Thinking about Drinking: A Year in the Life of an Alcohol Researcher at Stirling

Niamh was active in helping the media understand the implications of theniamhfitzgerald 2016 new alcohol guidelines. In this blog post she discusses what happened as a result of the publication of the new guidelines and how the media portray the facts in their own way.

By Niamh Fitzgerald, Research Profile, @NiamhCreate

Journalists love a good alcohol story, especially at this time of year, and January 2016 gave them the ideal ammunition with the publication of new advice from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) designed to provide people with ‘accurate information and clear advice about alcohol and its health risks’.  For the first time, the guidance advised that ‘no level of regular drinking can be considered completely safe’ and advised the same limit for both men and women – not to regularly drink above 14 units of alcohol (about 1 and a half bottles of wine) per week, at the same time moving away from the previous daily limits.  The guidance was based on a lengthy process involving experts from around the UK including Prof. Gerard Hastings (from Stirling) and followed emerging evidence on the links between alcohol and cancer – kicking off a furore of media coverage.

Media coverage following the publication of the new guidelines

The Daily Mail led with the news that the guidelines would ‘put a stop to the belief that red wine is good for you in moderation, while the Sun also focused on this ‘plonk lovers’ shock’ as the CMO’s ‘rubbished’ the supposed health benefits of wine.

alcohol-daily-mail

Others focused on the cancer risk, with the Scotsman leading with ‘drinkers at risk of cancer from single glass of wine’; whereas the Telegraph headline was ‘health chiefs attacked for nanny state alcohol guidelines’.  It was a frantic week for colleagues and I at the Institute for Social Marketing (ISM) as we sought to capture all of the newspaper, television and radio coverage for future analysis.  As Lecturer in Alcohol Studies at ISM, and lead for teaching and public engagement on alcohol for the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS), I was interviewed about the new guidelines on BBC News for their ‘Ask This’ feature, which takes questions from viewers.  I also had a comment piece published in The Scotsman. Continue reading

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Reducing Alcohol Consumption: guidelines, local government and smartphone apps

An NIHR School for Public Health Research and UCL Centre for Behaviour Change event.

This event brought together researchers and practitioners in the field of excessive alcohol consumption reduction. Various speakers (from different institutions) discussed the latest research evidence and research evidence gaps. This was followed by a lively debate in the networking reception.

Available now are the presentations from the event and a summary of the social media coverage.

Speakers at the event:

  • Prof. Bernie Hannigan (PHE)
  • Dr John Holmes (ScHARR)
  • Prof. Matt Hickmann (University of Bristol)
  • Dr Jamie Brown (UCL)
  • Dr Gautam Mehta (UCLH)
  • Prof. Eileen Kaner (FUSE)

For more information on the event see the agenda & further information sheet.

Continue reading

Prescribed alcohol drug ‘Nalmefene’ was licensed despite insufficient evidence to prove its effectiveness

A study from the University of Stirling’s Institute of Social Marketing showed that a drug being used to treat alcohol problems in the UK was licensed for use, despite insufficient evidence to prove its effectiveness.

The drug nalmefene, marketed as Selincro®, was approved in Europe in February 2013 and was subsequently recommended by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Yet a team of scientists have found problems with the way clinical trials were conducted and analysed, making it impossible to know how much the drug actually helps to reduce drinking in patients dependent on alcohol.

Outlined in the journal Addiction, a group of experts analysed the published studies of nalmefene that formed the basis for the licensing and NICE decision. They concluded that evidence of its effectiveness was weak, and any possible effect on patients was small at around a one drink per day reduction on average. Continue reading