Addressing the issues around alcohol (Rhiannon Jehu)

As a sober addict, I was sad to read that Elizabeth Robinson’s report on the over-provision of alcohol in Shetland was criticised.

It is the NHS’s responsibility to write from the perspective of what is best for our health and that seems to be what was done. Next year, the licensing board will make a decision about the future of alcohol sales within Shetland and it is important for them to get the opinions of as many different groups as possible.

We know that there is a problem with over-provision and also that there is a serious problem around unhealthy drinking patterns within Shetland. The challenge is to address these issues while still giving those who want to drink sensibly that opportunity.

Regarding the idea of changing sales times, there is a growing body of research demonstrating that restricting trading hours reduces alcohol-related harm. At present, the window of time until 10am when alcohol can first be sold gives addicts the opportunity to practice sober skills.

I feel that opening that window wider, until lunch time, would have a minimal effect on someone who is, for example, doing a quick shop during their lunch break, while at the same time, giving an alcohol dependent person an extra two or three hours of sobriety.

When I drank I always had to make sure I had enough to cope with those first few shaky hours in the morning.

Yes, people will “stockpile” to cope with the morning shortage, but that happens anyway. I was not alone in that when I drank I always had to make sure I had enough to cope with those first few shaky hours in the morning.

The real advantage of opening the window wider would be for people who know they have a problem and are trying to change. They could schedule appointments during sober hours, increasing their chances of learning new coping strategies, dealing with other issues in their lives and learning new skills.

I feel that allowing “shop” sales to commence from lunchtime onwards could be part of a balanced response to our problems taking into account the majority of people who drink sensibly while also helping those who are trying to change their habits for the better.

The decisions made by the licensing board next year will have a long-term impact directly or indirectly on everyone in Shetland. We have the opportunity to help people living in the torture of active addiction and at the same time reduce the number of future addicts.

I feel that NHS Shetland should be congratulated for putting forward strong and specific suggestions and opening up a much-needed debate.

Rhiannon Jehu
Wester Quarff.


Add Your Comment
  • Andrew Holt

    • November 17th, 2016 14:56

    I appreciate Rhiannon’s frankness in sharing her own experience of alcohol addiction. However I fail to see how partial prohibition and price hikes will benefit those struggling to overcome this particular temptation or indeed addiction in any of its multiple disguises. Generally we tend to demonise drug and alcohol abusers, which enables us to feel superior and conveniently gloss over the Heinz 57 varieties of other forms of addiction which afflict our society. For example, exercise, sex, pornography or shopping. Do we shut away women for part of the day to help the male sex addict practice abstinence? Or close all the shops ’til lunchtime to stop compulsive overspending on unnecessary items? We need to recognise that addiction can be an issue for any of us. We are neurologically hard wired for it and the onus is on us as individuals to choose whether we will indulge or deny its siren call.

    • Gary Cleaver

      • November 18th, 2016 18:41

      I note that Mr Holt refrains from including religion in his list of the ‘things’ on his 57 list?!! Someone of a more agnostic/atheist inclination would find that a bit puzzling.
      Anyway, that aside. I found the original contribution from Ms Jehu to be very balanced and it placed her personal experience within a well observed Shetland context.
      Once more, for clarity. Addictions are not temptations. They are a response to social disfunctions, chemical anomalies, genetic predispositions and plain bad luck!

  • i tinkler

    • November 19th, 2016 10:24

    I am a little surprised (maybe not!!!) That Shetland Health Board has not bothered to look at the epidemiological evidence with regard to restricting the sales of alcohol and alcoholism. The evidence is overwhelming, cutting down the hour’s of off-sales (carry outs) makes not one iota of difference. In England and most of Europe, 24 hours per day availability of purchase is not unusual. Sadly Scotland’s restricted sales do not prevent central Scotland having the highest per capita consumption of alcohol and alcoholism (Shetland very close, ). Why. the problem is cultural, no more no less. Hard spirits as opposed to beer and wine, dingy bars as opposed to friendly social pubs and wine bars. Social drinking as opposed to home cosumption. In Shetland, poor transport links, especially no rural buses services in the evenings, all encouraging hoarding of alcohol for home consumption. Endless centralisation to Lerwick resulting in isolation and genuine loneliness of the rural population, especially teenagers, where the problem starts.

  • i tinkler

    • November 19th, 2016 20:33

    (Effectiveness of policies restricting hours of alcohol sales in preventing excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.)
    Based on a systematic review of qualifying studies, this review confirms the findings of previous reviews and adds details regarding a possible dose or threshold effect. Evidence of the effects of changes in hours of sale of <2 hours was insufficient to determine effectiveness because of inconsistency among findings in the body of evidence, leaving unanswered the question of the effects of small increases in hours of sale. Data are not sufficient to allow systematic assessment of the relative percentage increase in hours (over a baseline) or the placement of the hours within the day.
    Hahn RA, Kuzara JL, Elder R, Brewer R, Chattopadhyay S, Fielding J, Naimi TS, Toomey T, Middleton JC, Lawrence B; Task Force on Community Preventive Services..
    Am J Prev Med. 2010 Dec;39(6):590-604. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.09.016. Review.
    PMID: 21084080)

  • David Spence

    • November 20th, 2016 7:19

    This maybe a mute point, but alcohol addiction seems to be very much a British trait than most other countries within Europe (no doubt somebody will come with some facts to disprove the point?).

    Even the popular (said loosely) soaps are all based around pubs and alcohol. The way and manner alcohol is portrayed in soaps, drama’s and movies makes this drug seem perfectly harmless……….doesn’t it ?

    However, I think facts speak louder than any diatribe presented by the media……………but of course the media is not to blame for promoting such a drug………is it?

    Another pathetic portrayal of alcohol by the media……….all of lifes problem can be solved through alcohol, can’t it? Well, you know the line……….Quick, relax and have a drink (of alcohol, not tea or coffee or any soft drink, it has to be alcohol) this will make the problem (whatever it may be……..apart from alcoholism) go away, mentality.

    As mentioned previously, if we as a society put further restrictions on the sale of alcohol as good as we have tackled smoking, may be we would better off? Mind you, I suspect the Government and Supermarkets would object on commercial grounds (as in not making enough money).

  • Andrew Holt

    • November 21st, 2016 17:25

    In answer to Gary. The ” for example” at the beginning of my far from complete list of addictions should have signalled that this was just a sample. Of course the practice of religion can be symptomatic of an addictive personality. I don’t think I said addictions are temptations but they certainly contain an element of that. Otherwise addictions counsellors wouldn’t advise clients to avoid, pubs, clubs and their old ‘friends.’ I am aware of research that points to a genetic component, but bad luck! What’s that?

  • Ian Leask

    • November 21st, 2016 18:32

    What absolute Tosh Rhiannon Jehu. I’m an X Alcoholic, when the pubs used to open until 3 am, instead of drinking as fast as I could before the pubs shut at 11pm I could actually take my time to get drunk, as a result I actually drunk less not more, restricting sales only encourages people to stockpile prohibition is a proven failure no matter what it is trying to prohibit. The problem with the licencing board within Shetland is they don’t seem to have a clue at what they are doing!!!


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