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.

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.

Book news



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

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 was made this week 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.

Alcohol-dementia link far bigger than thought

Heavy alcohol drinking is linked to 57% of cases of early-onset dementia, according to a new study, far more than most experts had guessed.

“Our findings suggest that the burden of dementia attributable to alcohol use disorders is much larger than previously thought,” says lead author Dr Michaël Schwarzinger of the Translational Health Economics Network.

“While it is widely recognised that heavy drinking can have detrimental physical effects, we have not tended to think about these in terms of brain functioning. This research suggests we should focus more of our attention in that direction,” says James Nicholls of Alcohol Research UK.

Alcohol use disorders were associated with three-times the risk of all types of dementia, making it the strongest modifiable risk factor for dementia onset. The paper suggests reducing dementia cases by having screening, interventions and treatment for heavy drinking.

The alcohol-dementia link may be stronger even than this study implies because alcohol problems are underdiagnosed. The French study made the link by looking at diagnoses of mental and behavioural disorders attributed to alcohol use or and alcohol-related liver disease.

The finding is “immensely important” according to Professor Clive Ballard of the University of Exeter. “We should move forward with clear public health messages about the relationship between both alcohol use disorders and alcohol consumption, respectively, and dementia.”

“The link between dementia and alcohol use disorders needs further research, but is likely a result of alcohol leading to permanent structural and functional brain damage,” says Dr Schwarzinger. He also recommends cutting availability, increasing tax and banning advertising.

Of the 57,000 early onset dementia cases examined, 18% came alongside a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, in addition to the 39% of cases which were already recognised as being alcohol-related. Early onset dementia is dementia diagnosed before we are 65.

The association between heavy drinking and dementia onset has been poorly measured. This is a reason why it was not included in the modifiable risk factors included in the Lancet commission on dementia prevention last year, says Dr Schwarzinger.

Drinking consistently less than 14 UK units (140ml) of alcohol a week is reckoned to mean dementia risk is low. Alcohol is not a medicine or health tonic.


We can avoid alcohol’s mental health icebergs