Monthly Archives: August 2015

P*ssing on your bbq on a Bank Holiday Monday!

So sorry to p*ss on your chips today, like rain on a bank holiday Monday (and yes it’s pouring with rain here!!), but I picked up this news at the end of June

rain on bbq

Drinking ‘plenty of red wine’ won’t help you lose weight

Shock horror I know.  Here’s the full story courtesy of the brilliant NHS Choices 🙂

Sorry to be party poopers, but The Daily Telegraph’s headline “How to lose weight – drink plenty of red wine,” is simply nonsense. First, the study it reports on did not involve red wine. Second, it was carried out on mice, not humans.

The mistaken headline was triggered by a study in mice looking into whether resveratrol, a plant polyphenol chemical found in the skin of red grapes, can stimulate the development of brown fat deposits within white fat tissue.

Human adults have very little brown fat, but we did as babies, where it helped us regulate our body temperature. Build-ups of white fat cause obesity, so finding a way to turn it into calorie-burning brown fat is thought to be one way to try to tackle the obesity problem.

This study found that higher doses of resveratrol caused the development of brown-fat-like cells within the white fat tissue of mice. The researchers hoped something like this might be possible in people. Importantly, based on mice studies only, we don’t know whether resveratrol will have the same effect in people. 

And drinking “plenty of red wine” will not lead you to lose weight – if anything the opposite will occur. A standard 750cl bottle of red wine contains around 570 calories, which is more than is found in two McDonald’s hamburgers.

Read more about how alcohol can make you fat


Resveratrol is a compound found in the skin of a number of plants such as grapes, blueberries and cocoa beans.

There are a wide range of claims about the benefits of resveratrol in terms of preventing chronic diseases, though these are mostly unproven.

Despite this, resveratrol is a favourite for health journalists as it allows them to run a seemingly endless stream of “red wine/chocolate is good for you” stories.

Don’t believe us? Try typing resveratrol into Google News and at time of writing you will get around 16,000 hits.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from South China Agricultural University and Washington State University in the US. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the National Science Foundation. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal International Journal of Obesity.

The Daily Telegraph was one of the few UK media outlets to run the story. Its headline was poor, which is frustrating as the actual reporting in the study is accurate and responsible.

The body of the article made clear that the study was in mice, advised readers to drink responsibly and even pointed out that “red wines such as merlot or cabinet sauvignon are known to contain resveratrol, but at a fraction of the levels found in grapes”.

What kind of research was this?

This was an animal study looking into how to stimulate the development of brown fat deposits within white fat tissue in an effort to reduce obesity.

Mammals have two types of fat tissue involved in energy balance in the body – brown and white. In humans, brown fat is mostly found in babies where it is needed to keep the baby warm when they are unable to shiver. As we grow, most of our brown fat is replaced by white. Excessive accumulation of white fat causes obesity, which is linked to a range of diseases.

Though adults have little brown fat, it is said to have been recently discovered that white fat contains brown-fat-like cells called “beige” fat cells. Therefore it was thought that stimulating the development of these beige cells – so called “browning” – could reverse the harmful effects of excess white fat and improve health. How to stimulate the browning was the goal of this study.

Resveratrol, a natural chemical present in the skin of grapes and other berries, is one possibility. Research has suggested it can have beneficial effects upon metabolism in mammals and protect against high-fat-diet-induced obesity in mice. It has also been demonstrated to prevent fat development and enhance fat breakdown. However, whether it can stimulate brown fat cell development is unknown, so that’s what this research aimed to look into.

What did the research involve?

The study investigated whether resveratrol helped brown fat cells develop into white fat tissue or beige fat, and to look into the biology underlying the process.

The study included 12 female mice that were divided into two groups – one fed a high-fat diet, the other the same high-fat diet supplemented with resveratrol. Before and during the weeks on the diets the researchers took regular body measurements and examined respiratory function. At the end of the four weeks they examined samples of the mice’s fat tissue.

