Monthly Archives: September 2015

Extending alcohol treatment could save 12,000 lives a year in EU

This was a research article on Findings Effectiveness Bank looking at how many deaths would be prevented by extending effective treatment to up to 40% of dependent drinkers across the European Union.

This many people
This many people






Modeling the impact of alcohol dependence on mortality burden and the effect of available treatment interventions in the European Union.

Summary The featured analysis estimated the proportions of deaths among 15–64-year-old residents of the European Union due to drinking, heavy drinking and alcohol dependence, then how many of these deaths would be averted by if varying proportions of dependent drinkers (from 10% to 40%) were engaged in different types of treatments or brief interventions. The results give an indication of the lives which might be saved if treatment was extended to more of the dependent population. The interventions considered were: among alcohol treatment caseloads, prescribing acamprosate or opioid antagonists like naltrexone, motivational interviewing, or cognitive-behavioural therapy; and among hospital inpatients identified as heavy drinkers while being treated for other conditions, brief interventions.

Dependent drinkers entering treatment were assumed to be among the heaviest drinkers in each country. Their consumption was estimated to fall as a result of treatment by amounts indicated in major reviews of treatment evaluation research. In turn this was estimated to reduce their risk of death due or partly due to alcohol. For the year 2004, the difference between the number of deaths due to untreated drinking versus the number expected if 10% to 40% of the heaviest and dependent drinkers were treated was the basis for calculating the proportion and number of alcohol-related deaths saved by treatment.

Main findings

Across the European Union it was calculated that about 86% of adults were drinkers, 9.4% heavy drinkers, and 3.5% dependent. After taking in to account health benefits of moderate drinking on diabetes and cardiovascular disease, in 2004 1 in 7 of all deaths in men and 1 in 13 among women were estimated to have been due to drinking. Nearly 8 in 10 of these deaths were due to heavy drinking and 7 in 10 due to dependent drinking.

Deaths were calculated to be most effectively averted by prescribing acamprosate or naltrexone and by brief interventions in hospitals. Compared to treatment being unavailable, had 40% of the heaviest and dependent drinkers been treated in these ways, it was estimated that in 2004 there would have been 13% fewer alcohol-related deaths among men and 9% fewer among women. These proportions equate to about 10,000 fewer deaths among men due to either treatment, 1700 fewer among women prescribed acamprosate or naltrexone, and 1500 fewer among women who participated in brief interventions in hospitals – in total, nearly 12,000 averted deaths. If just 10% were treated the corresponding figures would fall respectively to about 2500 for men, and for women just below 420 and about 370. In the longer term the number of deaths averted would be greater.

The authors’ conclusions

Mainly due to dependent drinking, alcohol causes a substantial degree of premature mortality in the European Union, but over 10% these deaths could be averted in a year by increasing alcohol dependence treatment capacity and coverage to 4 in 10 of the heaviest dependent drinkers.

I find these research studies fascinating because they give us hard numbers.  So in 2004, and yes I appreciate this is over 10 years ago now, 1 in 7 of all deaths in men and 1 in 13 in women were estimated to be due to drinking.  I find that a staggering number and if those kind of numbers appeared in another health condition there would be strategies implemented to bring that number down pretty swiftly!

Looking at Johann Hari’s works suggestion of diverting revenue currently used in law and order being used to fund more treatment interventions how much could be saved financially, and this is without even considering the more important human cost and the impact on all of those 12,000 families …….

Edited to add:

PHE launches 2015 survey for providers and commissioners of residential rehab

Public Health England is carrying out its second annual survey of the residential rehabilitation sector. This follows last year’s survey and is being done against a background of continuing high-level interest about how the recent changes to healthcare and commissioning systems impact on the sector. The report based on last year’s survey can be found here

Mortality of harmful drinkers increased after reduction of alcohol prices in northern Finland

This was a piece of research from Findings Effectiveness Bank that was shared recently and the full title of the research is: Mortality of harmful drinkers increased after reduction of alcohol prices in northern Finland: A 10-year follow-up of head trauma subjects.

process of alcoholism





Evidence from Finland that the 2004 decreases in alcohol taxes and increase in availability of cheaper drink from abroad led to an increase in alcohol-related deaths and in deaths overall among harmful drinkers.

