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Alcohol Problems: Survey - Doctors speak out

Published 14/01/2009

When someone is battling with a drink problem, their general practitioner (GP) is often the first person they turn to for help. So it's no surprise that a recent survey, commissioned by Addiction Today, found that of the overwhelming majority of doctors in private practice (96.5 per cent) said they are currently treating patients with alcohol problems.

However, while it's generally agreed among addiction specialists that doctors could be the most effective force for good in reducing the sheer scale of alcohol and drug problems in this country, the survey results make for startling and heartbreaking reading.

Of the first 114 doctors that responded, 90.4 per cent have seen patients die as a result of alcohol problems. But despite this shocking statistic, the survey reveals that the medical profession still struggles to provide patients and their families with information and guidance on alcohol reduction help.

While 58.8 per cent say that patients request information about residential rehabilitation programmes, 44.7 per cent admit that they have no readily-accessible details to hand. Only half (49.1 per cent), meanwhile, are aware of residential rehabs in their area. And almost one in four (23.7 per cent) say that they don't have local contact information for self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

"This survey suggests that, while doctors are aware from their own day-to-day experiences of the scale of the problem, they are hampered by both a lack of detailed information and a lack of funding when it comes to providing alcohol reduction help," says Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Manor.

Four out of five (83 per cent) of those surveyed, for example, agreed with the statement: "There is not enough money allocated for intensive residential treatment for alcoholism and addiction." This is backed up by recent research from the Centre for Policy Studies, which found that Primary Care Trusts spend, on average, just 6 per cent of their drugs budget total on alcohol treatment.

But from the results of the survey, it's clear that most doctors are strong believers in the benefits of alcohol reduction help. When asked "Do you agree with the statement: 'Treatment for alcoholism and addiction dramatically improves the quality of life for people,'?", a resounding 87.7 per cent said 'Yes'.

It's time this dangerous situation was addressed, says Sue Allchurch. "Alcoholism is recognised as a disease in its own right, which can be successfully treated, and alcohol kills far more people than drugs," she says.  "If there was a flu endemic on this scale, a state of emergency would be called. It's vital that more is done to ensure that doctors are able to provide the information and help that their patients are so clearly crying out for."

If you or someone close to you needs help with a drink problem, please contact Linwood Group for professional and confidential information.



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