British business guide to drink and drugs in workplace

London: In England 17 million working days are lost every year through alcohol-related sickness while 35 percent of people of working age have used an illicit drug.

Now the most comprehensive guide ever compiled to tackle the booze and drugs culture in the British workplace has been published to help ease the pressure on both employers and employees.

Issued by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine in London, the ‘Guidance on alcohol and drug misuse in the workplace’ report has been written by the country’s leading experts and draws on all the most up-to-date information and advice.

In fact the guide has been considered such an important aid in dealing with the problem, that it has also been recognised by the medical research charity, the BUPA Foundation, by winning its annual Health at Work award.

One of the author’s of the report, Dr Steve Deacon, said: “Managing the misuse of drugs and alcohol in the workplace, is a real minefield for business. We found that what they needed was a clear, simple breakdown of the best, most up-to-date and relevant advice.

“This guide not only assists in prevention but also offers support to those seeking treatment and rehabilitation. It is a one-stop shop for handling all issues relating to alcohol and drug misuse.”

The vice-chairman of the BUPA Foundation, Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen said: “All the evidence shows that the misuse of drugs and alcohol in the workplace is on the increase. The price to pay is high – absenteeism, accidents at work, poor performance, errors, lost productivity and long-term ill health.

“The guidance will be a vital tool to occupational physicians as well as those people who work in human resources and safety management, in tackling these issues.”

Dr Steve Deacon and his team received their BUPA Foundation award at a ceremony at Lincoln’s Inn in London yesterday.

· The BUPA Foundation is an independent charitable organisation that funds medical research into the prevention, relief and cure of sickness and ill health. Since 1979 The BUPA Foundation has awarded grants in excess of £19 million to medical research and healthcare initiatives across a range of disciplines from surgery to occupational health. Further information on the BUPA Foundation is available at < a href="http://www.bupafoundation.co.uk">www.bupafoundation.co.uk

· The vast majority of grants go to medical research teams in NHS hospitals.

· The BUPA Foundation Awards are made annually to recognise excellence in medical research and healthcare. The six categories are – care of the elderly, clinical excellence, communication, epidemiology, medical research and health at work.

· Award winners receive a cheque for £10,000.

· This year BUPA donated £2.5 million to the BUPA Foundation.

· Dr Steve Deacon works at the Faculty of Occupational Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

Heavy drinking shrinks the brain

Washington:US researchers have revealed that heavy, chronic drinking can cause significant damage to a part of the brain structure which is vital to learning and memory.

Their study reveals that the volume of hippocampal tissue in the brain reduces over the years in heavy drinkers.

The researchers examined the effect of alcohol on the hippocampus and found that heavy drinking can reduce total hippocampus volume, which likely reflects a loss of hippocampal tissue substance.

“The hippocampus actually refers to two structures, the right hippocampus and the left hippocampus that are located in the right and left temporal lobes of the brain. Most scientists think that the hippocampus helps the brain manage learning, especially learning and remembering new things or things that happened recently. Before this study, researchers had noticed that the volume of the hippocampus seemed to be smaller in people who frequently drank large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time.” explained Thomas P. Beresford, Department of Veterans Affairs physician, and professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to compare hippocampus volumes among non-alcoholics and heavy drinkers.

Study results indicated a reduction in total hippocampus volume among the alcoholics.

“When we took a picture of the alcoholic brains using MRI, and measured the hippocampus,” said Beresford, “it was much smaller than the hippocampus in the group of people who did not drink alcohol heavily. This means that alcohol appears to injure the hippocampus by itself. That is, it may harm the hippocampus in a way that other things do not.”

The findings of the study could explain some of the memory impairment and cognitive deficits described in chronic alcoholics, but it is not clear whether the effect is reversible.

“This study is only a first step. We are now studying what happens to the hippocampus in heavy drinkers when they stop drinking, whether the hippocampus heals itself or not, and what we might do to help healing along. Since the hippocampus is connected to many other parts of the brain, it is difficult to know all of the things that it does. Most scientists think that injury to the hippocampus makes it harder to learn things, especially to keep memories of new things or of new patterns. Understanding this, and how alcohol-dependent individuals may cope and even heal, is the point of our research,” he said.

The results of the study are published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Drug may reverse liver damage even in alcoholics

Newcastle: Scientists have discovered a drug that could prevent liver disease, even in alcoholics.

Tests on the drug, Sulphasalazine, which is currently used to treat inflammatory bowel disease, found that it also prevented scarring of the liver and even reversed liver damage.

Professor Christopher Day, a liver specialist from Newcastle University in Britain who led the research, said Sulphasalazine could provide an alternative to liver transplants.

“This drug is not a finite resource. You are not stealing it from someone else, which is always a worry in public opinion,” said Professor Day said. “People are dying on the transplant list.”

