Welcome to SHAAP’s (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) weekly media monitoring service.

18 February 2016



View this email in your browser
This briefing aims to provide a ‘snap shot’ of latest news on alcohol and health policy. The inclusion of an article in the briefing should not imply that SHAAP approves or condones the content.

SHAAP provides a coordinated, coherent and authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol related harm on the health and wellbeing of the people in Scotland. SHAAP was set up by the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges, through their Scottish Intercollegiate Group (SIGA) and is governed by an Executive Committee made up of members of the Royal Colleges.

Drugs, alcohol fuel 21 per cent rise in paramedic call-outs

EMERGENCY crews have reported a 21 per cent rise in drug or alcohol-related call-outs across over the festive period.

Paramedics attended 343 incidents across the Capital between December 1 and January 4.


This compares with 282 over the same period in 2014-15.

The statistics, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, have sparked Tory claims that the SNP government is failing to get to grips with a growing crisis.

The warning comes as new National Records of Scotland data shows the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has risen to its highest level since records began, with 613 recorded in 2014.

There were also 1152 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland that year, as well as 35,059 alcohol-related hospital stays in 2014-15.

Scottish Conservative Lothians candidate Miles Briggs said: “These are worrying figures for Edinburgh and show that more needs to be done by the SNP government to address the deeply embedded drink and drugs problem we have in Scotland.

“Although Christmas and New Year is traditionally a time for people to be merry and enjoy themselves, nobody wants to end up in the back of ambulance. The rise in these incidents puts enormous pressure on hard-working ambulance staff and there must be a way of reducing the amount of casualties who end up in A&E because of addictive substances.”

East Lothian saw the number of incidents rise from 31 to 35 over the same period, while the figure fell slightly in Midlothian, from 61 to 55.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Christmas and New Year is always a particularly busy time, but mopping up the mess caused by excessive drinking is something that ambulance crews have to do day in, day out. Encouraging people to drink less is difficult when we are surrounded by cheap alcohol that is constantly promoted as an everyday product.”

However, Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said “a number of steps” had been taken to address the problem, including banning irresponsible promotions and increasing access to treatment.

She added: “Given the link between consumption and harm, and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, addressing price is an important element of any long-term strategy to tackle alcohol misuse and as such we remain committed to introducing minimum unit pricing.

“As part of the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget we have also announced an £11.4 million increase in funding next year for the Scottish Ambulance Service which will see around 300 extra paramedics recruited over the next five years.”

Source: Edinburgh Evening News, 18th February

Plan to allow drinking on streets of Aberdeen labelled 'crazy' by reformed alcoholic

A North Sea offshore worker who struggled with alcohol addiction for three decades has criticised a recent call for Aberdeen to look into allowing people to drink on the streets.

Last week, the Press and Journal revealed a city councillor had urged the authority to review a by-law which prevents people from drinking in public places.

Councillor David Cameron has put forward a motion to today’s finance committee, after previously asking full council to consider the proposal in December.

But Alister MacKinnon – who raises awareness of alcoholism within the offshore industry through the North Sea Garden Mission – has called the plans “crazy”.

He said: “For me, as a recovering alcoholic for the past 20 years, I think this is a step in the wrong direction.

“If they do ultimately relax the rules this is going to open the door to people walking down Union Street with a pint in their hands, and then what happens if there’s a fight?

“I did it myself. I’ve done a lot of damage to myself over the years – my kidneys, my liver – I just can’t imagine why you would encourage people to drink alcohol, it’s one of the biggest killers in the world.”

Mr Cameron has said the current policy needs to be reviewed following the success of the Christmas village, where the law was suspended for six weeks to allow revellers to booze at the Union Terrace garden site.

The SNP’s finance spokesman has said the Granite City should look to copy the European model where drinking in public drinking is commonplace, because attitudes towards booze have changed in the past decade.

Meanwhile, Mr MacKinnon is looking to spread his message among the younger members of the North Sea workforce by offering seminars and counselling sessions to those who may be having their own battle with alcohol.

He added: “All I want to do is try and help those who are struggling – I think Aberdeen might be able to survive without oil and gas, but I don’t know if it could survive without alcohol.”