In the laboratory they specifically looked into how resveratrol influences activity of stromal vascular cells, which are a type of fat stem cell that can develop into different types of cells. They also further looked into the specific biochemical pathways behind any changes.

What were the basic results?

Overall the researchers found that resveratrol has a dose-dependent influence on the development of brown or beige fat cells from fat stem cells (stromal vascular cells) present in white fat tissue. Higher concentrations of resveratrol caused the development of brown or beige cells within white fat tissue, changes that could prevent the accumulation of further white fat.

When looking into the biochemical process, they found that activation of AMP-activated protein kinase – a key regulator of energy metabolism – was essential to the process. Specifically the alpha 1 form – AMPKα1.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers conclude that resveratrol induces brown-like (beige) fat cell formation in white fat tissue via AMPKα1 activation, suggesting its possible beneficial anti-obesity effects.


This animal and laboratory research has demonstrated that resveratrol can stimulate the development of brown-fat-like cells in white fat tissue. Adults have very little brown fat, though these cells are found and it is proposed that increasing their numbers could prevent the accumulation of more white fat and so tackle obesity.

The researchers here looked at the potential of resveratrol, a polyphenol chemical found in red grapes, and found that it can stimulate more of these brown-fat-like cells to develop in the white fat tissue of mice. However, it’s difficult to draw much more meaning from this.

Mouse studies can give an indication of biological processes that may also work in humans, but we are not identical. We don’t know that if we were to be given daily resveratrol we would also start developing more brown-fat-like cells in our fat tissue. Even if we did, we don’t know whether this would cause weight loss, or reverse obesity and its associated health risks.

Also, of course, though resveratrol may be found in red wine, the mice were not drinking red wine on a daily basis. As one of the lead researchers is quoted in the media, the amount of resveratrol found in wine is a fraction of that present in grapes and berries, as much of the chemical is filtered out during the wine production process. You would gain more resveratrol from eating the grapes and berries themselves than drinking wine – but that makes a much less exciting headline.

Wine is also high in calories, which may cancel out any slight theoretical benefit you may gain from trying to convert white fat to brown. A high alcohol intake is also known to be associated with many health risks both in the immediate and long term. The proven risks of drinking too much red wine probably outweigh any possible benefits from trying to convert white fat to brown fat.

Overall the study provides no evidence that drinking red wine will help you lose weight.

Links to the headlines

Revealed: How to lose weight – drink plenty of red wine. The Daily Telegraph, June 21 2015

Want to lose weight? Drink red wine. The Independent, June 22 2015

Links to the science

Wang S, Liang X, Yang Q, et al. Resveratrol induces brown-like adipocyte formation in white fat through activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) α. US National Library of Medicine. Published online March 12 2015

Dang – all those healthy reasons to drink alcohol are dying on their arse aren’t they! 😉

Charity calls for spirit duty rise in Budget on back of new figures of under 18s drinking

The charity Alcohol Concern is calling for a rise in spirit duty of 4% above inflation after their new survey has found that children in treatment for alcohol are consuming more spirits than any other type of alcohol. Last year, over 10,000 children and young people accessed treatment for alcohol as either a primary or secondary substance.


Eleven treatment services across England and Wales asked 223 children and young people between the ages of 12 and 20 years (85% of who were under 18) and who use their services about the type of alcohol and which brands they consume most. The most recent results show that children accessing treatment are drinking spirits, particularly vodkas, along with beer and strong ciders.

Type of drink  Total numbers %
Spirits 82 37
Beer 62 28
Cider 46 21
Wine 21 9
Liqueurs 7 3
Alcopops 5 2
TOTAL 223 100

Among the top five alcohol brands consumed were Smirnoff Vodka and Fosters, both leading brands which are heavily promoted and are well known through their extensive advertising campaigns. Jack Daniels Whisky also made the top five for the first time.

Tom Smith, Head of Policy at Alcohol Concern, said: “Heavily advertised brands and cheap, strong booze are the drinks of choice for vulnerable children.

