Glasgow project offers early help to change drinking habits

Drinker in pub The safe limit for drinking for men is equivalent to two pints of beer a day

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A service aimed at tackling problem drinking in its early stages has been officially opened in Glasgow.

It offers "brief interventions" to help people change their drinking behaviour before it causes health problems.

The service, Alcohol Behaviour Change (ABC), has been introduced by the addiction charity Addaction to take pressure off mainstream NHS services.

Addaction said Glasgow has the highest alcohol-related hospital admissions rate in Scotland.

GP's can refer patients to the service and they will then be contacted by phone or email and offered help.

Currently only one in 10 patients assessed by doctors as having alcohol-related problems is being treated for them.

John Goldie, head of addiction services for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), said the approach could help improve health and cut costs.

He added: "We've got vast treatment services within Glasgow which are very busy, and if we can reduce the contact with those services, that's best for us.

"We would like to see people having a healthy relationship with alcohol which means they don't have to be in contact with treatment services a number of years down the line."

£40m cost

In 2011 the cost of alcohol harm to health services in Glasgow was estimated at £40.17m.

  • 40% of accident and emergency attendances were alcohol-related;
  • 20-30% of patients who routinely present to GP surgeries are "hazardous/harmful" drinkers
  • 80% of people taken into police custody were under the influence of alcohol;
  • 80% of cases of violence between spouses were as a result of drinking;

The manager of the ABC project, Julie Breslin said the wider cost was also considerable.

"It's seen around employment incapacity issues where people are missing days at work, or coming into work with hang-overs and not being able to perform well," she said.

Safe daily alcohol limits

  • Men: 4 units (two pints of beer)
  • Women: 2-3 units (150ml glass of wine)

"There's a culture of almost acceptance of our alcohol levels being quite high. People drink to get drunk."

She said many people do not realise what are safe limits for drinking - and the service, which will offer up to six appointments, is aimed at many who believe their consumption is moderate.

Potential harm

It targets men who drink more than four units of alcohol a day, and women who regularly exceed three units daily.

For men that is the equivalent of two pints of normal strength beer a day; for women anything more than a daily large glass of wine should trigger alarm bells.

Opening the project, Public Health Minister Michael Matheson MSP said Scots consume more alcohol per head than in other nations in the UK - 25% more.

He said: "It is important that we provide a range of services that help to prevent the potential harm that can cause to someone's health later in life.

"This new service is a way we can enhance the way in which they are delivered within the Glasgow area to help to make sure that those who may be consuming alcohol which is either hazardous or harmful to their health can get the right sort of help and assistance to reduce the potential of causing damage to their health in future years."

Mr Matheson said if the service proves successful, the project could be rolled out across Scotland.

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