Sir Mike Penning MP gained first-hand insights into the work carried out by alcohol and drug services during a visit to the local residential detox and rehabilitation unit Oxygen Recovery on 25 January 2019.
This visit was organised by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) and the Hertfordshire-based charity Druglink, which run Oxygen Recovery. Visiting the service and speaking to staff and residents, Mr Penning learned about Oxygen Recovery and discussed what can be done to help minimise the chance of addiction and what other treatment services could help people in need of support.
Residents told Mr Penning how they felt it was important to educate people, especially from a young age, about the side effects of alcohol and other drugs. They said young people need to understand how substances affect not only them but their family, friends and everyone around them. Druglink run educational workshops in secondary schools and colleges, delivering the knowledge to help people make sensible decisions with the aim to prevent possible issues with substances in the future.
Better labelling of alcohol products was also discussed as another way to increase consumer awareness and knowledge. Currently, less than 1 in 5 people in the UK know that the Chief Medical Officers recommend not to drink more than 14 units a week to keep risks low. Support for more information is high: 70% of the UK public want warnings that exceeding the drinking guidelines can damage one’s health to be displayed on alcohol labels as a legal requirement.
Mr Penning heard that the government needs to act quickly to reduce alcohol harm, for example by providing more funding for effective alcohol treatment, driving education and introducing health warnings on alcohol labels.
Speaking at the visit, Mike Penning MP said:
“It was great to visit Oxygen Recovery today and see the work the team at Druglink are doing to help people with their recovery from addiction. Education plays a key role and we need to make sure that students and young adults are aware of the dangers of alcohol and other drugs. I am looking forward to working with Druglink to help spread awareness.”
Derek Heath, joint Chief Executive Officer of Druglink, said:
“We’re delighted that Sir Mike Penning came to visit Druglink today. We try to offer as much treatment, support and guidance as possible to those with substance-misuse issues, but we’re a small charity with limited resources. Today’s visit from Mr Penning has helped us build awareness of all the work that is being carried out in this sector, and enables us to discuss what more can be done to help those who need us and work towards harm reduction.”
Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, commented:
“Alcohol has become one the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death in the UK. To help change that, we need to make sure people are better informed about the dangers of alcohol consumption. Our research shows that less than 10% of alcohol labels inform consumers about the low-risk drinking guidelines and none have specific health warnings. The current self-regulation systems for alcohol labelling is not working. We need the government to take action and introduce a requirement for alcohol labelling in the forthcoming Alcohol Strategy.”