11th November marks the start of Alcohol Awareness Week – a chance for the UK to get thinking about drinking. The theme of this year’s campaign (organised by Alcohol Change UK) is Alcohol and me – encouraging people to test their knowledge around drinking guidelines and health impacts associated with drinking.
Our Help with Alcoholism fact sheet features the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (Mast) questionnaire which can help people to decide whether they have a problem with alcohol.
Every year thousands of people die as a direct result of their drinking. There are an estimated 600,000 dependent drinkers in England alone. However, Alcohol Change UK say that there is nothing inevitable about the way we drink and research shows that the majority of heavy drinkers can recover.
Here at PS we speak to a number of pharmacists and their families every year dealing with a range of dependency issues. Between 2010 and 2018 we have supported 218 people seeking help with addiction, 30 of whom have accessed residential treatment.
We have also introduced a peer support group for clients who have accessed our health support programme. Clients are invited to discuss their recovery in a safe environment or share advice on GPhC matters for those going through fitness to practise by means of telephone conference calls. Here is Alan’s story.
Alan had led what he felt to be a ‘normal life’ but had always felt that something was lacking. Following a difficult marriage and subsequent divorce he began drinking heavily. This resulted in a drink driving conviction and a subsequent reprimand from the GPhC. He described an alcohol awareness course as merely enlightening him on how to be a “better informed drinker”.
He didn’t perceive his alcohol use to be problematic; not drinking during the day or having any effect on his work. However with hindsight can see that it became “progressive, shameful, secretive and solitary”.
Some insight came following a stroke at the age of 39 as a direct result of excessive drinking. Choosing to control his drinking rather than abstaining he used support from a private GP for detox and CBT and attended several 12 step fellowship meetings but didn’t find this relevant as he didn’t want to stop drinking altogether.
Alan began to combine detox medication with alcohol feeling that he was medically informed through his professional knowledge. This continued until a fellow pharmacist threatened to report him to GPhC if he didn’t seek help. Fear of losing a career he loved and his livelihood prompted him to acknowledge his problem and that alcohol had made his life unmanageable. In 2014, at great expense to himself he admitted himself into a 5 week rehab programme. Here he realised that Alcoholism was a disease not a lifestyle choice and that he was suffering from it. This was followed by more than a year of maintained sobriety.
Acknowledging a deterioration in his mental health Alan was prescribed anti-depressants but before these could take effect he began drinking heavily again, describing himself as “picking up where he had left off”. Eventually Alan was admitted to a psychiatric ward. He made a decision to make a medical declaration to the GPhC which resulted in a very difficult time trying to manage his physical and mental health, not able to work and trying to maintain sobriety all the while.
At this point Alan contacted PS. He was referred to the Addiction Support Programme and following assessment was admitted into a residential specialist treatment programme. Following treatment he accessed further financial assistance, specialist advice and was signposted to local support groups.
Alan says “I cannot express in words my eternal gratitude to Pharmacist Support (PS) for the complete, invaluable one stop care that is provided to pharmacists and their families. Once more alcohol no longer controls my life and the desire to drink has been lifted. There are still several difficult situations and hurdles to cross but with ongoing help…. including from PS I know I will get through them.”
Our Addiction Support Programme provides confidential support to those that are ready to seek professional help in taking the steps to make positive lasting changes. If you have been affected by alcohol dependency or any form of addiction, or know somebody who may be in need of our help, you can contact us anonymously by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0808 168 5132.