Summary The huge annual number of alcohol-related head injuries makes it important to know whether this total is influenced by political decisions. More drinking across a population and particularly more drinking to intoxication will increase alcohol-related harm including head injuries. In turn, consumption may be influenced by the price and availability of alcohol; the cheaper and more available alcohol is, the more is consumed and the more harm results. Alcohol taxation is a key policy lever for reducing harm by reducing consumption.

In Finland reduced taxes in 2004 on many alcoholic beverages and increased access to much cheaper alcohol from neighbouring Estonia offered a ‘natural experiment’ through which to assess the impact of taxation and price on drinking and resultant harm. The changes were followed by a marked and rapid increase in consumption across Finland and in particular in Oulu province, where the featured study took place and where alcohol sales rose the following year by 9.3%. Across Finland, alcohol-related mortality simultaneously increased.

The featured study assessed the impact of the taxation changes on all 827 patients who in 1999 were recorded as having attended the emergency room of Oulu University Hospital, the only hospital with a trauma team and neurosurgical services in the province. At issue was whether among this cohort, which included many heavy drinkers, death trends between the years 2000 and 2009 changed after alcohol became more affordable and accessible in 2004.

Any such changes might be more apparent among those known to have been drinking in a harmful manner. Totalling 101 out of the 827 patients, they were identified on the basis of hospital records which noted a diagnosis of alcohol-related disease or acute intoxication preceding admittance during the follow-up period 2000 to 2009.

Whether alcohol contributed to any the 160 deaths recorded from 2000 to 2009 was identified from its presence being noted on death certificates, or from hospital records if the deceased had been in hospital immediately before their death. These were presumed to have been deaths which occurred under the influence of alcohol.

Main findings

During the follow-up period there were clear indications that overall and among harmful drinkers in particular, deaths increased after the 2004 alcohol policy changes. During 2000–2009 the proportion of all deaths which were presumed to have occurred under the influence of alcohol increased significantly, closely paralleling the increase in per capita alcohol consumption in Oulu province. Up until 2004 harmful drinkers died at about the same rate as the other patients, but after then their death rate markedly increased, and their chance of surviving progressively diverged from that of the remaining patients. The result was that after other factors had been taken into account, they were over the whole follow-up period two to three times as likely to have died

The authors’ conclusions

The most striking finding was the significantly increased mortality of harmful drinkers directly after the alcohol price reductions in 2004. Until then harmful drinkers had a similar survival rate to other patients. Moreover, the number of deaths under the influence of alcohol significantly increased after the price reductions.

Such findings have important public health implications. While the example of Finland shows that tax and price decreases increase alcohol-related deaths, the example of the former Soviet Union shows that alcohol control polices which feature price rises can have the opposite effect, dramatically reducing deaths. The lesson from these two ‘natural experiments’ is that political decisions may strongly support or counteract attempts to save lives of hazardous drinkers or those dependent on alcohol.

Reading this research reminded me of this clip with Carrie Armstrong from A Royal Hangover:

And her words “we’re facilitating alcoholism, we’re killing our children, we’re killing our young people and it’s fine because for one person to admit they have a problem is for everyone to admit that actually we all have a little bit of a problem.”

That’s why I used the image at the top of this post about the process of alcoholism.  In my mind cheap booze facilitates alcoholism and this research shows that the consequences of low alcohol prices is killing us ……

I used to drink too much. We Brits have an alcohol problem ….

