involved in pricing debates, it recognises “the opportunity to get drunk for less money does play a role”. However it also suggests there is evidence that pre-drinkers may drink as much when out as those who have not pre-drunk.

Risks and Risk Management

Two key serious risk were identified in the review:

  • There is a significant problem of violence associated with drunken nights out, skewed towards more serious incidents such as wounding. Many of our participants had witnessed or been victims of violence on a drunken night out.
  • There is an association between alcohol consumption and sexual assault. Responses from our participants suggested that molestation and groping are common experiences as part of a drunken night out.

A strategic framework for Drinkaware

The review was conducted to inform potential activities Drinkaware could take, but acknowledges the limited impact of educational approaches, as many public health roles are keen to highlight:

‘There is a substantial body of evidence that education and communications are best deployed as part of a wider package of behaviour change interventions – and that, by themselves, they are unlikely to achieve changes in behaviour. Education and communication interventions by Drinkaware need to be developed alongside efforts by other partners using other approaches. In particular, efforts to change the norms that shape drunken nights out will require co-ordination of multiple agents, covering both the delivery of messages to support new norms, and the elimination of messages which, intentionally or unintentionally, sustain and strengthen existing norms associated with increased harm.’

The review identifies four ‘strategic territories’ for possible education and communications interventions: ‘boundaries’; ‘conscience’; ‘consequences’ and ‘vulnerabilty’. Within each of these, it suggests potential avenues for activities to help address some of the motivations and attitudes that may lead to ‘drunken nights out’ and its associated problems.

As explored previously, Drinkaware has some way to go to convince many in the public health community it has a valuable role to play in reducing alcohol harms. To what extent this work may help with that will remain to be seen. Regardless, Drinkaware remain the key player when it comes to ability to deliver messages to drinkers – whatever the effect may be.