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Notes and cuttings mostly related to Alcohol Companion by Phil Cain. Mostly tweeted and posted on Facebook. Please feel free to share this resource. There is a search function here.







We can avoid alcohol’s mental health icebergs

A brain-centred approach will enable millions of us to avoid the alcohol icebergs we know are out there. 

The latest smudge on the radar screen in was made in February by 10,000 extra cases of early-onset dementia lurking in French medical data. Alcohol factored in 57% of them, tripling the risk of all dementias. This mass suffering must be mourned, as is the fact that the risks are not widely known, as I discovered investigating my book Alcohol Companion.

Other investigations are poised to confirm the dementia statistic, which is almost certainly an underestimate. “No surprise,” say many in the psychiatric and mental health professions on reading this week’s dementia statistic. For them alcohol damage is is a commonplace of working knowledge. 

There are more statistical icebergs are out there too, simply waiting to be given wider recognition. There is already an undisputed correlation between drinking more than a little alcohol and depression and anxiety. So too post-traumatic stress, problems with decision-making abilities, cognition, memory and impulse control.

Some of us may know this on paper or have found out from experience, but how many of us really act on what we know? It is already known that drinking no more than 14 UK units (140ml) of alcohol a week will minimise our chances of problems. If we take our mental health seriously, as surely we should, we need to follow this guidance.

Our brains are not just the fall-guy in our relationship with alcohol either, they also initiate it. We drink alcohol because we like how our brains make us feel after, feelings informed by our beliefs. We often imagine it boosts our confidence, our mood and or helps us relax, all understandable ideas, but also inaccurate enough to backfire.

The brain-centricity of this week’s news make it a turning point, but real change will not happen overnight. As if to illustrate, a story ran alongside it peddling the “good news” that alcohol may prolong our lives. No matter, it seems, these reports were slammed by experts in alcohol and longevity as misleading speculation.

But these lapses of collective reason do not spoil the real good news about the path of our relationship with alcohol. The ice has been broken about mental health which has gone from taboo to borderline trendy, with young people drinking less. The internet, for all its problems, has put us in touch with our psychological quirks, both good and bad. And we can inform, organise and support each other better than ever.

There are still formidable alcohol icebergs out there which will come to wider recognition in due course. We can be sure of that. But we also have the knowledge and tools to minimise risk. It can only get better, even if it is sometimes a bumpy ride.

Guest post: Why we should call time on airport drinking

by Simon C Moore, Cardiff University

As the alcohol industry continues to make healthy profits, Britain is left counting the increasing cost of its unhealthy relationship with booze. From overstretched accident and emergency departments to a steady incidence of alcohol-related disease, the cost is massive. The most recent figures reveal that alcohol-related harms cost the NHS around £3.5 billion annually.

And the problems don’t end there. Often the erratic and antisocial behaviour of intoxicated people will have an impact on others. This becomes apparent when walking down any UK high street on a Saturday night, as you dodge obstacles from aggressive drinkers to broken glass.

Alcohol issues aren’t limited to towns and cities, either. Recently, budget airline Ryanair once again called for airports to introduce “preventative measures to curb excessive drinking”, following a flight that had to land unexpectedly when three passengers became disruptive. Airports are places where high security and order are paramount to safety so, really, no alcohol should be allowed whatsoever.

Drunk on board

In recent years, there have been several high profile incidents involving drunk passengers on planes – as well as countless other unreported events. In fact, figures show 387 people were arrested for being drunk at airports between February 2016 and February 2017 – up from 255 the previous year. And a BBC Panorama investigation has found that more than half of cabin crew have seen disruptive drunken passenger behaviour at UK airports.

Problems linked to alcohol consumption in airports and on planes include passengers being too drunk to board, or being out of control on planes. Those who do not board have their bags removed, causing delays for other passengers, while those who board drunk can cause disorder and endanger passenger safety – especially pertinent in the confines of an aeroplane where other passengers can become scared.

Cheers? [cunaplus/Shutterstock]

Drunk behaviour is not just disruptive to other passengers, however. Air travel involves a tightly integrated, complex set of processes and the effects of drunk passengers can impact this infrastructure. The number of professionals required for the safe management of drunks can divert resources away from normal service, potentially affecting security and the safety of other travellers.

Drunk people have reportedly tried to open plane doors and smash windows while in flight. The extent of drunkenness has caused planes in flight to divert so that the intoxicated and disorderly can be offloaded, again affecting all other passengers’ safety and convenience.

Licensing rules

The government is examining how alcohol is sold in airports, but they stop short of banning it altogether. Instead, restrictions have been proposed to end rules which allow airport bars and pubs to operate outside UK licensing laws. Limiting the number of drinks a passenger can have, both before and during flights, would almost certainly bring this number of alcohol-related incidents down, and result in fewer delays and a more secure and pleasant trip for passengers and staff.

It’s not about being puritanical. Choice is important and many choose to make alcohol an important part of many activities, including their holidays. At the same time, choices have been made to ensure the safety of air passengers and to keep flights running on time. Airport and aeroplane staff, given the choice, would probably prefer not to mop up vomit from those who have drunk too much – or worse, potentially put themselves in harm’s way to protect other passengers.

During air travel, travellers are contained in secure areas, with no choice over their fellow passengers. Removing the irrationality of intoxication from such an activity is not the tyranny of the majority, it is simply asking people to temporarily abstain until they reach their chosen destination. Many passengers choose not to drink and, given the choice, families would likely prefer that their children are not exposed to disorderly drunks.

No one has the right to cause harm to others and it is trivial to expect abstinence while passengers make their way to their destination, whether it is an alcohol-fuelled excursion, a family holiday or a business trip. For those who use alcohol to cope with anxiety, there are more effective and safer alternatives. For those who cannot go without alcohol there are many services available to help with dependence.

The ConversationUltimately, the needs of the many must outweigh the desires of a minority who want to “start their holiday early”. ■

Simon C Moore, Professor of Public Health Research, Co-Director of Crime and Security Research Institute and Director of Alcohol & Violence Research Group, Cardiff University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

UPDATE: Ireland: WTO alcohol labelling trade obligations met

Ireland’s health department says it has met all its obligations under World Trade Organisation rules over the health labelling requirements of its alcohol bill.

The US government’s trade agency recently said it had asked Ireland to notify the World Trade Organisation about its health labelling plans so as to comply with the organisation’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement.

“We can confirm that all obligations under WTO in relation to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill have been met by the Department of Health,” the department told Alcohol Companion.

“Ireland intends to notify WTO Members of all amendments made to the Bill at the earliest opportunity, ie once all amendments have been made.” ■

Alcohol: Go easy on the amygdala🗼


Fear is often our friend, but alcohol makes it more difficult to quash unhelpful worries and so prolongs the ill-effects of our misfortunes.

Continue reading “Alcohol: Go easy on the amygdala🗼”

Alcohol Companion Newsletter 53, March 15th 2018


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This issue: The public are okay with health labels; Go with the flow: being brain aware means being alcohol aware; Alcohol-dementia link seriously underestimated; We can avoid alcohol-induced problems. Alcohol Companion is a “must-read”, says supermodel.

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Alcohol Companion: “A must-read for anyone wanting to explore their true relationship with alcohol,” Alison Canavan

“This book opened my eyes in so many ways about how alcohol really affects our body and mind. A must-read for anyone wanting to explore their true relationship with alcohol.”—Alison Canavan, wellness advocate and supermodel. … Get yours now