This ‘comment is free’ video appeared in The Guardian in July and garnered quite a lot of interest if the 600 and counting comments is anything to go by!  It would seem that the topic of whether we have an alcohol problem here in the UK garners a fair amount of heat!

I used to drink too muchNot a good look but one I remember well! The booze sodden fag is a give away for how much had already been imbibed!

I used to drink too much. We Brits have an alcohol problem– video

Deborah Coughlin found herself at an alcohol counsellor after drinking 220 units over a birthday weekend. Ten years and some therapy later, she hardly hits the recommended allowance of 14 units weekly for women. She argues that Britons have a big problem with drink, and that many are searching for excuses to stop.

It’s well worth a view at only 3.35 and features Alastair Campbell, Russell Brand in A Royal Hangover plus the Hello Sunday Morning and Soberistas communities! 🙂

Interestingly the Guardian Pick comment was this one:

never trust a man who doesn’t drink because he’s probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time. Some of them are good men, but in the name of goodness, they cause most of the suffering in the world. They’re the judges, the meddlers. And, never trust a man who drinks but refuses to get drunk. They’re usually afraid of something deep down inside, either that they’re a coward or a fool or mean and violent. You can’t trust a man who’s afraid of himself. But sometimes, you can trust a man who occasionally kneels before a toilet. The chances are that he is learning something about humility and his natural human foolishness, about how to survive himself. It’s damned hard for a man to take himself too seriously when he’s heaving his guts into a dirty toilet bowl.

― James Crumley
The Wrong Case – 1975

I’d always wondered where the expression ‘never trust a man who doesn’t drink’ came from and now I know!  It’s a 1970’s fictional novel about an American detective.  This was one book reviewers synopsis of the lead character who uttered these words: ‘He’s a boozer from a family of boozers and after his rich father’s death, his mother put his vast estate into a trust that Milo can’t touch until his early fifties because she thought he’d drink himself to death. So Milo hangs around the small Montana city he grew up in and spends most of his time in bars and is on a first name basis with every wino in town.’ So this perceived wisdom that seems to have seeped into the collective cultural consciousness is that of a drunk!  What a surprise, not!

The comments that followed after it were also interesting and I’ve included them below:

  1. Speaking for myself, I don’t drink because I’m an alcoholic.
  2. “ never trust a man who doesn’t drink because he’ll be sober while you are pissed and will win one over on you every time”
  3. “ never trust a man who doesn’t drink” … that was the favourite line of a member of my family (a drunk) who used to abuse everyone around him.
  4. eh, perhaps men who don’t drink much are just looking after their health? Who’s the one with the chip on their shoulder?
  5. Actually the fact that this is a Guardian pick makes me angry. So the people who are morally upright and know right from wrong are somehow the bad guys now.
  6. Not just alcohol supremacist drivel, but drunkard supremacist drivel.

    Anyway I digress – it’s worth a watch and illustrates a growing awakening to the issues of our frenemy booze, which can only be a good thing.  What do you think?



Alcohol Demotivator

I really like this!  It comes from Abbeycare, an addictions and treatment centre near me in Newmarket.

It’s called their alcohol demotivator and this is a screen grab of my results:

alcohol demotivator 1




alcohol motivator 2




So when you go to the page here it asks you:

Get Demotivated… What Will Your Next Drink Really Cost?

There is a sentence underneath that says: I drink around [drop down boxes] wine; beer/cider; spirits per day which you fill in

For the above results I put 6 glasses of wine (which is about a bottle depending on your pour and size of glass!) but you can specify number of bottles instead

Then it asks you to specify your gender

And then a button appears saying ‘Demotivate Me!’ which when you press gives you the above screen shot calculation so:

  • Your intake
  • Your risk level
  • Your spend both in a month and annually
  • Then the health impact so firstly stroke risk rate
  • Then liver cirrhosis risk rate
  • Then car accident risk rate
  • And finally upper gastro-intestinal cancer risk rate

You can then print it off and put it somewhere prominent to deter you from pouring your next glass and there is a quick referral email option so you can start talking to a counsellor immediately if you’d like 🙂

Fantastic stuff and would have scared me witless if I’d found it and been honest in my answering the questions.  Maybe it’ll help you with a reality check if you find this and are still drinking?

