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Sobriety diaries are not the answer to solving alcohol addiction, says Priory expert

The rise of self-help books and online ‘sobriety diaries’ when it comes to alcohol addiction is unhelpful and, in some cases, can even be dangerous, according to a Priory addictions expert.

She spoke out amid an increasing trend for people to “blog and brag” about beating their alcohol dependency or being able to control their drinking.

Claire Rimmer, Lead Addictions Therapist at The Priory Hospital, Altrincham, said alcoholism was too serious a condition for self-help books.

“Many patients think they are able to combat addictions on their own, and turn to self-help books for guidance, but self-help doesn’t work for addiction and alcohol dependency is something that cannot be beaten on your own. Professional help is always needed. And sobriety diaries are not a ‘treatment option’ for people struggling with addictions or alcoholism.

“One particular concern with these diaries is that they don’t always tell the truth and can be more harmful than helpful for people with an alcohol problem” she said.

The self-help books come amid a rise in mindful drinking - the opposite of drinking without thinking, by training yourself to drink in moderation - as a “movement”. Claire Rimmer said mindful drinking was a positive approach for those people who occasionally found themselves drinking to excess and regretting that extra-large glass of wine on a night out with friends.

But mindful drinking was not appropriate for those with a dependency on alcohol as it could end up masking a deeper issue and a person not seeking professional help.

“Mindful drinking journals – and some sobriety journals - are simply referring to controlled drinking and being able to make a conscious effort to think about your alcohol intake. I would say that trying to get an alcoholic to control their drinking is a dangerous approach as this is something they cannot control. The only way someone with an addiction can get better is through abstinence.

“For addicts, admitting that they have a problem is a huge step. One of the things we say to people is ‘when alcohol is costing more than money,  that is when you need to think about getting help’. Often, alcohol starts becoming more important than other things in life and your family can become impacted as well. Our patients talk a lot about their losses they have incurred because of their addiction, for example they might lose a friendship, a marriage, access to their children, their driving licence or their job.

“At the Priory, we offer free assessments to initially talk through the problem with a professional and look at how they can get the help they need, and this is a great starting point for patients. Speaking to a GP can also help someone in taking those first steps to getting the right treatment and they will usually be referred to a specialist or a support group.”

A doctor will diagnose alcoholism when three or more of the following have been present together in the past year:

  • An overwhelming desire to drink
  • An inability to stop or to control harmful drinking
  • Withdrawal symptoms when stopping drinking
  • Evidence of alcohol tolerance
  • Pursuing the consumption of alcohol to the exclusion of alternative pleasures
  • Continuing to drink despite clear evidence of harmful consequences

According to the latest NHS statistics, there were 339,000 estimated admissions related to alcohol consumption in 2015-6. This is 22% higher than 2005/06.

There were 6,813 deaths which were related to the consumption of alcohol in 2015. The number of deaths is similar to 2014 but represents an increase of 10% on 2005.

Claire Rimmer offers her 5 steps to a sober lifestyle:

  1. Recognise there is a problem -This can often be the hardest step to take but is the most important
  2. Accept that something needs to be done about it - Action to address the problem is key
  3. Seek professional help - People don’t have to struggle on their own, help is available to the individual and their families
  4. Remain positive - A positive outlook can bring about positive change
  5. Be willing to change and move forward with your life - Accessing treatment can be very scary for people. It may be the hardest thing they do but can be the best thing they do.


Notes to editors

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About Priory Group

The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, stress, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into three divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, and adult care. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.

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