For more information on the project visit

Source: The Press and Journal, 16th February

NHS Lanarkshire respond to rising number of deaths caused by alcohol

The number of deaths caused by alcohol is rising across Lanarkshire.

New figures show that drink claimed 181 lives in the county over the course of a year.

The latest figures are for 2014 and the number of deaths are up from 167 the previous year.

However, a health divide is evident across the county — as more people continue to die from drink in North Lanarkshire than in South Lanarkshire.

The 2014 statistics reveal that 99 people had a drink-related death in North Lanarkshire, with another 82 in South Lanarkshire.

NHS Lanarkshire’s clinical director for addictions Dr Adam Brodie said: “Alcohol dependency can be brought about by a number of factors such as stress or personal issues, however, two of the most prominent are deprivation and socioeconomic factors which partly explains the Lanarkshire figures, as well as the fact that South Lanarkshire has a relatively high population, in comparison with some other council areas.

“To help address the socioeconomic factors, the Lanarkshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership actively promotes support and services in areas where deprivation is higher and where the issue of alcohol dependency can be greater.”

The work of tackling drug and alcohol issues in Lanarkshire is undertaken by the Lanarkshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership (LADP) which is a multi-agency strategic planning group made up of partners including NHS Lanarkshire, North and South Lanarkshire Councils, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue, the Crown Prosecution Service and the voluntary sector.

Figures published last week show the number of people who died because of an alcohol related disease or illness in South Lanarkshire increased by 22 per cent, from 67 in 2013.

The most up to date statistics available, released by National Records of Scotland, show the figure has increased every year since 2010 except for one sharp dip in 2013.

There were on average 75 deaths per year in which alcohol was a contributing factor.

In South Lanarkshire, 72 people had an alcohol-related death in 2010, followed by 77 in 2011, 78 in 2012 , 67 in 2013 and 82 in 2014. That is an annual five-year average of 75 deaths.

In North Lanarkshire, 119 people had an alcohol-related death in 2010, followed by 108 in 2011, 97 in 2012, 100 in 2013 and 99 in 2014. That is an annual five-year average of 104 deaths.

The figures do not include all deaths which some might regard as related to alcohol – for example, they do not include deaths as a result of road accidents, falls, fires, suicide or violence involving people who had been drinking; or from some medical conditions which are considered partly attributable to alcohol, such as certain forms of cancer.

The definition includes only those causes of death which are regarded as being most directly due to alcohol consumption and for which figures can be obtained from the statistics of registered deaths, due to lack of consistent statistical information about, for example, accidental deaths which are directly due to alcohol.

Including appropriate proportions of deaths from causes such as road accidents and certain forms of cancer would produce considerably higher figures for alcohol-related deaths.

Source: Daily Record, 14th February

Lack of parental control key factor in heaviest underage drinking

Underage drinkers with the least amount of parental control and who are most secretive about their drinking, hit the bottle hardest.

That was the finding of a study into drinking habits during of 11 to 18-year-olds, which suggests that support for adolescent parenting might be more beneficial than alcohol awareness for parents.

A team of researchers from the University of Glasgow and Queen’s University Belfast analysed data from 4937 teenagers from the Belfast Youth Development Study, which had looked at adolescent substance use carried out between 2000 and 2011.

“The study demonstrates the association between parental monitoring and adolescent alcohol use,” said Dr Mark McCann, of the Medical Research Council/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, who led the research.

“Considering the developmental and social differences with age, there was surprisingly little evidence for differences in younger or older adolescents. There is a general shift in the importance of family and peers from childhood to adolescence, but our results suggest the role of parents in determining alcohol behaviour is consistently important,”

Dr McCann said the study suggested that the determining factor was not so much the quality of the relationship between parent and child, but the level of control exercised by parents.

“Why that should be is a bit of a puzzle,” he said “However, we are hypothesising that while emotional support and closeness are important for ensuring mental wellbeing, when it comes to health behaviours like alcohol use, parental rules may have more of an influence over factors outside the home such as peer influences and social media.

“Young people today begin drinking in a very different risk environment - in terms of alcohol pricing, marketing, and products sold - compared to previous decades.”