If you’d like more information here is their brochure too:

PS This is not the local drug and alcohol treatment centre for which I volunteer.  I volunteer at a splendid organisation called Focus12 in Bury St Edmunds and if you would like to make inquiries to them you can do so at  I am not paid to promote either organisation!

The only word I can summon is – urgh …..

Honest to god, sometimes I despair I really do ……






Urgh 🙁 This was in The Torygraph in July:

Drain on the economy of obese people, drug addicts and alcoholics will be calculated under plans to be announced by David Cameron

I will only share these two small piece of the actual article and will leave it to you to click on the link and read it in full:

Under a major review of the sickness benefit system to be conducted by Prof Dame Carol Black, the chair of the Nuffield Trust, drink and drug addicts could be denied benefits if they refuse medical treatment.  What the treatment that is being cut drastically now that local govts can decide how their monies are spent and drug and alcohol treatment are no longer ringfenced?

Oh and this bit Mr Cameron:

“Our One Nation approach is about giving everyone the opportunity to improve their lives and for some that means dealing with those underlying health issues first and foremost.”  Would help if alcohol was considered a health issue by your Govt rather than a law and order issue.  Plus what about the underlying mental health issues too?

What I will share are these comments which summarises my position:

On the one hand the government take a more relaxed view to the availability of alcohol (extended licencing, cheap alcoholic drinks, ability for it to be sold everywhere etc) but then penalise those who are alcoholics.

On the one hand they take a relaxed view on recreational drugs and do not do enough to penalise criminals who smuggle and sell drugs in the UK yet we penalise drug addicts.

On the one hand the government does not stop drugs companies influencing the NHS and doctors in automatically prescribing Metformin to most T2 diabetics without looking to other preventative measures (eg diet controlled) and yet we chastise them for being a drain on the NHS.

On the one hand we as a society appreciate and have sympathy for physical disabilities but have no patience or understanding of mental illnesses – which is often behind the three areas above.

But we all know who will suffer.

And this one too:

It’s about time the government started leading by example.

Therefore they should be tested for drugs and alcohol abuse (based on government guidelines) and if they fail the test they should be stigmatised and humiliated in various small but significant ways and forced to plead for 80% of the money required for a basic existence, until they sort themselves out – with assistance from the NHS after a long wait. The same should apply if they are judged to be officially overweight according to the government guidelines.

Come on politicians, put your money where your mouth is and subject yourself to the same kind of interference, humiliation and monitoring which we all face in order to receive about 80% of the amount that we need to live on if we ‘fall through the cracks’ and develop a problem.

The 80% part is particularly important, because that’s how the system works for us. Any spare bedrooms, you must downsize or suffer punishment. By being kept at 80% this means you have to spend much of your food, energy, clothing and basic survival money on rent which then provides a nice sprinkling of debt, humiliation, stress, bailiff visits, council harassment, summonses, CCJs etc.

If it’s good for the goose it’s damn well good for the gander in WasteMonster as well. For the record, I am not overweight and I don’t drink or take drugs, so that is not the reason for my comment.

What are we becoming when those who need help are being punished further?

And finally some sense from with the chambers of Govt from Dr Sarah Wollaston who chairs the Health Select Comittee:

Plan to coerce addicts and obese people into treatment ‘probably illegal’ says Tory health chair

Sarah Woolaston, chair of the Health Select Committee said plans to deny benefits to people who refused treatment were “highly misguided”

A plan to deny addicts and obese people benefits if they refuse treatment are ‘probably illegal’ according to the Tory chair of the Health Select Committee.