“I think we all would agree that the strongest and most dangerous products to children should be priced out of reach.

“Alcohol taxes for spirits are historically low, yet consumption rates for spirits are high, especially amongst younger groups who are often drinking with the purpose of getting drunk.”

The frequency of spirit consumption in young people has almost doubled amongst 11-15 year olds that drink since 1990. Between 2011/12 and 2013/14 there were 13,725 alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under 18s, in addition to the number of children requiring support from alcohol services.

Melanie Soutar, Manager of Matrix young people’s drug and alcohol service, said: “It’s important that we understand the alcohol choices of young people when we’re treating children at such a young age.

“This survey highlights the call for action on things such as alcohol marketing and low price high volume products.”

Alcohol misuse currently costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year.  By implementing a rise in spirit duty, it would help relieve the financial strain on the NHS costs.


To read the full report, please click here.

Notes to editors

The five most consumed alcohol brands are: (2013 survey positions in brackets)

  • Fosters beer (1)
  • Generic or own-brand vodka (2)
  • Frosty Jack’s cider (4)
  • Smirnoff vodka (3)
  • Jack Daniel’s whisky (previously unplaced)

Spirit consumption in young people has almost doubled amongst 11-15 year olds that drink since 1990. HSCIC statistics on smoking, drinking and drug use 2014 table 4.16a/b – available here.


Eleven young people’s drug and alcohol services from different regions in England asked their clients to record the brands of alcohol they most commonly consumed. The services represent a geographical spread across all areas of England except London. The North East is significantly over represented compared to other regions, providing over half of the total number of participants. This is an area of high alcohol harm.

223 children and young people between the ages of 12 and 20 years old were recruited by the services to participate between November 2014 and March 2015. 85% of participants (192 of 223) were aged between 12 and 17 years – below the legal age to buy alcohol. 103 (46%) were male and 120 (56%) female. Each participant was asked to self-complete an anonymous record of the brand of alcohol most commonly consumed.

Participating services include DNA (Newcastle), N2L (North Tyneside), Switch (Darlington), Matrix (South Tyneside), Platform (Middlesbrough), Lifeline (Stockton), Early Break (Bury, Rochdale and East Lancashire), EYPDAS (Essex), ru-ok? under-18’s substance misuse service (Brighton), YADAS (Poole) and Plan B (Bedford).

NHS to slash safe drinking limits after new evidence reveals how alcohol is linked to certain cancers

And a lovely Daily Wail headline!

NHS to slash safe drinking limits after new evidence reveals how alcohol is linked to certain cancers including breast and bowel

mail country unit guidelines

The NHS is set to slash its safe drinking limits following new evidence that alcohol causes cancer.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies is to overhaul the guidelines on the maximum daily and weekly amounts of alcohol that should be consumed by men and women later this year.

The current recommendations – which are almost 30 years out-of-date – tell men to have no more than three to four units a day, the equivalent of a pint of strong lager.

Women are told to drink no more than two to three units, which is equivalent to one large glass of wine. The NHS’s weekly limits state that in total, men should not exceed 21 units and women 14.

But these were drawn up in 1987 and since then there has been an increasing body of research linking relatively small amounts of alcohol to several types of cancer.

It appears to have a particularly strong relationship to breast cancer and some studies have shown that just one glass of wine a week raises the risk by 15 per cent.

Researchers say as many as 1 in 5 cases of breast cancer are caused by alcohol and it has also been linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, liver and bowel.

Doctors believe the existing safe limits are too high, and even the experts responsible for drawing them up 28 years ago admit they were ‘plucked out of the air.’

Dr Kieran Moriarty, a consultant gastroenterologist and spokesman on alcohol for the British Society for Gastroenterology, which involves illnesses of the stomach and intestines, said the evidence that had emerged in the last two decades had been a ‘game changer.’

‘The big difference that has been recognised since 1995 is the association between alcohol and cancer.

‘One unit a day or less than one unit a day is associated with an increased risk and the cancer that is seen as the most sensitive is breast cancer.

