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.
Daily Mail - May 12th
The world's first comprehensive report on global addictions has revealed Britons have one of the biggest problems with smoking and alcohol, while Australians take the most illegal drugs.
The report, from the University of Adelaide, is the first time that global data on the prevalence of alcohol and other drug use, and gambling, has been presented in a single compilation.
It found that 10.3 per cent of Australians smoke cannabis at least once in a 12-month period, compared to 5-7 per cent of people in the UK.
Around 3 per cent use ecstasy compared to 1.1 to 1.7 per cent of people in the UK.
And 2.1 per cent of Australians use amphetamine-type drugs at least once in a 12-month period, compared to 1.1 to 1.7 per cent of people in the UK, the researchers found.
Unsurprisingly, the report revealed that alcohol and tobacco are the most widely-used vices across the globe.
Approximately 84 per cent of Australians drink alcohol at least once in a 12-month period, compared to 83.9 per cent in the UK and 68.9 per cent in the US.
However, the UK leads the way with alcohol abuse problems.
The study found that 12.1 per cent of people in the UK are considered to have an alcohol use disorder, compared to 7.8 per cent in the US and 3.7 per cent of Australians.
Britons also smoke more, with 22 per cent admitting to the habit, compared with 20 per cent of Australians.
Researchers did not provide information on US rates of illegal drug taking and smoking.
The study's lead author, Linda Gowing, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide, said alcohol and tobacco cause the most deaths around the world every year.
She said: 'The report found alcohol and tobacco are the most common addictions in most countries and they are also the most harmful.
'Around 11 per cent of deaths in males and 6 per cent of deaths in females are linked to tobacco each year globally.
'Alcoholism is associated with a range of health issues and takes years off someone's life,' she says.
It is important that this data is used to reduce the impact of alcohol abuse and tobacco smoking, she added.
She said: 'This data is highly valuable and can be used to guide policy-makers and researchers in planning responses to addictions world-wide.
The research, published in the journal Addiction, also found that around 43 per cent of adults globally (approximately 2.1 billion people) drink alcohol.
Yet there is considerable regional variation, from 9.8 per cent in central, southern and western Asia to 88.2 per cent in western Europe.
Meanwhile approximately 22.5 per cent of adults globally smoke tobacco, equating to approximately 1 billion people.
The figures again vary geographically, but less so with alcohol.
While there is regional variation, the extent of this variation is less than is the case with alcohol.
The prevalence of tobacco smoking among adults ranges from an average of 13 per cent in Africa, the Caribbean, central and northern America to 29.5 per cent in Oceania.
Women were less likely to smoke than men, with just seven per cent lighting up compared to 32 per cent of men.
BBC - May 12th
Tougher measures are needed to tackle the high rates of alcohol consumption in the UK, international experts say.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development review of the 34 wealthiest countries found average annual consumption was 10.6 litres per person - equal to 115 bottles of wine.
That is above the OECD average of nine-point-five and represents a rise from under 10 in the early 1990s.
Researchers said the trend contrasted with falls in other nations.
The likes of Germany and Italy, they pointed out, had seen big falls in consumption.
By contrast the UK had seen a rise - in the early 1990s drinking rates in the UK were actually below the OECD average.
The findings prompted the OECD to suggest the UK should consider steps such as minimum pricing and tougher regulation to reduce consumption.
One trend highlighted by the report was the high rates of problem drinking among educated women.
Nearly one in five women from the highest educated groups drinks to hazardous levels compared with one in 10 among the least educated group.
OECD economist Mark Pearson said the trend was "pretty unique" to the UK and appeared to be related to the increasing employment opportunities women were getting in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as the finance industry.
The UK - although this part of the report was based on England-only data - also has one of the heaviest concentrations of drinking among its population.
The heaviest-drinking one-fifth of the population accounts for nearly two-thirds of all alcohol consumed.
There also appears to have been a rise in youth drinking. The proportion of 15-year-olds who had experience of alcohol rose from 71% to 75% from 2002 to 2010 - although there are signs that has started falling in recent years.
To tackle problem drinking, Mr Pearson said the UK "should consider" taking tougher steps.
This could include minimum pricing, which is already being considered by ministers, banning sports sponsorship and enforcing clear labelling as well as improving access to treatment.
Mr Pearson said such steps presented "opportunities" to reduce drinking rates - although there was always a balance between tackling harmful drinking and penalising those who drink within recommended levels.
