White Lightening…

In the light of recent discussions regarding the possibility of Brighton Council setting up safe rooms for the injecting of drugs, a few thoughts from the day job regarding that ‘other’, more popular drug of choice…

So…here’s something I prepared earlier…..

There are a significant number of cases where ‘older drinkers’ are presenting to social services/health at a later stage in life with a range of issues who have come through the hostel/supported housing/substance misuse system where there has been some framework for ‘managing’ their drinking. My caseload since starting work with SCC has almost exclusively been drawn from this population, with many of them having been known to me for some years since I first began working in this field back in the mid 1980’s.

"Beer Street". William Hogarth (1751) (c) British Museum

“Beer Street”. William Hogarth (1751) (c) British Museum

Within this population are a number of individuals who are locked into drinking patterns where there is the potential for significant chaos if there is not a framework in place to assist them in managing their alcohol consumption. I have made the argument previously that what works best for this group is some kind of longer term accommodation which at least has some tacit acceptance that relapse might/will occur, and which has some agreed norms about ‘acceptable’ drinking. Small ‘core and cluster’ schemes for older drinkers with a warden, some communal facilities and peer defined drinking norms may well be useful.The analogy to this might be something akin to sheltered accommodation, but where the drinker is not the exception to the rule. (I can think of a number of recent examples where over 65’s with a long history of alcohol misuse have had tenancies in warden assisted schemes which have failed not just because of the level of alcohol consumption, but because they were ‘different’ to the bulk of the other residents).

At present there is an organisation that I work with which has three projects within Southampton that broadly utilise this approach. The service aims to support individuals to engage with appropriate treatment and reduce their alcohol intake through managed drinking and achieve improvement in their general health and wellbeing through better nutrition and access to other healthcare services.

Dignity and well-being…now there’s a novel idea…..

"Gin Lane" William Hogarth (1751). (c) British Museum

“Gin Lane” William Hogarth (1751). (c) British Museum

Meanwhile, perhaps the alcohol industry needs to look at itself more closely. Issues related to type and quantity of alcohol consumed need to be better addressed. A significant number of those with ‘problematic drinking behaviour’ are drinking white cider and/or strong lagers.

“It is questionable whether super-strength white cider and lager have a place in a civilised society. They are wrecking lives and killing people in increasing numbers. If they were removed, the current crop of drinkers who are dependent on them would struggle to find a ready replacement. Their bodies have been conditioned to need at least 7.5% abv. Street drinking “alcoholics‟ existed long before these drinks were designed, however they did not need such high strength, non-spirit drinks because they did not exist. If these drinks are allowed to remain on the shelves, then new generations of drinkers will be led down the same pathway”.

[Source: “White Cider and street drinkers. Recommendations to reduce harm” Alcohol Concern. 2011]

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