Alcohol: know the risks is the theme of this year’s UK Alcohol Awareness Week.
But it appears the risks are still not hitting home hard enough in the Journal and Gazette area.
The most recent data from the Scottish Health Survey 2012 to 2015, published in September, shows people in NHS Forth Valley and NHS Lothian recorded the worst drink statistics in Scotland.
So getting the message out about the new maximum weekly limits – 14 units for both men and women announced by the Chief Medical Officers’ earlier this year – is key for both drinkers and the NHS.
An NHS spokesman said: “A lot of people are drinking to harmful levels at home in the evening or over dinner.
“They are causing huge damage to their bodies.
“Scotland’s relationship with alcohol led to us having one of the fastest growing rates of liver disease in the world.
“We advise people not to exceed recommended government guidelines – the maximum weekly intake of alcohol is now 14 units for both men and women.
“It would be beneficial for everyone who consumes alcohol at home to use an alcohol unit measure to keep an eye on their intake.”
It certainly might help the statistics locally.
In Forth Valley, the Scottish Health Survey discovered that 29 per cent of people were drinking to a level deemed as harmful, while in NHS Lothian it was 30 per cent, compared to the Scottish average of 26.
And both NHS Forth Valley and NHS Lothian scored highest too in the average number of units consumed each week – 13.6 units compared to the national average of 12.7.
Luckily, support for those who have an alcohol problem is not in short supply either.
Forth Valley Alcohol and Drugs Partnership (ADP) is responsible for developing an area-wide strategy.
It is guided by two alcohol and drug partnerships – one of which is based in Falkirk.
Both Signpost Recovery and Addiction Support and Counselling (ASC) – two charities in Forth Valley – treat a greater proportion of people with alcohol issues.
A Signpost spokesman said: “We dealt with in excess of 2000 people last year.
“By a two to one ratio they were referred to us for alcohol problems.
“Alcohol is a bigger problem but treatment times are also far quicker.”
It’s a similar story for referracls to ASC. On average it receives 2000 referrals every year, 75 per cent of them for alcohol misuse.
So it is hoped that the Court of Session’s ruling in October – that minimum unit pricing presents a legal and effective measure for reducing alcohol harm – will help address Scotland’s horrendous alcohol record.
Dr Andrew Fraser, NHS Scotland’s director of public health science, said: “It is tragic that an average of 22 people in Scotland die each week because of alcohol.
“Minimum pricing targets the cheap, high-strength alcohol favoured by heavier drinkers. There is compelling evidence it will save lives and cut hospital admissions.”
Signpost Recovery has several Forth Valley drop in centres. Call 0845 673 1774 or visit signpostrecovery.org.uk. ASC also accepts self referrals. Call 01324 874969, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.
In the NHS Lothian area, Recovery Hubs are one-stop shops which offer a range of drug and alcohol services.
Each is run by a team made up of staff from the voluntary sector, NHS Lothian and social work.
People struggling with alcohol issues in South Queensferry can access the North Edinburgh Drug Advice Centre (NEDAC) at 10 Pennywell Court.
The service has a specific alcohol worker. Call 0131 332 2314 or email email@example.com for more details.
Breakaway Recovery Drop-Ins operate in West Lothian and are run by staff from the Addictions Care Partnership, West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service, the Social Work Addictions Team and the NHS Addictions Service.
People can attend any drop-in – no appointment is needed. One is held on a Tuesday from 2pm to 4pm in Linlithgow Health Centre.
A full directory of services in Lothian is available at www.nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk/HealthInformation/RecoveryInLothian or call 0131 537 6557.
Alcoholics Anonymous also holds weekly meetings in Bo’ness, Winchburgh and South Queensferry. Call its free helpline on 0800 9177 650 or visit www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.
Around four per cent of all cancers in the UK are directly attributable to alcohol – 12,800 cases every year – according to charity Alcohol Concern.
After smoking, alcohol is one of the most preventable causes of cancer. It can cause seven different types, including bowel and mouth cancers. Prolonged heavy alcohol use can also result in alcohol-related dementia. It has been shown that the brains of men who drank more than four units of alcohol a day over a ten year period age at a much higher rate than light drinkers. Heavy alcohol consumption is also known to increase the risk of developing some forms of diabetes – a risk particularly acute in women.
Studies have shown that alcohol may also reduce a man’s sperm count and even small amounts can reduce a woman’s chance of conceiving.
For those who jump behind the wheel while over the now lower limit in Scotland, the consequences are also dire. Police Scotland will launch its festive drink driving campaign on December 2 – it will run until January 2, 2017.
And the message is pretty clear this year.
Chief Superintendent Andy Edmonston, head of Police Scotland’s road policing unit, said: “If you choose to drink and drive, or drive while unfit due to drugs, there is a high likelihood you will be caught.
“Even if you’re just over the limit, you’re still a drink driver in the eyes of the law – there is no grey area.
“Our message is simple – the best approach is none.”
One in 35 drivers stopped during the Christmas and New Year period last year were over the legal limit.
An average of 579 drivers were stopped every day – three per cent were over the legal limit, compared to two per cent the previous year.