Alcoholism is a major problem for some families in the UK, and there are many more people who are in danger of developing an alcohol addiction. The problem is that alcohol is a highly addictive substance, despite many individuals being unaware of this.
Since alcohol is commonplace in western society, it is difficult for some people to comprehend the fact that it can be so dangerous. Alcohol has been directly linked to many mental and physical health problems including dementia, cancer, and liver disease. However, some people continue to drink far more than the recommended weekly allowance of fourteen units.
Risk of Cancer
Warnings from Public Health England (PHE) in January 2016 that even those who drink under the weekly guideline amount of alcohol could be at risk of cancer sent shockwaves around the country. Some people were seriously considering changing their drinking habits while others felt they had no choice but to stop drinking altogether.
However, many people are ignoring the risks and continuing to drink well over the recommended fourteen units per week; some are drinking their full allowance in just one drinking session, meaning their risk of developing cancer is increased.
The Cost of Alcohol to Society
Alcohol places a tremendous strain on society, and the financial cost to the economy is massive. A significant number of hospital admissions each year are alcohol-related, and there is also the cost of policing crimes that are carried out while individuals are under the influence of alcohol.
Cancer Research UK has revealed that there are around 12,800 cases of alcohol-related cancer diagnosed every single year in the United Kingdom, and estimates have placed the cost of alcohol on society at around £21 billion annually.
The charity is now looking at whether technology could help to prevent cases of alcohol addiction and alcohol-related cancer by encouraging individuals to drink less.
Drink Less App
Cancer Research UK are now investigating the Drink Less app that was developed by a team at University College London. The app aims to help people reduce their alcohol consumption through the use of theory and evidence from the fields of addiction and behavioural science.
The team said that the reason they developed the app was that less than one in ten people who drink excessively have had advice on the dangers of drinking. They said that many health professionals are uncomfortable bringing up the subject of alcohol with their patients, and a large number have not had adequate training on how to sensitively tackle the issue.
While smartphone apps already existed with advice on how people could reduce their alcohol intake, the team felt that none of them had been tested properly and was not based on science. They then decided to create Drink Less in a bid to provide an app that had a scientific basis with the aim of helping individuals to cut back on their alcohol consumption.
How Does Drink Less Work?
Those who use the app can set their own goal in terms of the amount they want to cut their alcohol consumption by. It is also possible to keep track of drinking habits to see how these have changed as well as to track how mood changes when the individual is drinking.
The app also has a game that trains the brain to refuse alcohol, and it provides advice on how to handle trigger situations to prevent excessive consumption.
Preventing Alcohol Addiction
Those who continuously drink more than the recommended weekly allowance of alcohol are in danger of developing an alcohol addiction, so apps that can help people keep track of their alcohol consumption could help to prevent this devastating illness from occurring.
The more alcohol an individual consumes, the more tolerant he or she will become to its effects. This will result in the person needing more alcohol each time to achieve the desired feelings. If this abuse of alcohol continues, alcohol addiction becomes more and more likely as the person will develop a physical dependence, meaning that even if he or she wanted to stop drinking, it would become virtually impossible.
Help for Addiction
There is no cure for alcohol addiction, but it is an illness that can be treated. With the right help and support, those affected can learn how to live without alcohol going forward. Professional counsellors and therapists can provide a variety of behavioural therapies designed to help those with alcoholism to identify the cause of their addictive behaviour and the things that are likely to trigger this behaviour.
They can then help the patient to learn how to live in the real world without the crutch of alcohol. Overcoming an alcohol addiction takes time and patience as well as a willingness to commit to a programme of rehabilitation, but even those with the most severe addictions can get better.
Source: Could an app help you cut down on drinking and lower your risk of cancer? (Cancer Research UK)