Monday, 16 November 2015

Alcohol Awareness Week: just who are those risky drinkers?

Posted by Dorothy Newbury -Birch, Professor of Alcohol and Public Health Research at Teesside University.

It's national alcohol awareness week and I've been asked to write a blog about it and as I sit and wonder what I would like people to be ‘aware’ of, one thing comes to mind. It’s the thing that I say in every lecture I give and hope that it’s the one thing that people take away with them: “Its not a them and us issue when it comes to alcohol-related harm”. What do I mean by this? Well we know that around 30% of people (any people) who go to the GP will screen positive for risky drinking (an alcohol use disorder). That’s 30% of folk you see walking down the street and in shops – that’s us – not those people over there. If we realise this then we become more aware of how risky drinking is affecting all of us. If I were to screen everybody who is reading this blog then around 30% of you would screen positive for risky drinking and about half of you would have no idea that you had an alcohol use disorder. You don’t believe me do you? Well here is an alcohol screening questionnaire – have a go...

If you score 5 or more than you would be classified as a risky drinker. So, I hear you ask, what is a unit? Well this is a massive problem as a lot of us don’t know what a unit (or standard drink) is. Did you realise that a bottle of wine has around 9 units? Did you realise that a man drinking more than 4 units and a women more than 3 units in one go is classified as a ‘binge drinker’? Did you know that the recommended drinking units are 3-4 per day for men and 2-3 per day for women, with two days free per week? All sounds rather complicated doesn't it?

So what can we do about it if we are drinking too much? Well you've done something already by realising it – remember I said a lot of us don’t realise. Small things make a massive difference. We can keep an eye on what we are drinking; we can think about having a soft drink in between a glass of something; don’t drink in rounds (it’s much easier to drink more when in a round) and remember you can leave some wine in that bottle for another night. 

Alcohol-related harm costs the UK around £21 billion a year. Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions including cancers, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and depression. Alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 35% in the nine years to 2011/12 when there were 1.2 million admissions related to alcohol. Alcohol is implicated in, or responsible for around 30% of visits to primary health care and around 70% of A&E attendances from midnight to 5am at weekends. These are well known statistics but who do they relate to? The Alcohol and Public Health Team at Teesside University is carrying out research to reduce the harm caused by risky drinking. This includes research with young people in the school setting (SIPS JR-HIGH) and the Accident and Emergency Setting (SIPS JR) and work in the criminal justice system.

If you want more information then have a look at the following websites: 
If you want to find out more about the research, myself and the team that are involved, you can follow TeamAlpha’s research on and @TeamAlphaTees

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1 comment:

  1. When people say to me i’d rather drink than take drugs I usually ask them – “Well what type of drugs are you talking about? Because it depends” And when certain friends and acquaintances reply “regardless it doesn’t matter” and I tell them I’d rather have a smoke addiction than an alcohol addiction – some seem stunned – even horrified.
    Now don’t get me wrong, having a crack cocaine or heroine addiction is obviously far more dangerous to ones self than alcohol. But from my experience from knowing very close people to me and seeing them go down the road of having to have that drink every night. Alcohol can be a deadly “drug” yes drug. I believe it becomes as much as an addiction as any other substance does. This is what people need to understand and then we come to the companies.
    From the relaxed care free methods in which alcohol is advertised and glorified – it is no wonder why we have certain problems with alcohol addiction in this country – from the subliminal messages portrayed to the average person by the advertising, advocating their brand is anything but dangerous. This is an outrage and needs to be stopped, just as they done with the smoking franchise advertisement.
    I have personally lived life with an alcoholic and the effects of alcohol are devastating – even in non-violent circumstances. I have also had a close friend crash and loose his life due to being over the limit on the road. So the point I am trying to get across is that our government need to put more of a vice on the alcohol conglomerate franchise and to seriously start educating – especially younger gernerations about alcohol as a potential life threatening addiction.
    We all need to take care and become more aware when it comes to alcohol, to properly know the effects and consequences. We are in an age where we have technology at our finger tips and extra safety precautions can be taken much more easily. Products such as this – – can make a huge difference from having a good night out and potentially having a dangerous life risking night out.
    Above all though, raise awareness and help someone if you feel you can. Remember we are all human and responsible and that should drive us to pave the way for a safer future. So if you see someone in trouble that is your duty and responsibility to try and do the right thing for them – may it be helping them or even just sitting down and having a talk.

    Thank you if you have read this far and have a good year friends,

    Daniel Alexandrou