A review into whether whether people suffering long-term, but treatable conditions should be deprived of benefits if they don’t accept government help was launched today.

The inquiry, to be completed by the end of the year by Dame Carol Black, was promised by David Cameron before the election, and was initially only intended to include the obese.

Now the review has been extended to include people with alcohol and drug dependency.

But Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, a former GP who now chairs the Commons health committee, said:

“It’s a fundamental principle of medical consent that it should be fully informed and freely given.

“This is a form of coercion and I thinks that ethically unacceptable.

“It would be very difficult for a doctor to take part in treating a patient without valid consent. This would invalidate their consent.

“Any doctor taking part in this programme with someone not there voluntary would be in breach of some very fundamental principles of consent. It would probably be illegal.

“And also it would not be effective. Coerced treatments tend not to work. And it would take up places on these very important treatment programmes from people who do want to be there.

“So I think this particular issue about coercion should be utterly rejected.



Friday Sober Jukebox – Crossroads

So I feel like I stand at a crossroads – hence why the awesome Eric Clapton rendition of the tune Crossroads is dropping into the sober jukebox tonight.

crossroadsIt’s 4 days following my 2 year soberversary and I feel like things are shifting.  This post will probably end up being a stream of consciousness so bear with me!

In my first year of getting sober I was working as a school nurse and in the very early days of living life on life’s terms without booze.  I started my blog and became fully immersed in the sober blogosphere as much as my work and family commitments would allow!  As I entered my second year I gave up that job and ended up working pretty much full time on the blog and setting up my additional support services around helping others reduce or stop drinking (the ebook, the online Udemy course and the collaborative How to Quit workshop with Club Soda).  They are all now established and I am very proud of these – my creations and gifts of sobriety.  That full year of focus also allowed me to be present in many of the sober online communities and support others by commenting on their blogs as well as continuing to create content for my own on a daily basis, alongside supporting my family and run a home 🙂

I am now entering the third year and as the last 7 weeks have shown me life is beginning to re-exert itself what with moving house and a new job.  I have not been as present in those communities or supporting others in their blogs and I feel guilt about this.  How can I expect others to come and read and comment on my blog if I don’t have the time to offer the same courtesy?  It’s supposed to be a mutual support network and hence the crossroads …….

So this is where I’m at:  I’ve secured nursing work on all the days I wanted between now and the end of January.  I was not expecting this to happen and they would have me there full time if I said yes.  However, I want to continue to volunteer one day a week at the local drug and alcohol treatment centre and I have one day a week now committed to continuing my post grad studies at the University of Cambridge.  What with two days a week nursing that leaves but one day to work on HOF Life.  Is that enough?

I’m back to the age old feeling of this not being ‘good enough’ and therefore ‘I am not good enough’.  I don’t want to turn away paid nursing work in the current economic climate and like the idea of portfolio working as the variety helps maintain my interest and I’m still here working on my sobriety via the blog and volunteering – just not as much.  I would like to continue to write content as so much news and research is coming through on a daily basis that I want to cover.  I want to continue all that I have created but I fear that I’m going to run out of time or that my family life is going to suffer.  My black and white/all or nothing thinking is telling me that this is not possible and that I need to make a choice.  It feels a bit Hobson’s choice to be honest.

I appreciate that I am bleating about a very first world problem and I should probably just get over myself but I don’t want to let others down here.  I also realise I am future tripping because I have no way of knowing how things will work until I get there but those old catastrophising tendencies haven’t yet been fully rewired 😉  I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts 🙂

How a parent’s drug addiction can affect a child

In the wake of the death of Bobbi Kristina Brown, Whitney Houston’s daughter in July was this piece in The Telegraph which raises an important point about addiction.


It was widely known that Houston struggled with drug addiction. She’d spoken out about it in the past, telling Oprah Winfrey that she used to take drugs with her ex-husband Bobby Brown, such as marijuana and crack cocaine.

