You’ll have to forgive me as I am a little fired up today and am about to express a bit of a rant! I’ve spent the day in smoking cessation training, which is the UK public health universal health promotion programme implemented in 2011, aimed at encouraging and supporting all people to stop smoking. It is a fantastic resource that is promoted in all health environments whether hospitals, GP surgeries or community and supermarket pharmacies. I should know how good it is as this was how I finally quit the weed – with the use of nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural change support.
So many of the tips and tricks I learned when giving up smoking have been invaluable in quitting the drink. And therein lies the rub. If I want to give up smoking I am inundated in support options from the NHS whereas with drinking there is very little health promotion or support options until my drinking becomes very problematic and basically a physical addiction. There are excellent targeted support services once that happens but nothing to support me to stop it reaching that point. I am pretty sure that all the alcoholics I cared for on the ward where I worked didn’t take their first drink and intend to end up where they did. It is such a ubiquitous substance which is perceived by most as benign and almost healthy (the benefit of a glass of red wine a day for decreasing risk of heart disease springs to mind).
It would be relatively easy to use all the materials, staff and services that have been developed to support giving up smoking for supporting drink reduction too as so many of the principles are the same because they are both harmful addictive substances. Smokefree, the UK programme, is aimed not at harm reduction but at complete stopping which is understandable seeing as tobacco is associated with most cancers. The equivalent alcohol programme needn’t be an abstinence policy but a health promotion harm reduction policy.
What I have to bear in mind though is that Sir Richard Doll established the link between lung cancer and smoking in 1950 and it has taken until now for public health to get almost fully behind this known fact – so only 60 years! Is it going to take as long again for the risks and harm of alcohol to be addressed in the same way? I hope not as I have young children and am optimistic that things like the internet will speed up awareness, sharing of knowledge and the change process.
Day 59 and rant over 🙂