New alcohol service gives middle-aged drinkers somewhere to turn
Help is on the way to treat the ticking time-bomb that is middle-aged drinking.
Research has shown young people in Oxfordshire are drinking less but in contrast more people over 40 are turning to alcohol to ease the pressures of work and home life.
Now funding has been secured for the creation of a new standalone service provided by Turning Point, the community drug and alcohol service which provides comprehensive treatment and care for any adults in Oxfordshire experiencing problems with drugs and alcohol.
The new alcohol clinic will support those people who wouldn’t necessarily identify as being dependent on alcohol. This will include those who have been referred by GPs or the Alcohol Care Team at the John Radcliffe Hospital, but can be used by anyone who feels they need support.
Turning Point is commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health team and has treatment hubs in Oxford, Banbury, Didcot and Witney.
The Public Health team seeks to promote, improve and protect the health of local people. It’s all part of the council’s commitment to thriving communities – we help people live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.
Health and wellbeing
Public Health England reports there were 759 service users successfully completing treatment in Oxfordshire in 2018/19. Of those, 484 were aged 40 or over, compared to 275 under the age of 40.
Andy Symons, Oxfordshire Senior Operations Manager at Turning Point, said a separate alcohol service would be created at the front of its building in Rectory Road, Oxford.
“There are certain people who you’d never associate with having an alcohol problem,” said Andy. “But research shows us that an increasing number of middle-aged people are consistently drinking above recommended safe alcohol limits, such as drinking a bottle of wine a night. You get to a certain age when that catches up with you.
“This is a bit more about a wider health and wellbeing approach. We want to work with people to get control over their drinking so they don’t become alcohol dependent and don’t lose their jobs.
“It really is that middle-aged group affected by social norms - pressures of work, pressures of home life. They don’t see themselves as having an addiction problem but have got into older people’s drinking habits that will inevitably lead to increasing health problems.
“It’ll be talking about the importance of exercise, calorie counts and general health and wellbeing. We’ll be open in the evenings so we’re accessible to those who are working. There will be some online work with lots of modules and support.”
Public Health England funding
The new service at Turning Point is one of those projects to benefit from a £215,000 funding windfall for alcohol services in Oxfordshire.
A total of £6m has been allocated by Public Health England to local authorities across the country for 2019-20 to make it easier for people with alcohol problems to access help.
This funding will also support a homeless hub in Oxford city centre run by Oxford City Council, a family-focussed county-wide community project, and a homelessness hub run by the Salvation Army in Bicester.
‘Drinking more just crept up on me’
Rob is a 48-year-old father-of-three from Oxford who works as an accountant. His drinking had escalated in recent years due to pressures from work/home life and he had started to use alcohol as a well of relaxing after a hard day.
He was drinking five days out of seven, consuming four to five bottles of 5% lager after work. He became concerned about his drinking but was nervous about asking for support.
“Drinking more just crept up on me and I realised that I needed to drink after work just to relax in the evening,” he said.
Rob read about Turning Point in the local media but put off contacting them as he thought they were a service for alcoholics.
With increasing arguments at home, Rob eventually plucked up the courage to contact Turning Point and was given an appointment the following week at its Resolution Clinic. The Resolution Clinic is a dedicated evening alcohol service aimed specifically at workers who would like to reduce their alcohol drinking to safer limits.
He attended five weekly one-to-one appointments every Tuesday evening and was able to look at different strategies to enable him to reduce his drinking and improve his general wellbeing.
He said: “It has been great and not what I expected. It has been really practical and we have discussed all sorts of ways of making my life more healthy and reduce my drinking.”
Rob is now in a very positive frame of mind and has managed 12 days alcohol-free out of the last 14. When he did drink he consumed only two bottles of lager.
He has managed to lose weight and has noticed a big difference in his physical health and his relationship with his family. He feels more energetic at work and feels Turning Point has given him the belief that he can live a healthier life moving forward.
“Turning Point has been really good for me with their friendly advice. I think I just needed somebody to remind me what I knew, that I was drinking too much and using alcohol as a crutch. It feels good to be drinking less and I have even started walking to work,” he said.
Lifetime of alcohol abuse
Grandfather-of-four Paul Greenwood came through the doors at Turning Point in January following a lifetime of alcohol abuse.
He started drinking at the age of 13 and was expelled from numerous schools as alcohol took grip.
“I was drinking to the point I was paralytic,” said Paul, 51, of Oxford. “Now I look back and realise it wasn’t normal. I left school and worked as a kitchen porter, a construction worker, in factories… but alcohol always made me lose every job I had.”
Paul turned to an alcohol recovery project at the Oxford hostel O’Hanlon House and for about six years his life took an upward turn.
“I was in excellent health. I was attending AA meetings and took up quite a few different service positions and was doing well. But then in 2013/14 I relapsed again.”
Paul has been in and out of hospital more times than he cares to remember, being diagnosed with liver and kidney problems, alcohol dementia, jaundice and sepsis.
“I had my worst ever week in hospital just before Christmas and came out on December 24,” he said. “I had a realisation I didn’t want to live like this any more and came into Turning Point on January 14 determined to turn things around.
“I’ve done lots of work around alcohol, health and living without a drink. I’ve engaged with one-to-one counselling, discussing things I’ve never spoken about before. Turning Point gave me the belief in myself that I could stop drinking. The most positive thing is now I can see a future again.
“This extra funding for alcohol services is a massive thing.”
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If you would like to talk to Turning Point about alcohol or drug use, you can contact them on 0300 0134 776.