But he added: "In terms of lost productivity, health spending, and accidents and ill health, drinking costs a lot of money so I think it does clearly make sense to us that this is the sort of area that any country that cares about its economic performance has to take seriously."
Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said he agreed, adding the research showed there was "no silver bullet" and a range of policies on "pricing, marketing and availability" were needed.
"For too long, drinking has been seen as a personal choice rather than a population-wide public health issue," he added.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Drinking too much too often can be devastating for health.
"We know we need to do more to prevent people getting into dangerous drinking habits."
She said local authorities had been given public health funding to help tackle problems like drinking.
ABC - May 12th
A product called "Palcohol" gained widespread attention recently after it was reported that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the powdered alcohol, including vodka and rum varieties.
But 13 days later, the "label approval" was withdrawn.
"TTB did approve labels for Palcohol," it said in a statement. "Those label approvals were issued in error and have since been surrendered."
Mark Phillips is the man behind the product. He says he created it because he wanted something light and easy to pack for hikers, bikers and campers.
"Carrying liquid alcohol and mixers and bottles to make a margarita for instance was totally impractical," he said.
It can turn a plain glass of water into vodka, rum, a cosmopolitan, margarita or lemon drop in just 30 seconds.
"It's a perfect beach drink," Portsmouth resident Cheyanne Minde said.
But what some may perceive as an innovative way to drink a cocktail on the go, others see as a danger to kids.
"It's gonna be a huge issue for them to regulate with the underage. Big problem," Brianne Howell said.
"I'm also thinking college and binge drinking. What if I put four packets into one water bottle? What is the alcohol concentration? Kids aren't gonna think about that," Mallory Warner said.
Palcohol isn't sitting well with some lawmakers who are working to ban the product, claiming it's easy to sneak into concerts, school events and onto the beach.
The product has already been banned in at least six states including Virginia.
Virginia Senator Linda "Toddy" Puller co-sponsored the bill to ban the product.
"I can just see it becoming something that was used in dates by people with un-heroic intentions," she said.
Some doctors fear teens will start snorting it to get drunk faster.
"If it's going through the nose, potentially the absorption can lead to a quicker intoxicating feeling and getting into the bloodstream, whereas if somebody ingests it lets say orally, is that it has to go through the gastrointestinal system," said Dr. Jonathan Lee, Associate Medical Director at The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place.
"Snorting it is very painful. It burns. It would take about one hour for someone to snort this much powder," Phillips said.
Regardless of Phillip's efforts to defend his product, many states are developing legislation to ban the sale of Palcohol. In Virginia, the penalty can be as much as 12 months in jail and a $2,500 dollar fine.
"Having been a college student, no matter what it is, I think people will find a way to get a hold of it, whether if it's legal or illegal, or find a way to sneak it in even if it's not allowed," Shanu Varghese said.
"Even if you ban a substance, even in the banned states with marijuana, they still find a way to get it," Joseph Johnson said.
Phillips says banning the product will only heighten demand and create a black market.
"Why would anyone want to enact prohibition like measures to take away our rights to enjoy this wonderful product, in a responsible and legal manner?" he said.
Dr. Lee points to statistics from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which estimates that approximately 855,000 adolescents ages 12-17 suffer from alcohol use disorders.
"Unfortunately if we do end up with a product such as powdered alcohol, that increases their risk for potentially experimenting with a substance like this," he said.
Many seem to agree, saying the idea may be cool, but the consequences outweigh the good.
"I think it's a slippery slope. There are so many implications for how it's gonna be distributed across younger people," Warner said.
"Way easy to smuggle. If they put it in a bottle of some other alcohol, then we've really got a problem," Minde said.
Medical Press - May 12th
Offenders enrolled in alcohol treatment programmes as part of their sentence are significantly less likely to be charged or reconvicted in the 12 months following their programme, a study led by Plymouth University has shown.
Researchers from the University's School of Psychology led a project, supported by the European Social Fund, which saw males with alcohol problems related to offending being assigned to a range of different treatments when convicted.
They then calculated the participants' charged and reconviction rates over the following year, with the results indicating that offenders who did not participate in such programmes were twice more likely to be charged and 2.5 times more likely to be reconvicted.
The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, also involved the former Devon and Cornwall Probation Service, the University of Exeter and the Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States.