‘Alcohol is associated with cancers elsewhere and there is generally no safe level.

‘That is the new game changer in this and that will need to be incorporated into new assessments. I’m pretty sure the sensible limits will be scaled down, if they are going to go on the evidence. The harm starts off at lower than 21 and 14 units.’

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, spokesman on alcohol for the Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘Alcohol is classified by the World Health Organization as a class 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

‘You can’t say it is safe.’

Doctors also want the guidelines to tell women not to drink in pregnancy as alcohol can cause babies to suffer behavioural problems brain damage, deformities.

Currently they are unclear and state women can have one or two drinks, once or twice a week.

In the past six years Canada and Australia reduced their safe daily alcohol limits to levels lower than the UK, to take account of the new evidence on health risks.

Canada’s state that men should have no more than 15 units a week and women just ten while in Australia, all adults are told not exceed two units a day.

Experts say the Government will follow suit by lowering guidelines later this year and they may also include recommending several ‘alcohol-free’ days during the week.

The Royal College of Physicians want the public to be told not to drink on at least three days of the week while other researchers say they should have a minimum of two.

Professor Rajiv Jalan, who specialises in liver diseases at University College London, said damage could be caused to the body in men drinking just three units of alcohol a day, well within the government limits.

He carried out an experiment in which twin brothers drank 21 units of alcohol a week for a month, screened last month on BBC Two’s Horizon series.

One was binge drinking and the other stuck to the government limit of three units a day, but signs of inflammation in the body – linked to cancer – were found even in the twin who was drinking within the daily limits.

He said: ‘We think 21 units (a week) is probably not safe for men. What we found is that it creates an inflammatory response.

‘The person who was binge drinking was terrible but the person who was not bingeing, who was drinking three units a day, was also compromised at the end of the month. It (the safe limit) is almost certainly less than it is stated at the moment.’

One unit a day or less than one unit a day is associated with an increased risk and the cancer that is seen as the most sensitive is breast cancer
Dr Kieran Moriarty, consultant gastroenterologist

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, which aims to promote the health risks of drinking, said: ‘Since the British guidelines were established, more data has become available about the health risks associated with regular drinking, including the relationship between alcohol and cancer.

‘The World Health Organization advises there is no safe level of drinking for cancer prevention, so we would expect our updated guidelines to include this information so that consumers are able to make informed decisions about their drinking.’

Only last week Alcohol Concern – one of the key alcohol charities – launched an awareness campaign alerting the public to risk posed by alcohol on cancer.

Jackie Ballard, its chief executive, said no amount of alcohol was ‘safe’. She added: ‘Alcohol has cancer causing properties and it’s important that people are aware of the risks associated with its use. ‘

And in 2007 Dr Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians panel which drew up the guidelines in 1987 said: ‘Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee.’

A Department of Health spokesman confirmed the guidelines were being ‘reviewed’ and would be published later this year.

15 units a week for men and 10 for women, with no more than 2 units a day total.  How many others will now fall into the category where their drinking is considered unsafe with these potentially lower guidelines?  Or will they just be derided and ignored as they pretty much are now?

Friday Sober Jukebox – We Come One

So tomorrow I’m hitting another sober first.  I’m going to a festival – a dance music festival to be precise.

This triggers all kinds of anxiety even though I’m coming up two years clean and sober (no pun intended!)  Why?  FOMO running wild – I’m in recovery from alcohol and drugs and this will be a binge of immense proportions for many other people there and I’m going in armed with Red Bull only.

Euphoric recall will be front and centre potentially triggering cravings because  I have only seen the headliners whilst off my t*ts in the past and the overriding thought will be: Can I have as much fun experiencing them straight-edged? We come one but I’ll be the odd one out again …..

But I read this article which helped calm my fears 🙂

I went to a music festival sober and this is what I learnt

So I have a plan – text buddies on call, red bull in hand, I’m driving and I will leave it all gets too much.  I’ll report back on how it was in the next week but I suspect it will be better than any other time I have ever seen them because I will be present and remember it all.  I’m going in …….. 😀

PS Brene Brown’s new book Rising Strong launched 3 days ago and I’d advocate reading all of her books – and am looking forward to reading this one myself!!


