Linda Sample, Advanced Alcohol Specialist Nurse discusses her role at Northumbria and the negative effects of alcohol this Alcohol Awareness Week
Alcohol consumption is widely socially accepted and associated with relaxation and pleasure. Many people drink alcohol without experiencing harmful effects, however, a growing number of people experience physical, social and psychological harmful effects of alcohol.
In 2013 we commissioned a new Alcohol Care Team (ACT). The team aims to reduce alcohol related harm, injury and illness, halt the rise in hospital admissions for alcohol specific conditions and associated premature deaths. Linda is an original member of the team and was appointed lead in 2019 as an Advanced Alcohol Specialist Nurse. She said:
“The ACT has an excellent mix of experienced practitioners from diverse backgrounds who understand the complexity of alcohol misuse, dependency and the individuality of recovery.
“We believe everyone should be able to access the support they need, without shame or stigma. Those inpatients who have consented to referral to the ACT will be encouraged to discuss their alcohol issues, supported throughout their admission and signposted to community services.
“We endeavour to make every contact count, to promote health to those drinking at potentially harmful levels in order to minimise risks and encourage better health outcomes.”
Most people are not aware that you don’t need to be a ‘heavy’ drinker to be at risk. Many of us underestimate how much we are drinking – 10.4 million adults in England are drinking at levels that pose some risk to their health. This means that roughly 1 in 4 adults might benefit from reducing their alcohol consumption.
Figures suggest that nearly 400,000 people in the North East and over 8 million people nationally have been drinking more since the pandemic began, many at worryingly high levels.
Linda added: “The effects of Covid-19 and lockdown have played a part in some individual’s increased alcohol consumption. Social isolation, low mood, insomnia, financial problems and possible job loss as triggers.”
Both men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units per week, spread over three or more days. It is important to know what a unit of alcohol is. You can find this information here.
Drinking over 14 units a week progressively can cause a lot of problems both mentally and physically including increased anxiety, stress, and depression, poor concentration, memory loss and brain damage. It can also contribute to serious liver, stomach and kidney problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and obesity.
“Cutting down on your alcohol intake can have so many benefits including improving your mood, sleeping better and having more energy to do the things you enjoy.
“We encourage anyone who wants to cut down to make a plan and try their best to stick to it. Some of the things you can set out to do include having several alcohol-free days, setting yourself a limit when you do drink, eating before drinking, switching to a lower alcohol alternative, planning other activities at the times you would usually drink and doing something physical when you’re stressed or bored.
“There’s no shame in asking for help. Across our region we have so much support available, so if you or someone you know is suffering the effects of alcohol please reach out to your GP or a local service.”
Northumberland Recovery Partnership – Help, advice and treatment from the specialist alcohol and drug service
Tel: 01670 798280
North Tyneside Recovery Partnership – Help, advice and treatment from the specialist alcohol and drug service
Tel: 0191 240 8122
ESCAPE Family Support – Northumberland, supporting families and carers whose lives have been affected by substance misuse
Tel: 07702833944 (24-hour confidential helpline for advice & support)
PROPS Families and Carers – North Tyneside, supporting whole families and carers of drug and alcohol users
Tel: 0191 2263440
Tel: 0800 9177650 (24 hour, 7 days a week)
Tel: 116 123 (24 hour, 365 days a year)
Tel: 0303 1231146
Mind mental health support