Campaigners in Scotland have called for more ‘professional optimism’ to recognise that people with alcohol problems can recover, and to support them in that process.
In its latest report, SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) points out that the rate of alcohol-related deaths remains significantly higher than in England and Wales. It warns that the downward trend in deaths since the mid-2000s may now have levelled off.
The report includes interviews with people drinking excessively, those in recovery, family members and professionals working in this area.
Professionals responded that inequalities and Scotland’s ‘drinking culture’ play a major part in alcohol-related deaths.
Another important finding was that relationships and support were central to recovery.
‘Importantly, all people, at all levels in society, including though not limited to professionals, can play a powerful role in challenging stigma, showing care to help build hope, and demonstrating in daily actions the value of compassion and humanity,’ the report says.
‘Alcohol harms are complex, affecting individuals and people around them. This research brings to light the shame and stigma families feel about dealing with this issue, the variability of service provision, and in some cases a lack of compassion and understanding they face, both by “society” and professionals.’
SHAAP director Eric Carlin called for action to improve services and access to them, but also to prevent people developing alcohol problems in the first place.
‘The findings from this review underline the importance of continued support for policies to increase price, reduce availability and marketing in order to be effective in reducing overall population consumption and harms,' he said.
BMA Scottish council chair Lewis Morrison said it was essential that the Scottish Government continued to build on work to reduce the harms caused by alcohol misuse.
‘As doctors we see first-hand the damage that alcohol misuse does to patients and their families.
'Among other conditions it can directly lead to liver disease, damage mental health and significantly increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.
'At a time when NHS resources are stretched like never before, we simply cannot afford to continue the cycle that sees major pressures unnecessarily put upon the health service as a result of alcohol.’
Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick welcomed the report.
‘It is clear that we need to address Scotland’s drinking culture and tackle the clear inequalities in how alcohol affects our communities.
'Our alcohol strategy contains over 40 measures, including our world-leading minimum unit pricing policy.
'We are currently updating our alcohol and drugs strategies and will publish these shortly,' he said.
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