Back in 2009, she told Winfrey how she’d grappled with drug problems for most of her career: “I had so much money and so much access to what I wanted. I didn’t think about the singing part anymore. I was looking for my young womanhood.”

It must have been incredibly difficult for her as a young woman battling the disease of drug addiction in the public eye, but at the same time, it would have had a huge impact on her daughter Bobbi Kristina.

It’s unknown whether Brown had addictions of her own or if they contributed to her death in anyway, but it’s undeniable that it would been incredibly difficult for her to lose her mum to an addiction, at the age of 19.

Her situation is strikingly similar to that of Peaches Geldof, whose mother Paula Yates died of an accidental overdose in 2000 at the age of 41. She was home alone with her youngest daughter, Tiger Lily, who was aged just four.

At the time her second eldest daughter Peaches was 11-years-old.

Fourteen years later, Peaches sadly died in similar circumstances: in her own home, with her youngest son Phaedra in the house. An inquest found that heroin played “a role” in the 25-year-old’s untimely passing.

Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, CEO of charity DrugFAM, explains that children who lose their parents to addictions are often dealing with very different circumstances to those dealing with other types of bereavement:

It’s a double bereavement process

“When you have someone in the family who has an addiction that’s a bereavement in itself. You lose the mother or father they were. Then there’s the dreadful double whammy with death. It’s what’s called the second bereavement.”

This means that people who lose their parents to addictions go through a double grief process, and when their parent dies, they may have a lot of conflicting feelings.

Dr Christine Valentine, a research associate in sociology at Bath University who has written extensively on bereavement and substance abuse, says: “One of the difficulties is to do with having lived with somebody who has been taking drugs, as often it happens for a few years so by the time the person dies family members particularly children are very worn down. It obviously makes it even harder and more stressful.”

But what adds to these feelings is a sense of stigma.

“They’ve suffered bereavement but because of the stigma attached to this kind of death, somehow the family gets tainted. People think, they must have been complicit and they should have prevented it. Sometimes it’s even within families. The person can then feel they don’t have the right to grieve or be supported.”

In some cases, family members actually forbid a child from telling their friends how their parent died, or the child may impose those rules themselves.

‘It was like a dirty secret’

*Sally lost her mum to alcohol addiction when she was in her thirties and her mum was just 63. She tells me that she refused to tell anyone how her mum died, and only now is starting to tell people the truth.

“It was like a dirty secret really. I didn’t want them to think badly of her. It was just a continuation of how when I was younger, I didn’t invite friends round because I wasn’t sure what state she would be in.”

Now Sally volunteers for charity COAP (Children of Addicted Parents and People), which helps children whose parents have addictions, and wishes she’d had that sort of support when she was struggling with her mum.

“It would have helped being able to speak to someone going through the same thing. I could have realised it wasn’t our fault [as her children], and we’d tried as hard as we could with her. But as it was, we all kept it to ourselves.”

Talk about it

That is one of the biggest problems that people face when their loved ones die of addictions. Burton-Phillips, whose charity now runs workshops for young people in this situation, says: “What we’re trying to do is give them a voice and hear what they have to say in our workshops.

“Many young people are locked into the silence of grief and the embarrassment of talking about it to other people. Often it needs to be freed up so they can move on with their grief.

“It’s much easier to say ‘my mum had breast cancer’ and ‘my dad died of a tumour’, but I think more than anything they need the opportunity just to talk about the mother or father that was the person and not the addict. The good times but also to process the difficult times.”

Another issue can be guilt. Dr Valentine says that in these situations, young people can often feel they’re partly to blame for their parent’s death, as they view it all as self-inflicted:

“It’s coping with the sense of guilt, and this sense that the death could have been prevented, especially as they’re often young deaths. But it’s a normal reaction that everybody feels and that’s something to try and tackle because they’re by no means to blame at all.”

