Online help for residents who want to reduce how much alcohol they are drinking is now available in Kent from an easily accessible app.
Latest estimates show the majority of people (75%) drink sensibly and in safe limits but in Kent, approximately 288,433 people are drinking above the recommended safe limits – with 23 per cent at increasing or higher risk and two per cent are dependent on alcohol – and health experts are concerned that the lockdown restrictions mean more people are drinking at home and not aware of their alcohol intake levels.
The new app ‘Lower My Drinking’ is provided by Breaking Free Online and is available now on the Google and Apple stores, plus also at www.kent.gov.uk/lowermydrinking
It helps Kent residents to self-assess their drinking using a simple questionnaire which then either directs people to the app which can track their alcohol consumption and provides tips to help them cut down, or signposts those who require professional help to their local support services.
Kent County Council Public Health Consultant Jess Mookerjee said: “People often underestimate how much they are drinking and it’s very easy to go over the safe limits, especially at the moment when national restrictions mean we’re drinking at home and these can often be unmeasured amounts which quickly add up.
“The ‘Lower My Drinking’ app will support people who may be concerned that they are drinking more – this will help them to keep track and reduce levels if they feel it is having an effect on the short term health (both physically and mentally), work and relationships.”
There are a range of services available in Kent to help people to get the treatment they need including One You Kent Lifestyle services in the community that can support people if they need further help to cut back. Mark Cummings, One You Kent Locality Lead said: “A healthy lifestyle is a key factor for preventing illness. One You Lifestyle Advisers will spend time discussing any concerns you have including alcohol and the effects that drinking too much could be having on your health and wellbeing.”
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. It is also a risk factor for some cancers, particularly head and neck cancers and breast cancer. 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.
A range of formal and informal alcohol support services are available, such as AA and Smart Recovery and Al-anon for friends, family and carers of alcoholics. KCC also commissions specialist treatment providers to provide structured treatment for alcohol addiction. Forward Trust runs the East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service while Change Grow Live (CGL) provides the West Kent Drug and Alcohol Wellbeing Service.
CGL Director Gaby Price added: “High risk drinking has increased over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, so this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week is more important than ever. Change Grow Live would encourage anyone to make use of the Lower My Drinking app now available for free across Kent and to try Change Grow Live’s quick online alcohol advice quiz, which enables you to find out if you are drinking dependently and indicates what level of support might be right for you. Most importantly, if you are concerned about your or someone else’s drinking, Change Grow Live is here to help and to provide support and advice without judgement.”
Find out more about the Breaking Free apps plus a range of tools, tips and local support services that can help you at www.kent.gov.uk/lowermydrinking and www.oneyoukent.org.uk or call 0300 123 1220.
Jess Mookherjee 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
NOTE TO EDITORS:
*The Department of Health recommends drinking levels do 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.