As Alcohol Awareness Week is underway (13–19th November), reports show that substance-related deaths have hit a record high and government-funded interventions to support addicts have fallen dramatically.
New Public Health England figures reveal that one in 10 addicts who had been receiving help are no longer getting this support. The total number of interventions received by clients for addiction across community services (such as inpatient detoxification, residential rehab and primary care) has fallen from 308,118 to 278,489 in 2016–17, according to The Independent. This is a fall of 10% in 3 years. Meanwhile, hospitals are seeing more than one million admissions relating to alcohol each year. Public Health England figures from last year reported that alcohol is now the “leading risk factor for ill-health, early mortality and disability” among 15 to 49-year-olds. As well as increases is alcohol-related illnesses and injuries, the antisocial effects of drinking are causing concern across the UK.
In an attempt to tackle drinking in the street, two supermarkets are using breathalysers on customers they suspect are drunk before allowing them to buy alcohol. The breath test equipment is being used as part of a police crackdown on antisocial behaviour in Cardiff city centre. However, the new measure is not going down well with some customers of the SPAR stores; shop workers have complained they have received abuse.
The police crackdown on street drinking in Cardiff has been named Operation Purple Ash. It aims to deter street drinkers, which is linked to the supermarkets selling very cheap alcohol.
South Wales Police’s divisional commander for Cardiff, chief superintendent Belinda Davies, said “Complaints from visitors, residents and businesses around the number of people begging and undertaking alcohol-related antisocial behaviour within the city centre have increased in recent months. Such behaviour can prove intimidating, unpleasant and unwelcoming to those visiting or working in the area.”
Since Operation Purple Ash began, 40 alcoholic drinks have been confiscated and 18 people have been arrested for begging, being drunk and disorderly, failing to appear at court and breaching dispersal orders.
The hope is that more local initiatives to tackle antisocial behaviour will also help cut the number of alcohol-dependent individuals. However, the drop in Government-funded support comes after The Independent revealed earlier this year that councils across England have slashed budgets for drug and alcohol treatment by 15% in the last 4 years.
UK Addiction Treatment Centres (UKAT) said its services have seen admissions for private alcohol addiction hit record highs this year. Admissions are up 22% since 2014 suggesting a shift in how addicts are accessing treatment in order to get sober.
Nationwide alcohol-detection centres are another option that are seeing an increase in requests for point-of-care testing services to monitor drinking intake. Individuals can drop into these Walk in Centres to provide blood, oral fluid or hair strand samples for alcohol analysis. Trained sample collectors can take the samples, following strict chain of custody conditions where necessary, and arrange follow-up laboratory confirmation if further testing is needed.
These Walk in Centres have also just launched a novel method of real-time alcohol-detection, which is having a significant impact on changing behaviours in vulnerable and higher-risk alcohol-dependent adults. The SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® (SCRAM CAM®) alcohol-testing bracelet is worn on the ankle and tests for the presence of alcohol in perspiration every 30 minutes. Unlike hair strand analysis, which can build up a historic profile of excessive alcohol consumption over a period of up to 6 months, SCRAM CAM® is the first of its kind to detect the drinking of alcohol in real-time. As such, this detection technique is favoured by local authorities, courts and child-protection agencies.
“This is the most accurate and comprehensive method of measuring alcohol on the market”, said AlphaBiolabs Managing Director David Thomas. “A wealth of information is reported continuously in an easy-to-understand format.”
The results are automatically gathered and uploaded without the need for an individual’s participation. As such, the frequency and pattern of alcohol consumption can be easily shown. The data speak for themselves: on any given day, 99.4% of all participants are completely sober and compliant while being monitored with SCRAM CAM®.
“This helps enforce participant sobriety, compliance and accountability”, said David Thomas.
Known as sobriety tagging in the USA, continuous monitoring could be a game changer when it comes to tackling alcohol addiction.