Drinking lessons begin at home

IN our final feature investigating the effect alcohol has on Suffolk society, we find out how local people are being urged to take responsibility for their drinking - even at home.

IN our final feature investigating the effect alcohol has on Suffolk society, we find out how local people are being urged to take responsibility for their drinking - even at home. And do we really drink more than people did years ago? TRACEY SPARLING reports.

IT'S been a long day at work, and as you walk through the front door the first thought on your mind is a drink.

A glass of wine, or a cold beer straight from the fridge is the first priority as you hang up your coat and head for the kitchen.

Even if it's only one glass, do you spare a second to ponder the effect your actions have on your children? That's what Suffolk services which help people with alcohol problems, wants parents to take on board to prevent issues arising in our future generation.

Simon Aalders from Suffolk's Drug Action team said: “We're trying to get the message out to parents about whether their behaviour is influencing their children.

“Some people come home from work to pour a whisky or wine, and what you are saying to your children is that alcohol helps with stress. Yet there are so many other ways of dealing with stress that don't involve taking a drug like alcohol. We're saying 'think about the behaviour you are modelling'. Surely if you want a drink after work it's better to have family time first.”

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Staff are giving out leaflets, and teaching parents of children through to teenagers, in schools across Suffolk. They are learning together about a range of different issues including alcohol.”

Simon added: “I do think the key to reducing the problem is education. Ultimately, young people have got to take responsibility for themselves to keep themselves safe. They need to understand the risks they run and the dangers they are placing themselves in if they drink too much.

“We want to give young people the skills to make a decision themselves, and deal with peer pressure, because peer pressure is such a big influence on them.

“We also send out a very clear message through the Nightsafe campaign, for friends to stick together, not to overdo it, and get home safely. If you're going to go out drinking you don't have to keep going, and know when to call it a day.”

So do people drink more than they used to?

Studies show that about one in four men, and about one in seven women drink more than the weekly recommended levels.

Simon agreed some people have always drunk a lot particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, but said young people are having more severe health problems from drinking.

He added: “Many people are not as aware as they used to be, about how much alcohol is in the drinks they consume. In something like an alcopop, the alcohol is masked by the sugary taste so attractive to the younger palette, whereas in the old days you went out to drink pints or wine which was easier to count the content. It can be difficult to recognise the alcohol today, and we are seeing a lot of heavy drinking and binging on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Cultures change and this is just another part of our culture changing. Britain has always had a culture of heavy drinking, probably for hundreds of years, and its always been part of life - it's just that it's going through phases.

“Ten years ago we wouldn't have thought kids would be binge drinking today, before that it was probably something else. It's always been something with young people, and in five years' time binge drinking may be old hat. One positive side is that the majority of people don't have a problem with drink and can drink responsibly and keep it in perspective.”

The Government's new alcohol strategy announced this week , also encourages drinkers to take responsibility for their boozing. Published four years after the first alcohol strategy, the paper has been compiled by the Home Office and the Department of Health.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are going to be looking at three broad-based groups. That includes underage drinkers, binge drinkers and slightly older stay-at-home drinkers who may not know what damage they are doing to themselves."

The link between promotions of alcohol by brewers and retailers is also expected to come under the spotlight. A recent survey by The Grocer magazine showed supermarket beer prices hit a new low as a result of heavy discounting, with Stella Artois on sale at one chain priced at just 11p per 100ml, or 62.48p a pint.

The British Medical Association has called for alcohol advertising to be banned because of rising levels of binge drinking. Other suggestions likely to form part of the document include increases to health warnings, changes to labelling and moves to tackle drink-related violence.

The British Retail Consortium director general Kevin Hawkins said: "Alcohol price cutting by supermarkets does not create problem drinking. Banning discounting, even if it was possible under competition law, would simply penalise the vast majority of customers who take it home to drink over a period or at family events.”

Suffolk's Drug Alcohol Team is part of a range of services which come together to implement a Suffolks Alcohol Strategy including Norcas, and the Mental Health Partnership Trust, plus Primary Care Trusts, and Ipswich Alcohol Strategy is led by Ipswich Borough Council.

Simon said: “What we're trying to do is make sure we understand and have an overview of what's happening, so that if we can get more resource together we'll be in the right place to get the best results.

“The issue we have with alcohol, is that there's no new money - it's all already in the system with PCTs. They do take the issue extremely seriously and recognise that alcohol abuse does have a significant effect on people's health, and so are putting resources in to deal with the consequences of that.”

Suffolk is also to get more nurses to help people with alcohol problems in future. Within the county's drug intervention programme, there will be two more alcohol workers in the next couple of months, helping people who have been convicted of alcohol offences and been ordered by the court to get treatment.


Have any of these services helped you overcome alcohol problems? Do you think more help is needed? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

numbers panel as in Star Value p21, template 13>

22per cent of 16 to 24-year-old women, at least one day a week.

42pc of 16 to 24-year-olds, at least one day a week.

35per cent of men.

20pc of women.

16pc of men over 65.

In total 31pc of men and 22pc of women drink heavily- more than eight units of alcohol a day on a least one day a week. Of those figures just 4pc of the men and 1pc of the women were over 65.

Source: Office of National Statistics, 2006

Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week.

Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week .

Pregnant women have recently been advised not to drink any alcohol.

18 units = Three pints of beer three times a week, or two bottles of wine.

1 unit: half a pint of beer, lager, cider. Small measure (25ml) spirits. Standard measure (50ml) sherry/port.

1.5units: small glass (125ml) wine. Standard measure (35ml) spirits.

"Coffee will sober me up"

Caffeine in coffee is a stimulant so you might feel more alert, but it does not make you sober.

"I'll be fine in the morning"

Alcohol is broken down by the liver. A healthy liver can get rid of about one unit of alcohol an hour. Sleep will not speed up the rate at which the liver works. Just because you have a night's sleep does not necessarily mean you will be sober in the morning. It depends on how much you drank the night before.

"Alcohol keeps me alert"

Alcohol can make you think that you are more alert, but it actually has a depressant effect which slows down your reflexes.

"Beer will make me less drunk than spirits"

Half a pint of beer contains the same amount of alcohol as a single measure of spirits.

"I'll be fine if I drink plenty of water before I go to bed"

This can reduce hangover symptoms by helping to prevent dehydration. But it wont make you any less drunk, or protect your liver or other organs from the damaging effect of alcohol.

"The recommended safe limits are too low"

They are based on good research which has identified the level above which problems start to arise. For example, if a man drinks five units each day (not greatly over the recommended limit) then, on average, he doubles his risk of developing liver disease, raised blood pressure, some cancers, and of having a violent death.