Double bubble bonus as serendipity strikes again!!  Tim Ferriss today also released his interview with Brene Brown that you can listen to here:

Just two drinks a day can increase risk of developing breast cancer by 18%

A new factsheet from Alcohol Concern, released on Monday 22 June, looks at how alcohol increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

CIGJ2AlWgAA0uCJ.png large

Breast cancer is by far the most prevalent and one of the most lethal cancers for women in the UK. It affects around 1 in 8 women in the UK during their lifetime.

Surveys show that less than half of the British public know of any link between alcohol and cancer, and less than a third of a link between alcohol and breast cancer. However, lifestyle choices – in particular, alcohol – can have a substantial impact on the risk of developing breast cancer.

The factsheet highlights:

  • In 2011, 3,000 of the breast cancer cases were directly attributable to alcohol consumption
  • Each drink per day increases the risk in women of developing breast cancer by between 7% – 12%
  • Alcohol has long been known to have carcinogenic (cancer causing) properties, and more than 50 studies have confirmed alcohol is a particular risk factor in the development of breast cancer
  • The exact causal mechanism between alcohol and breast cancer is not fully known – but it is likely due to the way alcohol breaks down into toxic chemicals in our body and increases the production of the female hormone oestrogen.

Jackie Ballard, Chief Executive at Alcohol Concern, said: “Alcohol has cancer causing properties and it’s important that people are aware of the risks associated with its use.

“Although there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption, sticking to government guidelines is a reliable way of minimising alcohol-related health risks. The recommended limit for women is 2-3 units a day, and for men 3-4 units and everyone should have 2-3 alcohol free days each week.”


Notes to editors

This factsheet is the third in a series to be published by Alcohol Concern, highlighting the risks alcohol has on different health conditions.

The factsheet has been funded by a grant from the Pink Ribbon Foundation – a grant making trust with a mission to fund projects and provide financial support to UK charities which relieve the needs of people who are suffering from, or who have been affected by breast cancer or who work to advance the understanding of breast cancer, its early detection and treatment.

And to add to the impact Balance North East have created this brilliant video advert which should be on national TV.

Updated to add: Balance North East responded to this blog post on Twitter saying:

Thanks for the mention – great blog – we have more info of alcohol and cancer at

Lots more facts over there and I’ll be adding it to my resources.  Thanks Balance North East!

Edited to add: 21st March 2016

“Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of oestrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug Tamoxifen on blocking oestrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF.”

Cancer-causing gene triggered by alcohol may increase breast cancer risk


Drinkline statistics (5)

So the final piece of data (see previous 4 days posts here) relates to how people find out about Drinkline and referral on by this service.

Drinkline front page

Media Source (Top 5)

51% of all callers in July stated that they found the Drinkline number after searching for it online. 25% obtained the number after looking it up in the phonebook. 9% of all valuable contacts in July stated that they were referred to the helpline via another organisation. 7% of valuable callers found the number via either a leaflet or word of mouth.

Tier 2 Summary

(To briefly explain Tier 1 is non specialist services, Tier 2 is specialist services within the community, Tier 3 is specialist MDT services within a clinic environment and Tier 4 is specialist day and inpatient care)

All calls to Drinkline are handled by a front line team of tier 1 advisers who triage queries, assessing the information and advice required and escalating to a tier 2 team for further in depth advice and information if necessary. In July, 181 calls were assessed as requiring a transfer to tier 2. 128 of these calls were successfully transferred, 6 callbacks were arranged and the remainder did not wish to leave their details and agreed to call back.

Local Signposts (Top 10)

If a caller requires further assistance or advice, the adviser can signpost the caller to an organisation in their area by accessing our database of alcohol services. 578 local services were offered to callers in July, representing 66% of all valuable calls handled this month.

