It’s Alcohol Awareness Week and Kent residents are being reminded of the dangers of drinking too much and where they can find support services.
Alcohol addiction can ruin lives and have lasting impact on families for generations. Drinking too much can have long term effects on you emotional and physical health. Luckily, the majority of the Kent population (79%) drink sensibly and in safe limits (scoring less than seven on AUDIT – an alcohol risk score) but approximately 254,000 people are drinking at higher risk levels.
There are an estimated 16,000 dependent drinkers in Kent in need of some treatment and support. Kent specialist treatment services can help those in serious risk of harm, and last year around 2,100 people were receiving help from specialist support services. A range of formal and informal support is available, such as AA and Smart Recovery (peer support) in Kent and Al-anon for friends, family and carers of alcoholics.
Many people simply are not aware of how much they are drinking. The KCC ‘Know Your Score’ interactive online test – www.kent.gov.uk/knowyourscore – can help give some initial guidance by asking users a series of simple questions to help them gauge how much alcohol they are consuming and the effects it could have on their health, in both the short and long-term. Depending on their score, appropriate key messages and vital advice about where to find help are then delivered by different experts and health professionals.
National survey data shows people with more money and who over 50 are more likely to drink to excess. Also local data shows that people living in economically deprived areas are more likely to suffer from alcohol related harm and die earlier of alcohol related conditions. KCC Director for Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “The main issue is that people still don’t realise how much alcohol they are drinking and the harm it is causing their health in the short and long term – even small amounts. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and also trigger an irregular heartbeat, both of which increase the risk of having a stroke. Heavy drinking increases the risk of having a stroke by more than three times. By drinking sensibly and to the recommended limits you will reduce your risk of having a stroke.
“We commission a range of services and work closely with agencies from across health, community and voluntary sectors to get people the help and treatment they need. We need the help of all employers, organisations and health services to spread the message about the recommended drinking levels so that people can get access to specialist support and treatment for those who need it. We also have lifestyle services in the community that can support people if they need further help to cut back. Services like One You Kent.”
KCC Public Health commissions specialist treatment providers to provide structured treatment for alcohol addiction. Forward Trust, the charity which runs the East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service, is holding informal coffee mornings as part of Alcohol Awareness Week where people can talk to a member of the team about any concerns they have about alcohol. Mike Trace, CEO of The Forward Trust, said: “Alcohol Awareness Week is a great opportunity for people to think about whether they or someone they love might be drinking at harmful or dependent levels and to start the process of doing something about it. In June this year, we launched a new Alcohol Pathway to better support people in East Kent who need help to address their drinking and we’re already seeing the positive impact of this new approach with our service users.
“We’re running informal coffee mornings in each of our East Kent Hubs throughout Alcohol Awareness Week for people who are worried about the amount of alcohol they drink. People can drop in without an appointment and talk in confidence to a member of our team about their concerns.”
The Department of Health recommended drinking levels are to not regularly exceed more than 14 units a week. One pint of strong beer or cider equals three units, as does a large glass (250ml) of wine. A small glass of wine (175ml) amounts to two units while a bottle of beer can mean 1.5 units but these can all vary depending on the alcoholic strength of the drink.
Claire Begent, Service Manager at the West Kent Drug and Alcohol Wellbeing Service, part of KCC-commissioned drug and alcohol charity ‘Change Grow Live’ (CGL): “‘For individuals who are dependent on alcohol or who are drinking to harmful levels, Change Grow Live offers a range of treatment services to support you to build a better future. If you are looking to change your drinking behaviour or are concerned about someone else, please do get in contact with us on 0844 225 0652 or visit the Change Grow Live website.”
Andrew Scott-Clark added: “We want more people to get the support they need at the right time. People who are affected by alcohol addiction do not have to suffer alone, we want them to get help. If people are drinking because they are depressed we urge them to see their GPs or contact Live Well Kent. For those who think they are drinking too much and might be hurting themselves or loved ones, or having trouble keeping their lives in control, we urge them to be aware of how much they are drinking because alcohol related harm is largely preventable.”
For more information on the treatment, support and recovery services available, go to www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/alcohol-and-drug-support or for help and advice about small changes you can make to improve your health and wellbeing, and find more support in your area regarding your lifestyle, see www.oneyoukent.org.uk
If you’re aged 40 to 74-years-old, you can also sign up for an NHS Health Check for advice on keeping yourself healthy and active. Your blood pressure, height and weight will be checked. You will be given a small finger prick test to check your blood cholesterol and you’ll also be asked some questions about your lifestyle and family history. The check will identify the risk of you developing heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes or dementia in the future. Find out more at www.oneyoukent.org.uk (search for Health Checks) or call 0300 123 1220 (option 4) to find a clinic near you.