Tear down the stigma

What’s worse is that post-bereavement, families are often so focused on the person who died that they may not give enough attention or support to the children. In that situation, the child may bottle all their feelings in – or even go on to repeat their parent’s mistakes.

Sally says that her elder brother followed a pattern of their mother’s addiction – though he has now been sober for 10 years – and that she almost fell into the same problem.

“I would sit at home with my two sons drinking a bottle at night and then think, ‘what am I doing? Is this genetic? I need to sort myself out.’ Now I don’t drink as much as I used and it all just makes me think a lot more about alcohol myself. I understand the dangers a lot more.”

Of course, losing a parent to an addiction doesn’t always result in situations like this. It can cause feelings of isolation, sleep problems, and other health problems such as anxiety and panic attacks.

But what really matters is that in all situations, children are given the help they deserve, and that no one is left to struggle with a parent’s death alone.

As Burton-Phillips says: “Reach out. Get help. Seek support. Don’t bottle it up because it’s so important to talk about it. Tear down the stigma and walls of silence. It’s really such an important thing to do because the longer you hold it in, the more difficult it is in the long-term to actually cope with it.”

If you have been affected by any issues in this article, contact COAP or get in touch with Childline on 0800 1111

One of the strongest motivators for me to quit drinking, and in doing so help stop the inter-generational transmission of the issue, was my kids.  I did not want them to grow up as the children of an addict and risk losing me, or their father, early to the substance I had effectively prioritised over them.


Children as young as 10 are being caught binge drinking

This was covered by ITV’s Good Morning Britain in July.

Image from Daily Mail news story in 2010 showing amount that some 15 year olds drank

According to Department of Health statistics, one in five young people between 11 and 15 drinks more than 600 units a year (Daily Mail, 2010)

A leading charity is warning parents to look out for the signs of youth drinking as those abusing alcohol are becoming younger and drinking more. Although statistics suggest fewer young people are experimenting with drink – those that do are starting at an earlier age and drinking more heavily – risking their health and safety.

Police are warning parents of the damage alcohol can do to child’s body after it’s emerged children as young as 10 are being caught binge drinking. Figures show British children are more likely to have binge drunk or been drunk compared to children in most other European countries.

The UK continues to rank among countries with the highest levels of alcohol consumption by those who do drink. Figures released show that the North East has a higher proportion of young drinkers than anywhere else in the country and also has the highest rate of young people admitted to hospital with alcohol-related conditions over the past five years.

In 2014, 38 percent of 11 to 15 year olds had tried alcohol at least once.

GMB speaks to Nicola, who was 13 when she started drinking – click link to watch interview

“There was just nothing else to do”  – Nicola on why she started drinking aged 13.

So although we know that the numbers of young drinking are declining it would seem that those that are drinking are drinking more.  This is a worrying trend and children drinking from the age of 10 is a horrifying thought as physically their livers are not designed to process such toxins and developmentally they are at increased risk too.

Edited to add: 27/10/15

How adverts fuel underage drinking: Teenagers are FIVE times more likely to buy alcohol after seeing it promoted on TV

Learning by example

learning by example




This research was shared in July and felt worthy of discussion here.  When an addiction psychiatrist modelled good alcohol assessment practice while accompanying doctors once a week during general medical ward rounds, the result was steeply increased rates of correct diagnosis and referral to treatment, offering an alternative to possibly unwelcome training or direction of clinical staff.

Learning by example transforms doctors’ recognition of problem drinking

In general hospitals alcohol abuse and dependence commonly remain undetected and untreated. Though recommended, specialty training and routine screening are rarely implemented. This study from Germany investigated an alternative approach which involved neither direct training nor recommending doctors change their practice. Instead it investigated whether correct identification and referral to treatment of inpatients on a general medical ward would be improved by a consultation–liaison psychiatry initiative which involved ward physicians being accompanied on their rounds by an addiction psychiatrist.

