One of the key tasks for professionals working in substance misuse jobs is to support individuals who have an alcohol dependency and encourage them to abstain. According to Alcohol Concern, around 9% of men and 4% of women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence. This means alcohol is the third biggest lifestyle risk factor for illness and death in Britain, following smoking and obesity.
NHS Choices explains that alcohol misuse means drinking excessively – in other words, regularly exceeding the recommended limits for consumption. It says drinking too much can have harmful psychological and physical effects, including cirrhosis of the liver, alcohol poisoning, absence from work, unemployment and destructive behaviour. But the impacts of alcoholism extend far beyond individuals – they affect families, communities, the NHS and the economy as a whole.
People with an alcohol dependency do not recover from this condition – their only option is to refrain from drinking alcohol for good. Addictions and Recovery claims that the way to achieve this is by creating a new life in which alcohol has no part to play. This involves changing certain patterns of behaviour and adopting a range of tactics.
For people trying to abstain from alcohol, there are a number of common recovery tools. These include the following:
– Avoiding situations which carry heightened risk, such as where an individual is hungry, angry, lonely, stressed or tired. In these scenarios, they may have reduced willpower and be more susceptible to temptation.
– Avoiding people, places and things which are connected to an individual’s life as a drinker. Should they find themselves in familiar surroundings, with a ‘drinking’ crowd, they may be more likely to relapse.
– Looking for high-risk situations before they arise. If an individual senses they may be tempted to drink alcohol at a particular point in the future, they can spend time planning a strategy for abstinence.
– Learning to relax. This is important because people who are dependent on alcohol are more likely to drink if they are tense or feeling stressed. Activities such as walking or meditating may be helpful, but each person has to find what suits them best.
– Seeking support from a network of like-minded people, who have been through similar experiences, can help with recovery. When an individual is tempted, it helps to have a sponsor to call or meet for emotional support and encouragement.
– Using technology. According to Sanctuary Criminal Justice , there are hundreds of different apps designed to help reduce or eliminate the consumption of alcohol. More people are using mobile devices to assist them when it comes to staying sober.