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SHAAP’s Recommendations for Services: People with Alcohol-related Problems

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) has published new guidance in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The aim of the guidance is to reduce risks and ensure continued support for people with alcohol-related problems in the context of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic with national advice and guidance updated regularly, and this guidance is intended to support and not contradict or replicate any local contingency plans that are in place.

Dr Eric Carlin, SHAAP Director, said:

“The scale of the current public health emergency is hard to contemplate. For many people who are recovering from alcohol-related problems, the risks of relapse are huge. I hope that they will follow official advice in relation to reducing risks of COVID-19 infection and also that they will go online to use the alcohol recovery support networks that are there”. 

SHAAP recognises that the COVID-19 crisis means that health and related services will be severely stretched. Any reduction in alcohol services is likely to lead to greater alcohol-related morbidity and mortality in the medium to long-term. Alcohol liaison services in acute hospitals should be sustained, where possible, these can be very useful in facilitating early discharge of patients with alcohol-related problems.

Alcohol withdrawal is a common reason for emergency admission to hospitals in Scotland. People undergoing detoxification should be helped to complete that, relapse prevention medications can be crucial to recovery and prescriptions should be maintained. SHAAP’s guidance provides advice for heavy drinkers on cutting back or stopping drinking alcohol, which includes the aim of reducing these presentations.

The new SHAAP guidance points out that alcohol continues to be marketed in shops, in the media and on the internet and that suppliers will make home deliveries during the current crisis. Alcohol not being consumed in public places increases the risks related to home drinking, where alcohol is cheaper, compounded by the stress that the current situation is causing. Use of other substances, including tobacco, will add to their risks of health and other harms.

Much of the help and support for recovery from alcohol-related problems take place in communal settings. Those who are recently beginning recovery, may suffer disproportionately from losing social networks and may be vulnerable to relapse and other health risks. SHAAP emphasises the importance to be as aware of such individuals and to intervene actively to find out how people are doing, to raise the alarm where necessary, and to try to get help for them, including from statutory and other sources, where possible.

The new SHAAP guidance can be downloaded here:

For further information please contact:
Dr Peter Rice, Chair, SHAAP 07740 937732
Dr Eric Carlin, Director, SHAAP 0750 508 1784

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