In the paper, the authors – led by PhD student Marie Needham, Dr Michaela Gummerum and Dr Yaniv Hanoch from Plymouth University – also note that as well as the reduction in reoffending, such programmes could also have cost benefits, with the bill for placing one person in prison being up to 37 times higher than assigning that person to a community-based alcohol treatment programme. They say:
"Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been one of the most common methods to reduce alcohol use and the judicial systems in the United Kingdom and the United States have specifically identified CBT alcohol treatment programs as the chief method to break the link between alcohol and crime. Our findings provide novel and valuable evidence to support the practice of assigning male offenders to alcohol treatment interventions, as they show an indication that alcohol treatment programs could help reduce recidivism. Given the hundreds if not thousands of offenders who might be eligible to attend an alcohol treatment program each year, this could amount to substantial public savings. Beyond financial gains, committing fewer offences and staying out of prison have strong and continued benefits for the offenders, their families, and the community."
Alcohol misuse is associated with about 50 per cent of all violent crimes and 73 per cent of all domestic violence incidents in the United Kingdom and the United States, with nearly 1 million violent attacks every year in the United Kingdom alone.
It is estimated that alcohol-related crime has a price tag of £8 to 13 billion a year in the UK, and the link between alcohol and criminal behaviour has reached such proportions that the World Health Organization now considers it a public health issue.
This study involved 564 male offenders, with 141 of them each assigned by the courts to one of three alcohol treatment programmes: a Low Intensity Alcohol Program (LIAP), an Alcohol Specified Activity Requirement (ASAR), and Addressing Substance-Related Offending (ASRO). A fourth group of 141 was not assigned to a programme and served as a control group.
The results indicate a significant reduction in being charged with or reconvicted of a crime among those on the programmes, with the LIAP being deemed by researchers as the most successful in reducing reconviction rates and the most cost effective.
Ian Clewlow, Deputy Chief Executive of the Dorset Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company, said:
"In the delivery of probation services to offenders we always try to do things that are evidenced to work. We welcome the news from this Plymouth University research that offenders and service users who participate on alcohol programmes are less likely to reoffend and be convicted than those that do not and this is a testament to the hard work of staff to make these programmes a success in the community. The newly created Dorset Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company with responsibility for probation services, alongside the National Probation Service, is committed to maintaining this activity."
The Mirror - May 8th
Sure the Conservatives won the General Election, but they were beaten by a pro-cannabis party in a few choice constituencies.
Many Brits will have come across the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA) party for the first time when they looked at their ballot paper on Thursday. Others will still probably never have heard of this niche party.
But though they're small and - yes - focused on one single issue, they notched up a couple of triumphs in the 2015 General Election.
The Cannabis party beat the BNP
This party beat the British National Party in terms of votes, this year.
A few years back there were serious concerns that the BNP could win seats and thus change British politics forever.
Yet now the party is all but destroyed.
The Cannabis party is also more popular than Tories - in Northern Ireland
The Cannabis party had candidates in 33 constituencies - 19 in England, 4 in Northern Ireland, 8 in Scotland, and 1 in Wales.
The Cannabis party made their strongest showing in West Tyrone, with 528. There, they even beat the Conservatives, who got 169.
It's the same story in East Londonderry, where they beat the Tories with 527 votes against 422.
... And in Upper Bann, it was 460 to 201 to CISTA.
Looks like the Northern Irish are among the party's biggest fans.
And in the rest of the UK... Not so much
Back in England, it was also pretty popular in Esher and Walton - more popular than their independent candidate. But their 396 votes wasn't enough to stop the Tories from taking the seat.
The one candidate in Wales (Vale of Glamorgan) only got 238 and were far behind everyone else.
And in Scotland they were no way near anyone else, on 336 votes in Rutherglen & Hamilton West, while the Liberal Democrats managed to grab 1,045 votes.
The Independent - May 6th
Chinese authorities have ordered Muslim shopkeepers and restaurant owners in a village in its troubled Xinjiang region to sell alcohol and cigarettes, and promote them in “eye-catching displays,” in an attempt to undermine Islam’s hold on local residents, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. Establishments that failed to comply were threatened with closure and their owners with prosecution.
Bristol University Press Release - May 6th
The speed at which we drink alcohol could be influenced by the shape of the glass, and markings on the glass might help us drink more slowly, according to new research from the University of Bristol, presented today at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Liverpool.
PhD student David Troy and Dr Angela Attwood from Bristol’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group presented the study as part of a symposium on ‘Environmental influences on food and alcohol-related behaviour’.
David Troy said: “Excessive alcohol use is a major public health concern and there is a lot of interest in alcohol control strategies. It is important to determine what environmental factors are contributing to excessive use and how they can be altered to nudge drinkers towards more responsible consumption.”