Until now, cirrhosis of the liver, usually caused by alcohol abuse, is considered incurable and the only option for patients in the final stages of liver disease is a liver transplant.

Many patients die waiting for a transplant and there is a lack of desire to give organs to those who are ill through self abuse.

The researchers have tested the drug on animals and human trials are expected to begin in Britain next year.

The drug will initially be given to heavy drinkers who have given up alcohol too late for their liver to recover naturally.

If this proves successful, the medicine will also be prescribed to alcoholics who continue to drink but show a determination to fight their addiction by reducing intake.

Sulphasalazine may also relieve the ethical dilemma of giving donated livers to people whose illness was self-inflicted through excessive consumption of alcohol or poor diet and obesity.

Professor Jones said 10 to 15 per cent of people on the waiting list for a liver transplant were heavy drinkers.

“It’s a very tough decision for the doctors, if, for example they are faced with a 45-year-old man with a young family who’s a heavy drinker. If you say no to the transplant, they will die.

“It would be revolutionary if this drug could reverse the liver damage so you wouldn’t need to do a transplant or, better yet, prevent the damage in the first place.”

Daily tipple contributes to longevity

Miami: Moderate alcohol consumption can help you live to a ripe old age, scientists at the University of Florida have discovered.

A study of the drinking habits of more than 2,400 adults in their seventies found that those who consumed one to seven drinks a week were likely to live longer and have fewer heart attacks.

They were put into different classes of drinking: ‘never or occasional’ drinkers who consumed less than one drink a week, ‘light to moderate’ (one to seven drinks) or ‘heavier’ (more than seven). During a five year period five 397 died and 383 had cardiac trouble, such as a heart attack or heart failure.

It was discovered that those who drank lightly to moderately had a 26 per cent lower risk of death and an almost 30 per cent reduced risk of cardiac trouble. But heavy drinkers were more likely to die or experience cardiac trouble than those who drank the least.

Researchers, who published their findings in the Archive of Internal Medicine concluded that the health effects of alcohol are linked to reduced levels of inflammation.

Moderate drinking may help brain function, says new US study

New York: A study of more than 7,000 older women has revealed that those who regularly drink a moderate amount of alcohol have better brain function that abstainers.

The study, carried out by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina in the US was published in the journal of Neuroepidemiology found that women who had two to three drinks a day had better cognitive function, including memory, concentration, verbal skills and reasoning.

Lead researcher, Mkike Espeland, PhD said the research confimed other studies that moderate consumption of alcohol may provide some medical benefits.

Espeland, a professor of public health sciences and chairman of the Department of Biostatistical Sciences, said understanding whether alcohol affects specific areas of cognition may shed light on the mechanisms that make it protective.

He conjectures that alcohol increases levels of “good” cholesterol and lowers the risk of stroke, that it may decrease the formation of plaque that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and that it may increase the release of brain chemicals that affect learning and memory. He added that the findings were not a reason for women to change their current drinking habits.

The researchers used information from the 7,460 women in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), a large national study to assess the effects of hormone therapy on dementia and cognitive function. They also used statistics from 2,299 of these women who were also enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Study of Cognitive Aging (WHISCA), which involved annual standardized testing of specific areas of cognitive performance. All women in the studies were 65 and older.

The information from this large group of women confirmed earlier findings from the researchers (based on a subset of 4,461 WHIMS participants,) that those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol (up to two or three drinks a day) performed better on tests for cognitive function. Using data from the WHISCA participants, they were able to pinpoint specific areas of cognition that were affected.

Previous studies have also indicated that moderate levels of alcohol intake reduce the risk of dementia and decline in cognitive function. Espeland said, however, that the results must be interpreted with caution.

The researchers adjusted for other factors that might affect the results, such as education level and family income, and still found the same pattern of moderate alcohol intake associated with better cognitive function and less risk of dementia.

The study received support from the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Espeland’s co-researchers were Laura Coker, Ph.D., and Stephen R. Rapp, Ph.D., also from Wake Forest Baptist, Robert Wallace, M.D., from the University of Iowa College of Medicine, Susan Resnick, Ph.D., from the National Institute on Aging, Marian Limacher, M.D., from the University of Florida, Lynda Powell, M.D., from Rush University Medical Center, and Catherine Messina, Ph.D., from State University of New York at Stony Brook.

www.wfubmc.edu

High flyers turn to alcohol to cope with City stress

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London: Automated call centres, mobile phones and computers crashing top the stress scale of modern life, say a new report from health charity DPP: Developing Patient Partnerships (DPP).

In response, over a third of men (34%) turn to alcohol and a quarter (25%) of the population resort to cigarettes to help them feel less stressed, says the report. It also highlights the confusion around what stress actually is. Many people (68%) think stress is simply having a ‘bad day’ and 57% see it as having too much to do. Many (64%) wrongly believe that stress itself is an illness.

