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- Scotlands new drug and alcohol strategy launched
- AFS welcome new alcohol strategy
- Recent reporting on alcohol sales data
- Cross-Party Group Improving Scotland's health: 2021 and beyond October 2018
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- Drinks companies keeping consumers in dark about risky drinking
- Reducing alcohol consumption can address health inequalities
- Alcohol-specific deaths remain at very high levels
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- AFS welcomes minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- Walker's crisp ad exposes children to alcohol marketing
- Truer picture of alcohol harm revealed
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- Alcohol causes 3,700 deaths in Scotland every year
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- Minimum pricing gets green light
- Reflections on GAPC 2017
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- Quarter of Scots drink above guidelines
- Alcohol producers failing to inform public
- Concern over alcohol-related deaths
- We need to make it easier for people to drink less
- Worrying rise in alcohol-related deaths
- Minimum pricing will save lives
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- Cheap alcohol is costing Scotland dear
- One drink a day can increase breast cancer risk
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- Concern as funding for alcohol services cut
- Budget: No change in alcohol duty
- Scottish Government urged to curb alcohol marketing
- Consumers have the right to know health risks
- Chancellor urged to tackle cheap, strong cider in Budget
- Online help for families affected by alcohol
- Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
- SWA granted leave to appeal minimum pricing
- Drink drive warning
- Scottish Greens call for action on alcohol marketing
- Scottish Government receives European alcohol award
- SWA will appeal to UK Supreme Court
- Half of alcohol being sold under 50p per unit
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- Alcohol and mental health are closely linked
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- Alcohol sold at pocket money prices
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- AFS welcomes revised alcohol consumption guidelines
- Emergency services face shocking levels of alcohol abuse
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- Public health must prevail over big business
- New toolkit to help children affected by family alcohol problems
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- 82% of Scots agree drink driving is unacceptable
- Scotland's alcohol strategy - what next?
- Scotland leads way in evidence-based alcohol policy
- New report reveals impact of alcohol on emergency services
- Alcohol: a global concern
Every child has the right to grow up safe from alcohol harm
These days, far more drinking takes place in living rooms than pubs, with three quarters of all alcohol in Scotland sold by supermarkets and off-licences.
It’s not surprising given how cheaply alcohol is sold in shops where a bottle of wine can cost the same as one glass in the pub.
This shift to drinking at home also means a shift in where alcohol-related harm takes place. In pubs, staff are trained to monitor drinking and to deal with any problems to keep their customers safe. Standard measures also mean it’s easier to keep track of how much you are drinking. Behind closed doors, it’s a different story. Police and paramedics say more and more of their calls now involve alcohol-related incidents and disturbances in people’s homes.
Whether it’s parties getting out of hand, arguments turning into violence, illness, accidents and injuries, it’s our emergency services that are called upon to pick up the pieces. Ambulance crews regularly face the threat of violence when attending incidents where alcohol is involved and hundreds of homes are ‘red-flagged’ – considered too dangerous for paramedics to enter without police back-up.
Rather than alcohol being kept for special occasions, it’s become normal to include it as part of the weekly shop and to keep the fridge stocked up. Alcohol has become so embedded in our society that there’s a perception that regular drinking is normal, risk-free, and a good way to de-stress. Of course, none of these are true. Regularly drinking too much increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and mental health problems.
But what impact is this massive shift to drinking at home having on families, in particular, our children? At its most basic, children are more likely to be around alcohol and to witness drunkenness. We might not think children notice how much or how often we, as parents, are drinking but they do. Seeing how we drink is a big influence on our children’s future drinking habits; more so than what we say about alcohol.
Every child in Scotland has the right to grow up safe from alcohol-related harm
Unfortunately more than fifty thousand children in Scotland – at least one child in every single primary school class - are estimated to live with a parent who has an alcohol problem. While every family’s situation is different, children who live with someone who drinks too much say they feel scared, confused, stressed and angry when their parent is drinking. They are also at higher risk of experiencing neglect and domestic violence. They often suffer in silence as they don’t know where to get help or are too scared to speak to someone. Having access to specialist services that support families who need help the most is one of the best ways to improve children’s lives.
Alcohol Focus Scotland has developed creative and practical tools for professionals to help support children and families affected by alcohol. These resources feature animal and child characters who tell stories about how a substance called alcohol affects routines and relationships. The characters encourage children to talk to a trusted adult about their worries and express their emotions rather than keeping things bottled up. The message we want to get across to children is reassurance that they’re not alone and they should never feel they are to blame for their parent or carer’s drinking.
We have found that children instantly relate to the characters in our stories and recognise their own experiences. The resources make a real difference to children’s lives, empowering them to talk about, understand and cope with what may be difficult circumstances in their family. Later this year we will be working with parents to develop a website that will offer support and advice for families worried about alcohol.
But there’s much more that can be done to prevent so many children and families being damaged by alcohol in the first place. All the things that encourage us to drink – cheap prices, easily availability and constant promotions - need to be tackled to reduce consumption and harm.
One alcohol counsellor who regularly uses our resources with children says the best thing is being able to “help that wee person grow”. Let’s help all wee people in Scotland grow by changing our relationship with alcohol – both individually and as a country.
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland