'I'm not drinking. I'm just self-medicating'

By Sophie Goodchild, Chief Reporter
Published: 16 April 2006


It is a familiar ritual for Britons everywhere: the
glass of wine or two after a particularly stressful
day once the children have been put to bed.

But now experts are warning that thousands of people
are becoming hooked on alcohol as a form of
"self-medication" instead of seeking professional help
for their problems. A report published this Tuesday by
the Mental Health Foundation is expected to say there
is a direct link between the fact that alcohol use has
more than doubled over the past 50 years and the rise
in anxiety, anti-social behaviour and addictive

They blame ministers for failing to do enough to
highlight the impact drink has on mental well-being
and are calling on the Government to issue new
guidance stressing the dangers of using drink as a
pick-me-up and to mask deep-rooted insecurities about
relationships or work.

This comes as ministers plan new health warnings that
will be carried on drink cans, bottles of alcohol and
beer mats in an effort to curb the nation's escalating
binge-drinking habit. An official announcement will be
made later this year but among the safe-drinking
messages being discussed between the Department of
Health and the drinks industry is "Don't do drunk".

Alcohol abuse costs the country as much as 20bn a
year, a large proportion of which is borne by the NHS.
Of particular concern is the rise in the number of
women and younger drinkers. Recent figures published
by the Government have shown that 20 per cent of men
and 8 per cent of women binge drink, consuming more
than eight units for a man and six units for a woman,
at least once a week. Campaigners have lobbied for
more money to be spent on sensible drinking messages
and education about safe drinking levels.

The Government has already published an alcohol
strategy to curb binge drinking, which has focused on
the health dangers such as liver disease.

But the Mental Health Foundation report will say that
this places too much emphasis on the medical risks and
not enough on how alcohol can alter the brain
chemistry and lead to increasing vulnerability to
depression and anxiety.


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