The report, part of the DPP’s Dealing with Stress campaign, provides a stark insight into how stressed we all feel, how stress is misunderstood by the UK population and our failure to adopt effective coping mechanisms.

DPP Spokesperson Dr Rosemary Anderson says: “Considering that most people (79%) believe they have been stressed in the last year, it is worrying that they are seeking solace in alcohol and cigarettes when there are many positive things that people can do to help themselves cope plus feel better in the long term.

Its findings are confirmed by City health professionals who say there are growing number of highflyers, whose inability to cope, particularly with competitive stress in the workplace, is causing them to seek professional help for problem drinking.

Don Serratt, a former merchant banker in the City, founded Life Works, a mental health and addiction treatment group after his own decent into alcoholism. He has not had a drink for 20 years and now helps others do the same.

He says: “A work hard / play hard culture has always been associated with the City. Commerce is aggressive and individuals working in the field have to “let off steam”. Whilst a casual drink doesn’t pose a problem, the issues of binge drinking and turning to alcohol as the main stress release mechanism are prevalent. When this spirals out of control, addiction can result – causing financial problems, health issues and damaging relationships.

“There’s also the associated issue of professional derailment – the under-performance of senior professionals in industry as a result of mental health issues. The important thing in both circumstances is to identify a potential problem early and intervene. Clinical experience shows that the sooner appropriate treatment is put in place, the faster and more effectively an individual recovers. Friends, colleagues and families shouldn’t wait for a person they are worried about to hit rock bottom. If they have a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, the slightest suspicion, then get it checked out.”

Georgia Foster(pictured), a clinical hypnotherapist and stress management consultant treats City patients at the Wren Clinic explores the alcohol abuse in her new book, The Drinkless Mind. In it she highlights the role of the conscious and sub-conscious mind. The rationale in the book encourages people to reprogramme the negativity of their unconscious mind. People who drink to excess are usually trying to silence their inner critic because they are unable to turn off this negative voice. She labels this the “Radio Crazy” phenomenon because you are unable to turn it off.

“I believe that the inner critic underpins all anxieties, fears and low self worth. The inner critic is suppressed in most people after a few drinks, and that is why we drink, it could however manifest itself in, aggression, and procrastination. Stress comes in many different shapes and forms. Anxiety and panic attacks are extremely common amongst highflyers. This type of client will believe that they not coping with their lives as well as they should and their demonic inner critic will blame them. Symptoms include sweating profusely in meetings, clammy hands, fear of flying and lifts, which is most of the time claustrophobia or being trapped in their lives. I see a lot of people who have professional/social anxieties about speaking in meetings, taking clients out for lunch and speaking in public.

“A common issue is insomnia which indicates that the individual is worried about the past or the future, and tries to rectify the past (which we can’t) or predict the future (which can be a negative image) by staying awake to resolve the thoughts. Originally there may have been a ‘real’ issue that was stopping them from sleeping but it then becomes a habit. Alcohol can often help people to relax enough to sleep, it does however play havoc with the natural sleep pattern. When people try and cut back on the booze they panic that they can’t relax enough to go to sleep and the pattern of emotional drinking kicks in.

“I also treat many clients who earn ridiculous amounts of money and don’t’ believe they deserve it and live a terrible panic stricken life that they are faking their success, which they are not. They are truly doing the job well but always stressed that someone else will take their job away from them. I respect that this maybe true in certain situations but once again can also be a self fulfilling prophecy. Self-help with some of these issues is very difficult for most people, and often, despite a desire to change certain behaviours, many people don’t really want to do the work to change, enough. Until that is, they literally have had enough.

“One of the reasons for all this is that we are educated in this society to avoid exposing vulnerabilities to the outside world, which means all stress and emotional issues become buried within. Ultimately this has long term health effects but along the way we are given many signs such as the above symptoms. If we don’t feel safe simply because we have been taught to ‘keep quiet’ about our problems we feel lost and alone and resort to gratification of the primitive world, such as consumption of food, alcohol, excessive sex and sleep – which is a sign of depression.”

Case study

Jenny (not her real name or job), is a senior IT consultant at a large investment bank and is her mid-thirities. She is an extremely funny person and her role as the social/funny person of the office and also meant being a big drinker. One evening after work she got so drunk – which was not uncommon – that the fell down the escalators at Bank tube station, breaking her nose, smashing her glasses and almost loosing an eye. She did not realise this damage until she woke up the next day with very little memory but in some serious pain. She was in shock for days.

