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Alcohol Help for addiction - stereotypes about alcohol hurt everyone

Published 20/10/2008

Who do you think of when you hear the words 'alcohol addiction'? The local GP, who juggles a busy career with the demands of motherhood? The career banker, who appears to thrive and prosper on the ethos of 'work hard, play hard'? The proprietor of a local building firm, who has built a thriving family business on sheer graft and a reputation for honesty and reliability?

The simple fact is that alcoholism can affect anyone, regardless of educational background, social class or nationality.

According to Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Group, few of the clients that seek help at the company's treatment centres fit the 'normal' stereotype of an alcoholic.

"The people that we help are not Special Brew-swigging vagrants who spend their days and nights on a park bench. They're people of every age and from every possible social demographic - and to assume otherwise is the most unhelpful attitude possible," she says.

For a start, the 'seedy' image of an alcoholic as someone with no willpower or desire to change their ways often deters people who are struggling with alcohol from seeking the help they so badly need and finding a suitable treatment programme.

"People still believe that alcoholism is something they should be able to control using their own willpower. Few people realise it is a disease and, once in the grip of it, it is impossible to stop without seeking help," she says.

Misconceptions about alcohol abuse can also have a negative impact on an individual's family members and friends, their colleagues, and even their entire community. They may be reluctant to intervene and speak to a loved one about their heavy drinking if they believe they run the risk of offending them.

But by far the most damaging stereotype about alcohol problems is that those who suffer from them can't and won't change. Fear of failure is a major obstacle to recovery -- but, in fact, alcohol treatment programmes are proven be extremely effective in many cases.

That's why Linwood Group is calling for more education in the area of alcohol abuse. "When people better understand the truth of about alcoholism, and see that anyone can be affected, then hopefully there will be more societal pressure to open up wider access to alcohol addiction services," says Allchurch.

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