Social care professionals ‘fail to spot alcohol misusers’

Social care and health professionals are failing to identify people who are dependent on alcohol, meaning the vast majority are not in treatment.

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Social care and health professionals are failing to identify people who are dependent on alcohol, meaning the vast majority are not in treatment.

That was the message today from health standards body the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, as it launched guidance on diagnosing, assessing and treating alcohol dependency.

Just 6% of the estimated one million people who are dependent receive treatment, Nice said. All relevant health and social care professionals needed to be able to identify people who misuse alcohol, through tools such as the Alcohol Users Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) or the Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire (SADQ), it added.

“People who suffer from alcohol dependence often face much stigma and discrimination in their day to day lives, which can act as a barrier to them seeking help,” said Dr Fergus Macbeth, director of the centre for clinical practice at Nice.

“Improvements must be made across the NHS so that more people can be correctly diagnosed, assessed and treated for their dependence.”

The guidance recommends different levels of support for people depending on the severity of their dependence, with those with milder problems offered psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy, and those with more serious problems offered structured assisted withdrawal.

It also said professionals should seek to treat alcohol misuse before any coexisting mental illness, as mental health symptoms can improve following effective treatment of alcohol problems.

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