Misplaced Alcohol Awareness

In March 2007 Sir Ian Gilmore of the Royal College of Physicians argued that theGovernment’s alcohol awareness campaigns focus too much on young binge drinkers.

He stressed that older people drinking at home were also at risk of the severe health consequences linked to high alcohol consumption.  More adults in the UK drink at home than in any other European country. Alcoholic liver disease has increased tenfold over the last three decades.

Today, I hear and see that normal drinking has become an everyday occurrence, measured always in glasses, often in bottles of wine. We never measure units at home, just how many refills we have. Two or three glasses are considered acceptable. Taking into account that most of us now drink out of 250ml glasses, three of them can easily represent a bottle. In a cohort study from the 1970s, drinking more than 9 units of alcohol a week was considered to be harmful. Nine units is not even 1 bottle of wine. So now perceived as normal or at least condoned, is very often 70 units a week for women.

The cost to health is being measured, but as Sir Ian pointed out, ignored by Government. The over 55s are now the biggest burden in terms of cost to the NHS in alcohol related illnesses. This of course does not take into account the human and emotional cost that has been wrought before these people become seriously ill. Figures of 3 to 4 billion spent are bandied around, as if that also is acceptable.

To reach 55 and over, and succumb to alcohol related illness, you have to have been caning it for some time. You have most probably been parenting and working. I have asked the question so many times and been pushed to one side, that is, where does the Government think the young binge drinkers have come from? Do they not think that their behaviour could be linked to the home? If I explain that now it is not unusual for 14 and 15 year old girls to go to a party with a bottle of wine, supplied by their parents, because if they think it’s safe, after all Mum is a role model to many. She is successful, managing the work and life balance with precision, juggling bills and sports days, whilst knocking back a couple of bottles of Pinot on Saturday and whilst trying to be a Yummy Savvy Mummy. No one will see the damage until she is older, and one of the 60 medical conditions to choose from related to alcohol is diagnosed. It seems so obvious to me that we should intervene, in a completely non preachy way, if only to give women like this, options.

We all know that stats are under estimated, none more so than those collected on alcohol misuse, as a once practiced member of the Denial Club, I cannot count the number of times I defended my position, with as much skill as a downhill racer.

Yet the Gold Standard of 12 steps is still adhered to, even though, clearly alcohol misuse and its consequences are on the rise. Surely it is time for change? Crucially, I believe, gender specific care. Or I am I talking too much common sense, with far too simpler a view. Looking at my stats, that don’t lie, I think tailored care has to be the way forward, and alcohol awareness be focused on the pivotal role of women and Mothers in society.

Author: Sarah Turner

Founder of the Harrogate Sanctuary.