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St Helens Reporter, Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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National Alcohol Awareness Week 19 to 23 November

Raising awareness about the health risks, social problems and stigmas around alcohol
HELPING HAND: Service users and staff At the Addaction Centre.

Let’s talk about drinking
I
T’S time to talk about drinking. That’s the theme of this year’s National Alcohol Awareness Week, which aims to get people talking about the health risks, social problems and stigmas around drinking. But local health experts want to go a stage further – and turn that talking into action. For leading consultants believe St Helens could be sitting on an alcohol time bomb – with the excesses of today becoming the epidemic of tomorrow. In this health special, we show how easy it is to get help now. Dr John McLindon, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Whiston Hospital has seen some alarming changes over the last few years. Over the past ten years the average age of death from liver disease had plummeted to just 59. The condition is now the fifth commonest cause of death in the UK – and the only major disease that’s still on the increase. The biggest contributor to the condition – around 60 per cent - is alcohol consumption. “At Whiston we’re seeing increasing numbers of people with alcohol-related harm,” said Dr McLindon. “As well as liver disease, alcohol is linked to high blood pressure, nerve and brain damage and a range of other serious problems. “But the real tragedy is that so much of this harm is preventable. People either don’t realise that drinking above the recommended limits increases the risk of harm to their health - or they’re unwilling to seek help or advice, potentially because of the stigma associated with alcohol problems.”

ADDACTION – FRIENDLY, CONFIDENTIAL ADVICE AND SUPPORT

Call 01744 610555
partner, or other family member.” A growing concern is the number of young women who are drinking heavily. While the side effects now may not be obvious, by their time many of them reach their 40s and 50s they could be looking at some serious health issues. But even older people are increasingly falling into the ‘at risk’ category. The availability of cheap drink in supermarkets can turn the occasional tipple into a nightly ritual – with potentially dangerous consequences.

There are three Addaction Centres in St Helens. All are staffed by experienced, qualified and understanding professionals who are not there to judge – but to help. Addaction are a leading UK specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity. People are at the heart of everything that they do, along with a belief that effective treatment needs to be tailored to each individual. Help and support is available to adults aged 19 and over in St Helens who need advice about their drinking. The support you receive is based on your needs - with you making decisions about your goals and priorities.

Gemma’s story

HELP OPTIONS INCLUDE:
Talking therapies and problem solving – what do you need to have in place for things to improve? n Group work or one to one sessions n Help to overcome the unpleasant effects that people sometimes experience when they try to control their drinking or drug use. n Help for parents who want to be in good health for their children n Help to access other support and treatment services in the community n Support from people who have been in your shoes and who have either met or are working to meet their own personal challenges n All you have to do is take the first step – by calling: 01744 610555

HELP IS AT HAND
In St Helens we have services that are modern, discreet, confidential and free and offer a whole range of support from advice about how to build a healthier lifestyle through to support for people with very intense needs. The message is simple - don’t wait until things get out of hand before seeking help. St Helens GP Dr Steve Cox, who’s also Chief Operating Officer of the local Clinical Commissioning Group in St Helens worked with John McLindon and other key stakeholders to set up an Alcohol Nursing scheme at Whiston Hospital. It’s the unit’s job to make sure people treated at the hospital for an alcohol-related condition are linked into support and longerterm care in the community. Dr Cox said: “There have been several positive developments in St Helens in relation to alcohol misuse. We now have alcohol nurses at the hospital and a new alcohol treatment service in the community run by Addaction.” If you feel you would benefit from advice - but are reluctant to seek support directly, discuss it with your GP. They will advise you on the options available. “And whatever you do, don’t worry about being judged! This is a common issue which affects us all, especially when times are hard and there’s a temptation to use alcohol to relieve stress. The reality is that it could make things a lot worse.

TWELVE months ago, Gemma completed her second detox for alcohol. She managed to stay alcohol-free for a few weeks but then her drinking took over again. Social services quickly became involved and her children were taken out of her care and placed in their father’s care. Gemma ended up in a psychiatric hospital for several days. But then she heard about the Addaction recovery centre and started attending in February this year. “I was a mess,” she said. “My whole life was a mess. So I attended the centre on a daily basis and this began to add some structure to my life. “I engaged in the various group therapies and began to work on myself. I have been sober now for four and a half months and my life has been completely turned around. “I now have joint custody of my children; I am now able to be the mum to them that they deserve. I have a new life now, I will be eternally grateful to the recovery centre for what it has done for my children and I.”

Dave’s story
DAVE’S story is all too typical. One morning he woke up in a Salvation Army hostel - hung over and still drunk from the night before. After a lifetime of middle class success, he’d failed to spot that he was simultaneously becoming increasingly dependant on alcohol. Over several years he lost his family, his house and just about everything else. After the hostel incident he realised he’d reached rock bottom – and sought help. He said: “My first contact with Addaction started that day - when I made an appointment with an alcohol worker. He took me along to the recovery centre, took me through the recovery process in a friendly, supportive way, and eventually introduced me to a group of other people committed to recovery. “Now I’ve been able to reclaim a life - from what I can only describe as a living death. I was encouraged to contribute to groups, gain qualifications and eventually share my own growth with others starting their recovery journey.”

SO WHO’S AT RISK?
Absolutely anyone - there’s no such thing as a stereotypical drinker. While males aged between 35 and 55 are one of the biggest causes of concern, alcohol-related illness affects men and women of all ages from every social group and income bracket. St Helens Council’s Director of Public Health Liz Gaulton said: “Our local services support parents, clubbers, professionals, older people, indeed anyone who needs support. They can come to us with their own problems or their concerns for their

CONCERN: Alan Crawford welcomes service users to one of the three local Addaction centres,