The new drinking alcohol guidelines issued by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers warn about the increased risk of several diseases, including cancer, and all families needed to be more aware of the long-term influences on physical and mental health, and not just the risk of alcohol dependence, Dr McCann said.

He added: “Given that adolescence is often a critical period for the beginning of alcohol use, and that alcohol harms are not confined to children from so-called ‘problem’ families, support for adolescent parenting – rather than alcohol awareness for parents – may be a more beneficial target for public policy aimed at young people’s health behaviour.”

The paper, entitled ‘Assessing elements of a family approach to reduce adolescent drinking frequency: parent-adolescent relationship, knowledge management, and keeping secrets’, is published in the journal Addiction.

Source: Fife Today, 13th February

Updated guidelines on alcohol welcomed by Fife service 

The manager of Fife Alcohol Support Service has welcomed the publication of updated guidelines on alcohol consumption by UK chief medical officers.

The new guidelines suggest recommended drinking limits should be cut and the UK’s chief medical officers say new research shows any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer.

The new advice says men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week - the equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine. While the guidelines say pregnant women should not drink at all.

And it also says that if people drink, it should be moderately over three or more days and that some days should be alcohol-free.

Jim Bett, service manager at Kirkcaldy-based Fife Alcohol Support Service (FASS), said: “I am very encouraged that following a two-year expert review of the scientific evidence, the UK Chief Medical Officers have published updated alcohol consumption guidelines.

“Their guidance makes it crystal clear to all concerned that there is no completely ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption, since cancer risk increases even at low levels of consumption.

“There is also no justification for recommending drinking on health grounds as previous evidence is likely to have over-estimated the protective effects of alcohol for the heart.”

Mr Bett’s comments were endorsed by John Hamilton, FASS chairman, who added: “To keep health risks to a low level, both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. “Drinking should be spread over three days or more, and having several alcohol-free days a week is a very good idea and is also a good way to cut down.”

Fife Alcohol Support Service (FASS) is one of the many alcohol and public groups now calling for consumers to be better informed through compulsory health warning labels on all alcoholic drinks and also calling for a public information campaign.

Mr Hamilton added: “At FASS, we can give significant help to anybody who is in the position of drinking too much or drinking too frequently and wants to take better charge of their lifestyle and either reduce or eliminate all the various problems created by alcohol from their lives.” For anyone wishing to contact FASS, the first stage is to call (01592) 206200.

FASS runs free and confidential counselling throughout Fife to assist anybody who has a problem with alcohol.

Source: Fife Today, 15th February

The alcohol-harm paradox - why are the poor at increased risk?

Following the publication of research in BMC Public Health regarding the harm of alcohol on those with low socioeconomic status, we asked co-author of the work, James Nicholls, to explain more about their findings.

At the start of January, the UK Chief Medical Officers announced new guidelines on low risk drinking. They recommend that, in order to reduce the lifetime risk of dying from an alcohol-related cause to less than 1%, men and women shouldn’t regularly consume more than 14 units of alcohol a week and should avoid drinking heavily on single occasions.

The announcement spurred debate about how health risks are calculated, communicated and interpreted: is a 1% mortality risk low or high, compared to other routine (or leisure) activities?

How should we balance short-term pleasure against potential long-term harm? Is the role of guidelines to inform consumers, to change behavior or to reset our measures of ‘risky’ drinking across the population?

These are all important questions. There is, however, a further question that matters in this context of detailed risk assessment: why is it that, despite drinking similar amounts on average, people in deprived communities are many more times likely to suffer alcohol-related disease and death than more affluent drinkers?

Why does alcohol cause more harm to the poor?

The figures are startling. In Scotland it is estimated that alcohol-related death rates in the most deprived communities are six times higher than in the most affluent. The skew is only slightly less pronounced in England and Wales, and is seen throughout the developed world.

While some drinkers (including, perhaps, the ‘worried well’) may now be wondering whether they should ponder cancer risks every time they pour a glass of wine, fewer people are asking why alcohol health harms fall so disproportionately on the poor, why risk appears to be heavily skewed by socioeconomic factors, and what the full implications of this really are.

A new study in BMC Public Health addresses this question. Its findings touch on the possibility that the skew is – in part at least – to do with the interaction of health-influencing behaviors.