National Signposts (Top 10)

Advisers also have access to a database of national services that can be provided to callers who require further information or advice. In July, 29 calls were provided with the details for Drinkline Scotland. 14 were signposted to Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 callers were signposted to DAN 24/7 which is a helpline for callers who live in Wales. In total, 101 national signposts were provided this month.

I was discussing this data with Laura from Club Soda and we were struck how the existing PHE support focuses on the Change4Life programme, you access an alcohol brief intervention via your GP surgery or you call this helpline who can triage you to community services.  Then there is nothing until you require medical intervention to stop via hospital admission, community detox or rehab (either local authority or privately funded).  So you have Tier 1 and 2 and then 4 – no Tier 3 service.  The majority of people drinking and calling this service have nowhere to go with this issue – which is why I’ve designed the How to Quit workshop that I run in collaboration with Club Soda.  Next London date is on Saturday 26th September and you can book your place here 🙂

Edited to add: Serendipitously this arrived in my email inbox today:

Use of online recovery resources – survey

A survey looking at what online resources people use related to substance use, and at what stage they are in their recovery. The aim of this is to create a document for recovery and health services about what online resources are available for service users and which resources provide the most beneficial outcomes for those at different stages in their recovery | Breaking Free Online, UK

I’ve filled it in as they are looking at all recovery resources so now is the time to big up your favourite resources to spread the sober love 🙂 Oh and it’s completely anonymous 😉

Drinkline statistics (4)

So day 4 (you can read day 1 here, 2 here and 3 here) and now we turn to the real meat of the Drinkline data – alcohol consumption, frequency of use and caller concerns.

Drinkline front page

Alcohol Consumption and Frequency of Use (1/2)

Of the callers who disclosed the number of units consumed in July, 85% of all callers stated that they drink over 15 units when they drink. 74% of callers this month stated that they drink alcohol every day, 14% of callers drink most days of the week and 7% drink twice a week. 2% of callers this month disclosed that they either drink once a week or less than once a week.

  • 74% of callers drink every day
  • 14% of callers drink most days of the week
  • 7% of callers drink twice a week
  • 2% of callers drink once a week
  • 2% of callers drink less than once a week.

When broken down by frequency of consumption for each caller, 75% of people in July stated that they drank over 20 units of alcohol every day. 74% of callers who drink between 15 and 20 units revealed this month that they drink this amount daily. Similarly to June, nobody who contacted the service in July said they drank less than 4 units of alcohol.

Topics Discussed (Top 10)

As was the case with topics discussed in June, most people calling about themselves discussed their own physical health in July (33%) and the majority of concerned others wanted to discuss the implications of alcohol use on their family (37%). 21% of individuals discussed family this month and 13% discussed relationships. 22% of concerned others discussed physical health and 19% discussed relationships. The top 3 topics discussed across both individuals and concerned others have not changed when compared with last month.

So the primary concerns were health and social implications and this remains the trend.

What shocked me about the consumption data was that the majority were drinking over 15-20 units every day.  This is a heavy psychological dependence or a probable physical dependence, requiring medical detox support.  And 50% of these are in full time employment so quite possibly getting into their cars and driving to work.  Just like I used to ……

Are you surprised by this data like I was?

Drinkline statistics (3)

Following on from yesterday’s and Sunday’s post the Drinkline data now turns it’s attention to caller demographics.

Drinkline front page

Caller Demographics: Gender

252 (50%) individuals who contacted the service in July were recorded as male and 248 (50%) of individuals were recorded as female. This compares to the gender split of concerned others of 79 (25%) who were from males while 241 (75%) were from females. This trend of an equal split in gender for individuals and the majority of concerned others being female is in line with the trend reported in June.

The caller had stopped drinking for a year, but was struggling with cravings again after a stressful situation which he did not disclose.

