NPN | Alcohol Intake

We’ve known for quite some time that alcohol dependency has wide socioeconomic consequences - and in the UK, there are millions of people who have personal experience of the effects that alcohol intake can have. Dependent drinkers can be vulnerable and often stigmatised, and as a result, it can be uncomfortable for them to seek help - it’s estimated that four out of five dependent drinkers aren’t currently seeking treatment.

Monitoring your drinking habits is important - almost everyone drinks alcohol occasionally, but it can develop into alcoholism, and alcoholism carries risks. Serious liver disease, stomach and pancreas disorders and muscle and heart muscle disease are among the scariest - and other alarming risks include depression, anxiety, sexual difficulties and accidents, in particular injury and death from fire and car crashes.

With public health budgets shrinking, and alcohol-related hospital admissions increasing, it’s difficult for specialist drug and alcohol services to afford to do everything they would like to do to help. In remote areas where these services are few and far between, community pharmacies can fill the gap.

Pharmacists are trained to talk to people about their medicines, and stay up to date with guidance and evidence. Some community pharmacy contractors routinely ask questions about alcohol use in their daily practice - asking non-judgemental questions during a medicines use review has been shown to make a difference, with 1 in 8 people reducing their drinking as a result.

Opportunistic Screenings and Brief Interventions (SBIs) have been demonstrated to help reduce alcohol consumption in primary care settings, providing a way to reach those who don’t go out and seek treatment for alcohol-related problems themselves. Community pharmacies are in the perfect position to reach consumers at an early stage of their alcohol use, in order to intervene and provide advice as part of their role in providing medications to the community.

Many pharmacies have a consultation room where it’s possible to ask questions in private, and they will be able to provide you with advice on how to take care of yourself. Pharmacists are trained to communicate openly and without judgement, and they may be able to put you in touch with a local service that will support you through the process of reducing your alcohol intake gradually.

If you are concerned you might have a problem with alcohol, speaking to your community pharmacist could be a convenient and effective option for you.