Part of a larger study of the ‘alcohol harm paradox‘, funded by Alcohol Research UK, the paper analyses data from a national survey and finds some potentially important associations between drinking, diet, smoking, exercise and deprivation.

Among more deprived drinkers, alcohol consumption is more likely to be combined with smoking and poor diet, suggesting a multiplicative effect in which combinations of behaviors amplify the health risks associated with any one of those activities.

The research also identifies higher levels of current and past ‘binge drinking’ among some deprived drinkers, which is known to weaken the protective effects of low consumption on, for example, ischaemic heart disease.

What else do we need to know?

There remains, undoubtedly, much more work to do on this issue. We know, for instance, that surveys often suffer low response rates from very poor or marginalized individuals.

We also know that poverty impacts on a range of health outcomes that overlap with partially alcohol-attributable conditions such as hypertension. This paper is one contribution to untangling those complex interactions.

Hopefully, the more research we carry out the closer we will come to understanding the ‘harm paradox’. As alcohol-related harms rise up the policy agenda, we need to keep asking why those risks seem different if you’re poor.

Source: BioMed Central, 18th February


Alcohol consumption in North East: Top cops across region join forces to reduce boozing

All three of the North East Police and Crime Commissioners have joined forces to call for a Parliamentary debate on how to reduce alcohol consumption.

They were among 100 delegates from decision-making bodies attending a conference today in Durham about the issue.

Ron Hogg, PCC for County Durham and Darlington, said “There has been a 57% increase in alcohol-related deaths since 1994. As well as the tragic consequences for the families concerned, this means that resources are being used by the emergency services which could be better committed elsewhere.”

And Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, added: “It’s vital that we work together to reduce the cost to society of alcohol related harm by changing attitudes, deterring offenders and tackling irresponsible supply.

“Many residents are calling for a lower drink drive limit, which in Scotland has led to a 17% reduction in drink-drive offences. I give my full support to this and, along with my fellow PCCs in the region, will continue campaigning for its implementation.”

During the conference at the Durham Centre in Belmont, a report was published by alcohol reduction campaign group Balance which showed that 57% of adults in the region claimed to have suffered as a result of someone else’s drinking in the last year, with serious arguments being the most common problem.

Alcohol reduction campaign group Balance surveyed 1,300 people for its report The Second Hand Harm of Alcohol in the North East on how drinking by family, friends, colleagues and strangers impacted on their lives.

Among the key findings of the Balance report was that 23% of people had, in the last 12 months, had a serious argument which stopped short of violence as a result of someone else’s drinking and a further 23% of people said they had been verbally abused at work by someone who had been drinking.

Balance director Colin Shevills said: “There is an obvious awareness of the harm that alcohol can have on individuals but we also need to tackle the impact that drinking alcohol can have on others – the second hand harms. This is a real issue which we also need to address.”

Ms Baird, Mr Hogg and the PCC for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, are working with local MPs to secure a debate in Parliament, to review the licensing laws.

Mr Coppinger said “Our hardworking emergency services are all too aware of the long term effects of excessive drinking and the impact on their resources and our communities. This debate is long overdue and I firmly believe that our experts in the North East have a valid and relevant story to tell in helping to inform this debate.

“I believe that a minimum unit price for alcohol would serve to reduce consumption and improve community safety.”

Source: The Chronicle, 17th February

Another way alcohol damages the body; drinking promotes bad bacteria growth in the liver

Drinking too much alcohol has been shown to directly damage liver cells, but researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine say alcohol is our livers' number-one enemy for a second reason. Their new paper, published in Cell Host & Microbe, explains that frequent alcohol consumption allows bacteria in the gut to migrate to the liver, a process that increases the risk of developing alcohol-induced liver disease.

A previous study conducted by the researchers found chronic alcohol consumption to be associated with lower levels of REG3 lectins, a naturally occurring antimicrobial. Based on these results, senior author Dr. Bernd Schnabl and his team hypothesized that the absence of the REG3 gene (REG3G) permits the development of gut bacteria in the liver.

To test the theory, two groups of mice were fed alcohol for eight weeks; one group consisted of regular mice and one group lacked REG3G. Compared to the regular mice, REG3G-deficient mice were more susceptible to bacterial migration from the gut to the liver, and also developed more sever alcoholic liver disease.

