How can we help more people access alcohol support services?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Welcome to the second blog in With You’s Cost of Living series, where we are looking at the impact of the increased cost of living on people’s drinking habits. In our first blog, we explored how the cost of living has led to an increase in drinking at home and drinking alone. You can read that blog here.

In this blog, we are looking at barriers to people accessing drug and alcohol treatment services. This is a very important issue, particularly as we know that people with issues related to alcohol consumption are unlikely to come forward for treatment: around four out of five people who need alcohol treatment do not access it.

A third of people would not feel comfortable asking for support for their alcohol use

Our polling, conducted in January 2023, found that many people would not feel comfortable talking to anyone if they were worried about their alcohol consumption. Over a quarter of respondents said there was no one they would feel comfortable talking with. Meanwhile, when asked about accessing different types of support services, a third of respondents (33%) said there wouldn’t be any type of support that would be preferable to them.

Alcohol Change UK estimates that only 18% of dependent drinkers are in treatment. The number of people being treated solely for alcohol issues is also decreasing. According to the latest OHID data, there were just under 85,000 people treated for alcohol in 2021–22, and though this was an increase of 10% from the previous year, this comes after a decline from a peak of 91,651 in 2013 to 2014.

Male respondents were more likely to not feel comfortable talking to anyone if they were worried about their alcohol consumption being too high compared to female respondents (32% vs 26%). We also know, however, that women can be put off attending drug and alcohol drug and alcohol treatment and support services, which can be male-dominated and may be attended by abusive ex-partners. It is vital that services can provide tailored services for people of all genders, providing safe and confidential spaces for anyone who needs help to access it.

Our polling also found that over a quarter of respondents (29%) would feel most comfortable talking to a family member about help with alcohol consumption. This means it is really important that family members have easy access to resources to manage these potentially difficult conversations and provide support. Our website contains lots of resources for families and friends looking to help a loved one who may be struggling with drug or alcohol use. This includes advice on how to set boundaries, and how to support someone who has stopped drinking recently.

Accessing support for the first time can be especially difficult

Looking for help can be daunting, and we have previously researched the specific challenges faced by those entering treatment for the first time. We found that the first four weeks after accessing help is when people are the most likely to drop out of services. When we looked into the causes of this, we found that potentially intrusive assessment questions our staff are required to ask new service users could feel alienating and off-putting. This led us to develop our Conversation Tool, designed to be less formal and more open-ended. Our staff say this helps them to provide a warmer, more personalised service.

For many people, looking for help online can feel more comfortable, whether for themselves or someone else. Anyone can speak to a trained advisor for free, confidentially and without judgement via our webchat service at: Last year, we helped 18,000 people via our webchat. Our staff work with people to develop a plan of action which feels personal, manageable and accessible.

With You during the cost of living crisis

The increase in the cost of living has caused a great amount of stress and anxiety for lots of us. As we discussed in our previous blog, many people turn to alcohol when they feel anxious, depressed, or isolated. In these difficult and uncertain times, it is especially important that everyone knows they can access free and confidential support. This can be through whichever method they feel most comfortable: online or in person, one-to-one or in groups.

Once someone has accessed treatment for the first time, we will work with them to ensure a completely personalised service. We know that stressors associated with the cost of living increase, such as insecurities around housing and employment, all need to be discussed as part of the recovery process. Our approach is always non-judgemental, caring, and approachable.

This blog was originally published by With You. You can read the original post here.

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We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

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