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Raising awareness of the impact of alcohol this Alcohol Awareness Week

17/11/2021

To mark this year's Alcohol Awareness Week, which runs from 15-21 November, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) is joining over 4,000 other groups across the UK to raise awareness of the ways in which alcohol can affect us and our relationships with those around us.

Many of us drink alcohol for a variety of ever-changing reasons, including to relax, to socialise, to de-stress, to have fun, to relieve boredom, to deal with feelings of loneliness, or to try and cope with or avoid problems.

However, drinking too much and too often can cause or exacerbate all sorts of problems with our physical and mental health, including damaging relationships with our loved ones.

Alcohol can also negatively affect our relationships. It can heighten family tensions, get in the way of clear communication, and mean we are less present for each other, including our children. And if a loved one is drinking heavily, it can cause huge worry. There is also a real risk of someone's drinking causing conflict, with alcohol being a factor in many cases of child neglect and domestic abuse.

Alcohol is strongly associated with mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Over the course of the pandemic these problems have undoubtedly got worse for many people. As we return to a more normal life, there will be new pressures too – pressures to drink, sober shaming (being made to feel not drinking is wrong), and the pressures we put on ourselves to get back to 'normal' socialising.

So, in support of this year's campaign, OUH's Alcohol Care and Here for Health teams are speaking out about the impact that alcohol can have on our relationships, encouraging us all to talk, and be prepared to listen more, about the way your own or someone else's drinking is affecting you and those around you, and to consider making some changes for a healthier and happier life.

OUH is offering events for staff, patients, and members of the public throughout Alcohol Awareness Week to provide support. In addition, throughout the week patients attending the John Radcliffe Emergency Department will also be given an opportunity to complete a self-administered assessment of their alcohol use.

Kate Blayney, Here for Health Service Development Manager at OUH, said: "Over-consumption of alcohol can have a really significant impact on both physical and mental health.

"Our team is here for people not just during Alcohol Awareness Week, but year-round – we are here to help you take even small steps towards a healthier relationship with alcohol, and give you support along the way."

Michelle Layton, Liaison Nurse in the Alcohol Care Team at OUH, said: "For some of us, alcohol can become a central aspect of our relationships with friends, family, or partners. When this happens, it can actually stop us taking action to improve our drinking habits, even when those habits aren't working for us.

"Together with our Here for Health team colleagues, as well as other partnerships across Oxfordshire, we will be taking action to support people who need help with their drinking – there will be no judgement, simply help, advice, and support."

Led by Alcohol Change UK, Alcohol Awareness Week aims to get people thinking and talking about alcohol, to motivate change at every level – individual, community, and national.

Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: "Our relationships with other humans are wonderful but complex, and at times they can be really tough. With many of us drinking much more during the pandemic, for many different reasons, our relationships at home, with friends, and at work can become even tougher. And if our partner, friend or loved one is drinking heavily, it can cause huge tensions and disagreements, and even lead to us drinking more too, in an attempt to cope or escape.

"By talking to each other about alcohol and our relationships (while we're sober!) we can help each other to better understand how alcohol might be affecting us and those around us.

"And by taking control of our drinking, rather than letting it control us, we can develop better, happier relationships, as well as improved health and wellbeing. A great way to start is by recording what you drink for a few weeks to help you understand your drinking pattern, then setting yourself some small achievable goals to get it back under control. Use the free app Try Dry to help you keep track and set goals to help you cut down."

Alcohol Awareness Week provides an important opportunity for us all to:

  • Talk about the issues around alcohol and its effects on our physical and mental health, and our relationships, helping us make more informed choices about our drinking.
  • Listen to each other, properly, and with curiosity, to understand how our behaviours may be affecting our friends and those we love.
  • Realise that it's normal to develop a bit of a drinking problem, and it's possible to take back control.
  • Call for action to help those most in need, including the 200,000 children living with an alcohol-dependent parent or carer.
  • Explain to people where they can access a bit of extra support if they are struggling to take control of their drinking on their own.