The adviser congratulated the caller on stopping and staying stopped for a year. There was no Tier 2 adviser available so I asked the caller if he remembered how he had dealt with stressful situations throughout the year and if he remember the advice his support worker had given him. He said that he used to drink coke. It became apparent that he did not have any in the house so he agreed it would be a good distraction to take a walk to buy some, assuring me that he would not be tempted to buy alcohol. I invited the caller to call back if he required further support. He said he would call when he needed to and thanked me for the support when he needed it.

Caller Demographics: Age

Similarly to last month, most individuals who contacted Drinkline in July were aged between 26 and 55 with 71% of individuals recorded as such. 11% of all individuals this month were aged 25 and under. 19% of all individuals this month were over the age of 56. 54% of all concerned others who contacted the service in July were aged over the age of 46. This is to be expected considering that the majority of concerned other calls come from parents calling on behalf of their children.

Employment Status (Top 5)

The employment status that make up the top 5 in July are the same as the employment status found in the top 5 last month. The only difference is that the order of the top 5 has altered slightly; 44% of valuable contacts said they were in full time employment and the most likely employment status advised by callers in July. Unemployed was the second most popular employment status in July with 16%, this is up from third place in June. Retired has dropped to third place with 14% of callers saying that they no longer work. 7% of callers were unfit to work and 6% were self employed.

Motivation To Call

46% of all people who disclosed their motivation to call the service in July did so as they wanted to stop drinking altogether. 44% of callers this month were concerned others who called to discuss the drinking habits of someone close to them. The remaining 10% of callers to Drinkline in July wanted to discuss the possibility of cutting down on the amount of alcohol consumed.

So the highlights for me in this set of data was the fact that the split has moved to 50:50 women to men.  When I nursed on an alcoholic liver disease ward, granted 10 years ago, the split was 60 men: 40 women.  This supports the latest research evidence we’ve discussed before on this blog. 54% of the callers were over the age of 46, very close to my age when I stopped.  50% were in full-time employment/self-employed.  46% wanted to stop.

So the caller could have been me – female, same age, working full time, wanting to stop …… Maybe it’s you reading this?  You could always give them a call 🙂

Helpline: 0300 123 1110 (Mon-Fri 9 am – 8 pm, weekends 11 am – 4 pm)

Drinkline statistics (2)

Continuing on from yesterday’s post today we turn our attention to caller type data from the PHE Drinkline statistics.

Drinkline front page

Caller Type

511 (59%) calls to Drinkline in June were from individuals calling for themselves.

324 (38%) of callers in June were concerned others

Of the callers that were profiled as concerned other 77 (24%) were parents calling for their children’s, 72 (23%) were partner’s concerned by their spouse’s drinking. 68 (21%) were other family members such as cousins or aunts, 43 (14%) were children contacting out of concern for a parent or guardian and further 53 callers were another person known to the person they were concerned for. Only 3 calls (1%) were from professionals looking for advice and information for a client.

An example of a concerned other call was included:

Caller was extremely stressed about her 43 yr old son’s behaviour when drinking – which was always to excess. He is aggressive and threatening when he drinks, with police having been involved on one occasion. His father locks himself in a room when he knows his son is coming home at night. The son is also completely unreasonable and unwilling to discuss it when sober and very angry when the subject is brought up.

It was suggested to the caller that she could take advice from her own GP about her son’s behaviour which she described as bizarre, paranoid and like an angry young child. Local addiction projects were mentioned but she felt that she could not contact them in the meantime. She said she may call back for more support in the evening when a Tier 2 adviser may be available.

24 (3%) calls were from organisations. Organisations will typically contact the service for general information, fact finding or to request literature

Contact Breakdown

1,402 of the 1.462 calls that arrived to the service in July were handled by an adviser. This gives a strike rate of 96% for the month. Of the 1,378 calls that were profiled in July, 879 (64%) were recorded as valuable, where the caller was provided with general information, a quick discussion or an in depth discussion. 499 (36%) calls were recorded as playful, silent or hoax calls.

Having volunteered at the Samaritans I have the experiential insight to tell you that this level of playful, silent or hoax calls is not unusual.