Contacts:
Georgia Foster, All Hallows House, Idol Lane, EC3. For copies of The Drinkless Mind and CD cost £17.99 call 0845 660 4396. www.georgiafoster.com
Lifeworks, London, W1 and Woking Surrey. Free phone number 0800 081 0700 and www.lifeworkscommunity.com
DPP: Developing Patient Partnerships Campaign. www.dpp.org.uk

A daily drink cuts diabetes risk

Utrecht: Women over-50s who enjoy a daily alcoholic drink are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to scientists at the Utrecht University Medical Centre in Holland.

On the other hand drinking more than moderately loses the benefit. The scientists studied more than 16,000 women aged between 49 and 70 who did not have diabetes. After six years they found that 760 women had developed type 2 diabetes.

After examining alcohol consumption, they discovered that women who took five to 30g of alcohol each week were much less likely to develop the disease.

Levels of diabetes in developed countries is increasing as a result of increased obesity. Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to process sugar, leading to high levels which damages organs. Type 1 diabetes develops at a young age and type 2 in older people who are usually overweight.

Binge-drinking Britons risk health

London: One in four Britons regular binge drinks, according to research by healthcare company BUPA Wellness.

The UK Government’s safe drinking limit recommends that women should drink no more than two to three units of alcohol and a day and men no more than three to four units. But according to BUPA Wellness nearly one in three men and one in five women drink at least double the ‘healthy’ amount of alcohol on a night out. This means 11million Britons risk their health by binge drinking, says a study.

The figures come a month before much-criticised liberalisation of the UK’s drink licensing hours come into force. Police, doctors and the judiciary have repeatedly criticised the move, fearing it will worsen the problem of binge drinking.

Alarmingly, the research – carried out for the health assessment company BUPA Wellness – suggests millions expect to drink even more once the law is relaxed.
Each drink or unit is the equivalent of a half pint of beer, pub measure of spirits or a small glass of wine.

But the poll of 2,000 men and women found one in four was drinking more than double the recommended limits on a single night out. This is classed as binge drinking.

Around one in three men (29 per cent) and one in five women (20 per cent) said they regularly drank to excess on nights out.

Young men were found to be most likely to binge drink, with 47 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 classed as binge drinkers.

But there was widespread denial about levels of drinking. Almost three- quarters (69 per cent) of those who clearly drank too much insisted they were not binge drinkers.

Two out of three said they were not concerned about how much alcohol they drank.

The new licensing laws, which come into effect on November 24, will allow pubs and clubs to serve drinks for longer.

One in six (16 per cent) of those surveyed believe the extended opening hours will encourage them to drink more.

Business also pays the price for binge drinking. Fifteen per cent of drinkers took at least one ‘ hangover day’ off work each year. Some said they took as many as five.

Two out of five of those surveyed claimed they were ‘ confused’ by the Government’s advice on safe drinking.

New jab for alcohol addiction

A long-acting once-a-month injection to help recovering alcoholics from drinking has been developed by scientists at the University of Carolina in the US.

The injection uses naltrexone, a drug already used to treat alcohol addiction, but has to be taken daily in the form of tablets. The injectable form is more effective as patients do not need to remember to take it and has been shown to reduce heavy drinking by 25 per cent.

Binge drinking increases stroke risk, say doctors

London: Binge drinkers double their risk of suffering a stroke, say doctors. But two out of three people questioned in a survey were unaware that binge drinking can trigger the condition.

The Stroke Association report also shows that one in two adults will binge drink over Christmas and they are twice as likely to suffer than those who don’t drink.

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the association, said: ‘Anyone can have a stroke, so binge drinkers are increasing their risk of an attack.

‘People are clearly aware that they should exercise control over the amount of alcohol they consume, but over half of those surveyed reveal they still binge drink on an average night out.

‘If this leads to a stroke, it could have extremely seriously consequences such as long-term disabilities or even death.’

Every year 130,000 people have a stroke, with 10,000 under retirement age, while nearly 60,000 people will die as a result.

The latest warning comes as European statistics, due to be released next week, show teenage girls have for the first time overtaken boys in the levels of UK binge drinking.

The Stroke Association survey of 1,909 adults across the UK found a lack of understanding among the public about what constitutes binge drinking.

Three quarters underestimated the recommended daily limits of alcohol for men and women, with just 22 per cent understanding the daily limits of between three and four units for men and two and three units for women.

Around half said they drank four or more alcoholic drinks – six units – which constitutes binge drinking, but only 29 per cent considered themselves to be a binger.

The survey also found that young people aged between 25 and 34 were most likely to consume 10 or more alcoholic drinks a night.

Just 40 per cent thought binge drinking could lead to a stroke, with the majority worried about dehydration and liver damage.

And 57 per cent of those surveyed said they planned to binge drink over the Christmas period.

Meanwhile, an advertising campaign unveiled on Wednesday by drinks watchdog the Portman Group is targeting female binge drinkers.