High numbers of people are drinking above recommended limits. 41% of men (16-74yrs) and 15% (16-74yrs) of women are drinking at levels hazardous to their health.
Approximately 1 in 8 men and 1 in 24 women have some degree of alcohol dependence. Excess drinking puts long term health at significant risk with excessive alcohol consumption associated with an increased risk of a range of illnesses that collectively contribute to a massive impact on morbidity and mortality.
What Community Pharmacists Can Do
The Department of Health's current advice on sensible drinking is:
Men: It is recommended that men do not drink more than 3 - 4 units per day and no more than 21 units per week.
Women: It is recommended that women do not drink more than 2 - 3 units per day and no more than 14 units per week.
Drink Free Days
Units of alcohol
Click here for alcohol unit poster
This is a rough guide. Some beers, lagers and ciders are much stronger. Most home poured drinks contain more than one unit of alcohol. To find out how many units an individual drink contains click here:
Alcohol units can also be worked out using the following calculation:
Strength (ABV) x Volume (ml) ¸ 1,000 = Number of Units.
As a pharmacist you are more likely to get involved in education and prevention activity such as supporting local and national campaigns. Pharmacists can ensure availability of educational material ie posters, window displays as well as health education leaflets to support campaigns such as "Drinkwise" organised jointly by the Scottish Council on Alcohol and the Health Education For Scotland.
Providing advice to parents It is widely recognised that parental attitudes to drinking and their drinking behaviour can have a profound influence on children's alcohol related attitudes and behaviour. Situations within the pharmacy setting may arise when a parent seeks advice on safe drinking levels, child excessive drinking behaviour. Packages, information leaflets are available.
Signposting patients to support services As a pharmacist you should be aware of the different local services and document contact details that are available to help people with alcohol problems beyond the scope of your pharmacy practice e.g. Community addiction teams. NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde provide access and referral pathways to reduce harm to health caused by the misuse of alcohol.
The Scottish Council on Alcohol: The approach employed by this group of agencies is primarily one to one counselling.Through a process of counselling with a trained alcohol counsellor, drinkers are encouraged to identify their own particular problems and to decide their course of action.
Alcoholics Anonymous: Provide a form of therapy based on a disease model of alcoholism which assumes fundamental differences between real alcoholics and excessive drinkers.
Links and references
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde project manager for Alcohol Screening and Brief Interventions,
Maureen O'Neil Craig, Telephone 0141 276 6600. To find your local Alcohol Brief Interventions (ABI) Lead, contact Maureen O'Neill Craig on 0141 276 6600.
Alcohol Focus Scotland - To find support throughout Scotland. Al-Anon 0141 339 8884 Helpline offering support for families and friends of problem drinkers.
Alcohol Concern A charity campaigning for effective alcohol policy and improved services for people whose lives are affected by alcohol-related problems.
Alcohol Learning Centre Provides more detailed information on alcohol misuse.
Community Addiction Team (CAT) CAT's organise and provide services for those living in Glasgow affected by drugs and alcohol, including accessing 24 / 7 drug crisis centres, Addiction Services to Offenders, Carers Services and Family Support, Community Rehabilitation Services, Mental Health, etc. following an "assessment of needs".
Glasgow Council on Alcohol (GCA) Providing support, counselling, advice, information, group work and training for those affected by alcohol misuse.
Try this website to find support services through Scotland
Community Addition Team website
Scotland has had a significant problem due to substance misuse for several decades. Substance misuse covers drug misuse both orally and by injection, alcohol consumption, smoking, laxative and solvent abuse- these have a very significant effect on the nation’s health.
The misuse of drugs affects all sectors of society. Pharmacists play an important part in controlling the availability of medicines, in providing information and advice about substances liable to misuse and the associated risks and in providing harm reduction programmes e.g. methadone.
What community pharmacists can do?
Raise awareness of potential problems with prescriptions and Over the Counter (OTC) medicines.
Respond to symptoms and problems
Refer patients and families to agencies working in partnership.
Drug Misuse - Prevention Section
Display of materials relating to substance misuse and substance substitution.
Awareness of OTC sales of substances liable for abuse e.g.codeine or dihydrocodeine containing preparations, anti-histamine sleeping aids, laxatives, and stimulant preparations such as pseudoephedrine.
Awareness of abuse in prescription medication, through frequent repeat prescriptions of medicines with possible abuse potential or diversion of controlled drugs into general population.
Information provision e.g. infected batches of street drugs, high strength batches.
References and links
Scottish Drug Forum SDF Telephone: 0141 221 1175 SDF works in partnership with others to reduce drug harm in Scotland.
Know the Score Telephone: 0800 587 5879 Provides information and advice about drugs and the effects of drugs in Scotland.
Frank Telephone: 0800 776600
Supervision of Methadone Consumption Standards
Glasgow Addiction Services Telephone: 0141 277 7660
Blood Borne Viruses (BBV) (Assorted leaflets available from Pharmacy Health Promotion)
Hepatitis C - C-level Telephone: 0141 332 2520 C-Level works with those at risk of becoming infected with Hep C, those already affected, their family and friends, and in partnership with professionals supporting "hard to reach" or "at risk" individuals.Alcohol / Medicine Interactions