What’s in your glass?
Nowadays having a drink or two when socialising with friends has become the ‘social norm’ in our society. When drinking exceeds the national guidelines that are in place to help reduce harm to our health, becomes a regular occurrence and in some cases, causes a person to feel a sense of dependency on alcohol, it’s seen as substance misuse. This can create serious impacts on our physical health as well as our mental health. It can also increase violence and crime rates in an area and puts serious pressure on the NHS in terms of emergency admissions to hospital and funding for treatment of alcohol-related conditions.
Developing and maintaining substance misuse support services is therefore vital in preventing severe health outcomes and in worst case, death. In Bracknell Forest the local substance misuse support service is run by the Drug and Alcohol Action team at New Hope building. This service is available for men and women aged 18 and above and provides support for those who feel that they have issues surrounding alcohol and drug consumption in order to resolve their problems and successfully recover.
Although the first step to recovery is accessing a support service, it is equally as important to complete treatment. Substance misuse is a slippery slope and ending treatment before it has been completed can result in relapse and more severe problems in the future. Here in Bracknell Forest, the rate for completing treatment successfully is the highest in Berkshire and is significantly better than the national average (1).
Without proper treatment or support the serious health problems that can develop as a result of long term substance abuse can sometimes be so serious that a person may land themselves in the emergency department at their local hospital. Emergency admissions to hospital for alcohol related problems are therefore a good indicator of the number of people drinking at high levels without this proper treatment or support. Bracknell Forest has a rate of emergency admissions related to alcohol that is significantly lower than the national average (2), with data published this month showing that admissions for alcohol liver disease in Bracknell Forest have fallen dramatically in the last year and are now both the lowest in Berkshire and significantly lower than the national average (3).
Initiatives to raise awareness around the dangers of excessive drinking are constantly being developed in order to prevent as many people as possible from needing to use specialist support services. In the Bracknell Forest Public Health team we’re always looking for new ways of reducing alcohol related harm. At the end of last year the local authorities across Berkshire worked with the national charity Drinkaware to develop the ‘What’s in Your Glass’ alcohol campaign. An innovative resource kit was designed to help people better estimate the units of alcohol and calories in their favourite drinks. It was distributed across Berkshire via community pharmacists. An evaluation of the campaign involved feedback from 300 users of the kit. This evaluation found that 63% had reduced their unit consumption, 58% were drinking lower strength drinks and 52% were drinking on fewer days of the week. Health professionals described the kit as an invaluable aid when giving advice on alcohol!
(1) Q1 2014-15 Diagnostic Outcomes Monitoring Executive Summary (DOMES)
(2) Hospital Episode Statistics, reported in PHE Local Alcohol Profiles (accessed 29 Sept 2014)
(3) Alcohol-related liver disease 2013/14. Health and Social Care Information Centre