Despite a major focus on substance use disorders, in Germany psychiatric specialists see only a minority of patients, especially if they only come when asked to by ward physicians. In contrast, consultation–liaison services influence patient care through direct clinical contact with patients (consultation) but more importantly, by encouraging changes in the behaviour of other physicians through an educational relationship (liaison) which affects how they diagnose and treat patients, even when the psychiatrist is not there.

The authors’ conclusions

These tentative results from a pilot study provide support for the feasibility and effectiveness of a conjoint consultation–liaison model to improve physicians’ rates of detection and intervention in alcohol use disorders. Benchmarked against a standard diagnostic system, hospital physicians’ detection and referral rates improved significantly and increased more than twofold during implementation of the service. The service was well accepted by patients and physicians, and the additional workload was manageable. Implemented at regular intervals, such a service may represent an important step toward improving health care beyond the case-focused approach typical of interactions between psychiatrists and non-psychiatric physicians. However, the service was trialled on just one ward and results may not generalise to other settings.

Diehl, Alexander et al. (2015) Consultation–Liaison Psychiatry in General Hospitals: Improvement in Physicians’ Detection Rates of Alcohol Use Disorders. Psychosomatics , Volume 50 , Issue 6 , 599 – 604

This seemed like a useful pilot study and it would be interesting to see further research of this kind here in the UK to see if we could improve detection and diagnosis rates.   It also underscores the power of role-modelling behaviours whether we’re talking about parent to child, non-drinker to drinker, doctor to patient or doctor to doctor.

Before and After Selfie at 2 years

I wrote a post before entitled Before and After Selfie and opened it with this sentence: ‘I wish I had had the foresight to do this when I stopped.’

Sorting through things to move recently I came across three photos which means I inadvertently did have the foresight it would seem 🙂  Amazing what you unearth when you aren’t looking for it!

So here they are – 4 photos of me:

  1. Taken on 9th June 2013 at 4.32 in the afternoon – a Sunday, 15 weeks to the day before I quit.  Probably had a cracking hangover and was waiting for wine o’clock so I could do it all again.  I don’t look happy, pretty dead behind the eyes, my face is puffy and I have a give-away red drinkers nose!!
  2. Taken on 30th October 2013.  Around 5 weeks after I stopped.  Eyes are already brighter, puffiness is pretty much gone and nose is less Rudolph like 😉
  3. Taken on 6th August 2014.  6 weeks away from 1 year sober.  All facial puffiness is gone, nose looking normal.  Have also lost 12lbs by then.
  4. And Sunday, 20th September 2015.  2 years sober tomorrow and looking more comfortable in my skin 🙂

I certainly look happier don’t I?  Like the longer without booze the bigger my smile/grin gets 🙂  And you can see how my hair has grown in that time too – maybe it’s a Samson thing going on? I got stronger as my hair grew longer! LOL 😀

It’s taken me 2 years to feel comfortable with the idea of sharing my photo on my blog.  I hate having my photo taken and would  have been useless today in the era of selfies!  I think I was afraid of family or friends finding the blog and then through photos linking it with me.  I was still ashamed of my drinking even though I hadn’t done anything under it’s influence for 2 years.  I still felt ashamed for being in recovery.

But not anymore.  It is part of me now – and so I embrace it like I do the fact that I have blonde hair and blue eyes.  I don’t hide it away in some dark corner like so many of my emotions that I tried to suppress in the past.  That’s what took me to this place in the first place and kept me trapped for so long!  No more secrecy.  No more shame.  No more hiding.  As Brene says shame feeds on secrecy, silence and judgement (of self or of others).  No more.  And I’m doing the next right thing for me, which links perfectly with this parting gift today.

This short video comes courtesy of Glennon Doyle Melton over at Momastery and it’s about rock bottom.  That picture of me taken before I stopped drinking maybe doesn’t look like a rock bottom but it sure felt like it to me and I feel much happier like this 🙂

Me all smiley happy people :)