Some 160 participants (80 female) were randomly split into two groups. The participants were social drinkers with no history of alcohol problems. One group were given beer in a curved glass that had markings showing measurements of a quarter, half and three quarters. The other group’s glasses were the same but had no marked volume measurements. When participants with abnormally slow drinking times were removed from analysis, there was evidence that the group with the marked glasses had slower drinking times (10.3 mins) compared to the non-marked group (9.1 mins).
In another study, David Troy and colleagues tested whether studying the effect of different shaped (straight and curved) pint and half-pint glasses on consumption could be carried out in a ‘real-world’ environment. Three public houses (part of the Dawkins Ales) group took part over two weekends. The results showed that such a study was possible in a real world environment and that the pubs using straight-sided glasses reported lower takings, indicating less consumption. This was consistent with previous laboratory findings that showed participants drinking slower from straight glasses.
David Troy said: “It was a great opportunity to have three pubs willing to take part in the feasibility study. We now know it is feasible to conduct this type of research in real world situations and this will have implications for future research. However, only a limited number of pubs took part over a short time scale, so the results are preliminary and need to be treated with caution.”
Dr Angela Attwood, senior researcher on the study, said: “The speed at which beer is drunk can have a direct effect on the level of intoxication experienced. This can also increase how much is consumed in a single drinking session. While many people drink alcohol responsibly, it is not difficult to have 'one too many' and become intoxicated.
“Our research suggests that small changes such as glass shape and volume markings can help individuals make more accurate judgements of the volume they are drinking and hopefully drinkers will use this information to drink at a slower pace.”
‘Shaping alcohol behaviour change: It’s in your hands’ by David M. Troy, Matthew Hickman, Angela S. Attwood and Marcus R. Munafò (oral presentation to the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, 2015)
Times of Israel - May 12th
PARIS (AFP) — Binge drinking is emerging as a major hazard for the young in some countries, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday in its first probe into alcohol abuse, which also found Israel to be among the lowest in alcohol consumption.
Over the past 20 years, alcohol consumption in OECD countries has declined by 2.5 percent on average, the 34-nation club of rich economies said.
But this figure masks important national changes and a worrying shift in some countries towards youth boozing and excessive drinking by women, it said.
In 2012, the average per-capita consumption in the OECD was 9.1 litres (16 pints) of pure alcohol per capita, it said.
Estonia, Austria and France had the highest consumption, with 12 liters or more per person per year.
Those countries below the OECD average included South Korea, the United States and Canada, while the lowest on the list were Israel and Turkey.
Within the broad overall decline, “many countries have experienced a significant increase in some risky drinking behaviours,” the report said.
It cited binge drinking among young people and alcohol abuse by women.
“These trends are worrying because some of the harms typically associated with heavy drinking in young age, such as traffic accidents and violence, often affect people other than drinkers themselves,” said the report.
“Heavy drinking at a young age is associated with an increased risk of acute and chronic conditions.
“It is also associated with problem drinking later on in life, and people who are successful in the labour market may see their long-term career prospects jeopardised.”
The biggest surge in youth drinking was seen in Russia, followed by Estonia, and then India and China, which like Russia have partnership status with the OECD and were included in part of the analysis.
OECD members Norway, Iceland, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Britain and Ireland, also notched up large increases.
But there were declines in youth drinking in Italy, France and Slovenia.
The binge-drinking phenomenon appears to have several causes, the OECD said.
They include access to relatively cheap drink, but also the pitching of alcoholic beverages to a youth market, promoted with music and a partying message.
The report, “Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use,” also made these points:
• Most alcohol in the OECD is drunk by the heaviest-drinking 20 percent of the population. But much of the overall consumption — close to 11 percent — may go unrecorded by governments.
• People from minority ethnic groups in OECD countries tend to drink less alcohol than the majority of the population, but with important exceptions in some countries.
• The proportion of children aged 15 and under who have not yet drunk alcohol fell during the 2000s from 33 to 30 percent of boys, and from 50 to 31 percent of girls.
• The proportion of under-15s who have been drunk at one point increased from 30 to 43 percent among boys, and from 26 to 41 percent among girls, during the same period.
• People with higher levels of education and socio-economic status are likelier to drink alcohol.
• Those who indulge in risky drinking are likelier to be men who are less educated and of a lower socio-economic status and women who are better educated and of a higher status.