The researchers were able to support their findings by studying small intestine samples from humans. Patients with alcohol dependency had samples showing lower levels of REG3G than those of healthy people. Alcohol-dependent samples also had increased bacteria growth.

"Alcohol appears to impair the body's ability to keep microbes in check," Schnabl said. "When those barriers break down, bacteria that don't normally colonize the liver end up there, and now we've found that this bacterial migration promotes alcohol liver disease. Strategies to restore the body's defenses might help us treat the disease."

The research team mimicked the restoration of our body’s natural antimicrobial capacity by copying REG3G in intestinal lining cells grown in the lab. They found that more REG3G reduced bacterial growth and protected mice from alcohol-induced liver disease.

Alcohol-induced liver disease is a condition that precedes end-stage cirrhosis, the 12th-leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately half of the deaths caused by cirrhosis are related to alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related deaths are at their highest rate seen over the past 35 years.

Source: Medical Daily, 11th February

McDonalds rule out serving alcohol at present

McDonalds has ruled out serving alcohol and an all-day breakfast at present but may explore it in the future.

Paul Pomroy, the UK boss of the fast food chain which has 15 branches across Notts, told a conference that UK diners were against the idea of alcohol being served, although it is available in Spain and France.

"Listening to our customers, they are telling us that at the moment they don't believe alcohol is a requirement of their visit to us," Mr Pomroy was reported as saying by the industry's website Big Hospitality.

"Because we trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week in over half of our restaurant, I don't think local authorities would be too accepting of us trading all-day with alcohol in store.

"It doesn't mean we won't explore that option in the future, but no plans as present."

Last month McDonalds announced it would be trialling a waiter service at some of its restaurants.

Burger King was the first UK fast food chain to be granted a drinks' licence in the UK, last November, for a branch in Bury St Edmunds, permitting it to serve one beer per adult but not after 9pm.

 Source: Nottingham Post, 15th February

Sweet tooth, alcoholism linked

Local authority areas including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Blackpool and Portsmouth had high proportions of claimants citing issues with alcohol.

More than 55,000 people claimed disability benefits for alcohol misuse in Britain last year.

A total of 2.3m people applied for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the UK in the three months up to May 2015.

The Mirror can reveal that 55,930 people put down alcohol misuse as their main disabling condition.

This means that 2.4% of all claimants in the country for ESA were saying they needed the money because excessive drinking had disabled them.

It does not necessarily mean these applicants were awarded anything, just that they applied for it because of being disabled only or primarily due to excessive boozing.

Areas that had particularly high proportions of people putting down alcohol misuse as the main factor include Glasgow, Edinburgh, Blackpool and Portsmouth.

If you claim for ESA you stand to receive up to £73.10 if you are 25 or older for 13 weeks after your claim.

However to qualify for ESA you usually need to satisfy a 'fit for work' assessment.

These have proven controversial since they were introduced.

GPs voted to scrap them in 2012.

The doctors send a note to the Department for Work and Pensions for a potential ESA claimant that is used to process their application.

In November 2014 an independent review led by a doctor found that people undergoing the Work Capability Assessment, as well as disability organisations that come into contact with it regularly, had 'an overwhelmingly negative perception' of how effective it was.

Source: Daily Mirror, 11th February 

Patrick Harvie launches new beer in his name

A GLASGOW MSP hoping to taste greater political success in May’s Holyrood election has launched his own beer.

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, unveiled the craft beer bearing his name at a bar in the city.

The politician who earlier in the week launched the party’s election campaign said he was pleased to be part of the growing success story of independent Scottish breweries.

Mr Harvie has been a Green MSP representing Glasgow since 2003 and he is hopeful of increasing the party’s number in May.

Green membership has increased more than fourfold since the independence referendum and he hopes that will lead to more people being persuaded of their policies.

He said: “Scotland's independent and craft beer scene is flourishing, and it's great to see more of the industry in the hands of small, responsible businesses which put quality ahead of volume sales.

"As we look forward to the Holyrood election with our hugely increased membership and some positive poll ratings, what else could we call our beer, but Harvie's Hoptimistic!''

Source: Evening Times, 13th February

Forward to Friend