What worried me about these set of statistics were the part that I’ve highlighted in bold pertaining to children calling about parents and guardians.  I would like to know whether these calls are flagged and triage offered to something like Childline so that this child is supported with counselling and the data can be recorded and reported.  I did state my concern in my reply email to PHE but never had a response so the question remains unanswered.

Tomorrow we’ll look caller demographics such as gender, age, work status and motivation to call.  Any thoughts?




Drinkline statistics (1)

At the end of last year Prim and I approached the UK agency who manage Drinkline about their helpline.  Prim had done a secret shopper phone call to them to find out more about their service and this left us curious for more details.  Over the next week of posts I will cover the Drinkline stats that Public Health England (PHE) kindly shared with us via email.  These are a snapshot in time looking at the month of July last year.  We are sharing the detail that was shared with us in it’s original form as the report from SERCO, who manage the phone line for PHE, was very detailed.  Why are we sharing it?  Because it shows that there are many people using this NHS provided phone line and looking for help.  That we are not alone in our issue with alcohol.

Drinkline front page

Drinkline Monthly Demand Breakdown

1,462 calls arrived in hours to Drinkline in July. This is an increase of 188 (15%) when compared with the 1,274 calls that arrived to the service in June. Demand has decreased by 66% this month when compared with July 2013 although arrival patterns have kept a similar shape between April and July 2014 when compared with 2013. Demand has steadily decreased between May and June 2014, a trend which can also be seen when looking at the same months during the previous year.

Daily Breakdown

1,462 calls arrived in hours in July which is an average demand of just over 47 calls per day which is an increase of 4 calls per day when compared to last month, June 2014.

The busiest day in July was Wednesday the 2nd of July with 120 calls arriving to the service on this day. Demand on the 2nd of July equates to just over 8% of all monthly demand to Drinkline.

4 minutes and 31 seconds was the average duration of a call in July. This is a decrease of 14 seconds when compared with June 2014.

Demand By Day Of The Week

Call arrival patterns in July have changed when compared with last month. In June, the majority of calls arrived on a Monday with demand decreasing towards the end of the week. In July however, demand peaked on a Wednesday with 341 calls arriving in hours to the service on this day. Demand then decreased by 3% on Thursday then by a further 7% on Friday.

Demand By Hour

Unlike call arrival patterns by day of the week, hourly arrival patterns have stayed relatively consistent this month when compared with June. The majority of calls received in July were between the hours of 11am and 3pm accounting for 50% of all demand to the service. 21% of demand arrived between the hours of 9am and 11am which is a 1% increase when compared with June. Demand decreased each hour between 3pm and 8pm with 29% of demand for July arriving between these times.

So to summarise:

Drinkline received a total of 1,462 calls for the month of July, which averages out at just over 47 a day but on their busiest day they received 120 calls.  The average call time lasted just under 5 minutes.  Monday used to be the busiest day of the week (which logically makes sense) but it had shifted to Wednesday.  The hours of 11am to 3pm were their busiest time but demand remained for the hours before and after.

Now one could argue that this isn’t very many people when compared to the population of the UK, and PHE told me that “Drinkline is one of the least active of the lines we operate”.  If the service was more widely publicised would it be utilised more?  Yes you can find the number in many places online for example here:

Helpline: 0300 123 1110 (Mon-Fri 9 am – 8 pm, weekends 11 am – 4 pm)

If the phones were manned for longer hours would it be utilised more?  I volunteered for the Samaritans for 5 years and our busiest times were always overnight, and particularly at the week-end.  I appreciate that they are very different phone line support services but I’m just wondering out loud.

As funding for both Public Health and the NHS is squeezed further the likelihood of this services hours being increased are slim, with the very real possibility that they may be rationalised further as is happening to Stop Smoking services already.

What are your thoughts about the data and our musings?

Edited to add: since posting this on FB Laura from Club Soda shared this comment:

“Drinkline is no longer advertised because promotion of it has been cut in the communications budget”

Unbelievable ……. 🙁