• Alcohol consumption in big emerging countries, according to data from non-OECD economies, has seen a relatively major increase, but starting from much lower levels.
The report said that worldwide harmful consumption of alcohol rose from eighth to the fifth leading cause of death and disability from 1990 to 2010.
Curbing dangerous drinking requires a basket of strategies, focused especially on the “social norms” that drive boozing, it said.
“A tax hike leading to an average increase of 10 percent in alcohol prices, as well as a range of regulatory approaches, would also generate large impacts,” it said.
Irish Times - May 12th
Legislation aimed at reducing Ireland’s significant problem with alcohol will be published before the Dáil summer recess and introduced in the Oireachtas in the autumn, the Minister for Health has confirmed.
Leo Varadkar said the Public Health Alcohol Bill would be the “most far-reaching proposed by any Irish government, with alcohol being addressed for the first time as a public health measure” in a country ranked fifth out of the 28 EU members for alcohol consumption, and second across Europe for binge drinking.
In a debate in the Seanad, Mr Varadkar said 75 per cent of all consumption of alcohol in Ireland is done during binge-drinking sessions. Alcohol was not abused by a small minority, and “the majority of people who drink do so in a harmful way”.
Alcohol consumption increased per capita from 10.6 litres in 2013 to 11 in 2014, and the Government aimed to cut that to 9.1 litres, the OECD average, by 2020.
Mr Varadkar reiterated the Government’s commitment that minimum unit pricing to eliminate very cheap alcohol from stores would be introduced, and said currently “a woman can reach her low-risk weekly drinking limit for just €6.30, while a man can reach this weekly limit for less than €10”.
The World Health Organisation said there was “indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters. If the price of alcohol goes up, alcohol-related harm goes down”.
Mr Varadkar said “ultimately, the price needs to be set at a level that will reduce the burden of harm from alcohol use or it will be ineffective - but not so high that it increases the cost of a pint in the pub or a glass of wine in a pizzeria”.
Minimum unit pricing is also being introduced in Northern Ireland, and the Minister is confident minimum unit pricing will be found compatible with EU treaties and rules.
Senator Jillian van Turnhout (Independent) expressed concern about Government departments dealing with drinks companies.
She said the HSE had recently announced it would have no truck with the alcohol industry. “Why isn’t the Department of Health, the Department of Education, equally coming out with similar statements?”
She had asked the Child and Family Agency, and they said “they’re thinking about it. They should have no truck with the drinks industry.”
Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú (FF) said children were the main victims of the abuse of alcohol, whether in the home or elsewhere, and “that alone should make us more determined and courageous than we have ever been before on this issue”.
Senator Colm Burke (FG) said Canada introduced minimum unit pricing for alcohol.
In one province, he said, a 10 per cent increase in price resulted in an 8.4 per cent decrease in total alcohol consumption, while in British Columbia, the 10 per cent increase was linked to a 32 per cent fall in wholly alcohol-related deaths.
South China Morning Post - May 11th
The deliberate crash of a German airliner with the loss of 150 lives and the disappearance of a Malaysian plane with 239 lives after a mysterious change of course may have had little apparent effect on the confidence of air travellers. They were, after all, unconnected, unprecedented one-off events. But they certainly focused more attention on the state of mind of pilots as an air-safety factor which, unlike human error, cannot be detected by on-board systems.
A case in point is a report last month of a mainland cargo airline pilot who became comatose after a drug overdose. The incident has prompted the Civil Aviation Administration of China to launch a nationwide anti-narcotics campaign among pilots. This is reassuring, but would be more so if there had not been a delay of 10 months before the CAAC was informed of the case last February. The China National Narcotics Control Commission says the pilot took a potentially fatal overdose in Shanghai in April last year, after which he lost his job and was admitted to a community drug recovery centre, where he must attend sessions for three years.
The CAAC has issued a notice declaring that "no effort should be spared" in the prevention of drug use among pilots. The notice said education and management would be enhanced, and aviation officials in charge of drug prohibition would be held accountable. The commission said, rightly, that safety of the public was in the hands of pilots and other public transport employees and the anti-narcotics campaign was urgent. The response and the sentiments are admirable, but bureaucratic inertia and secrecy have done nothing to advance them in the interests of the travelling public. By international standards, there is nothing to hide. The US Federal Aviation Administration has revealed data on the number of private and commercial pilots needing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness. Rather, the lack of transparency and accountability has left unanswered questions, such as why it took a year from the pilot's arrest until public disclosure.