Alcohol abuse underreported, warns RedArc, as Alcohol Awareness Week approaches

As Alcohol Awareness Week approaches (1-7 July), RedArc warns that alcohol abuse is prevalent in many of the people it supports, even though it may not be the primary reason for them seeking help.

As many use alcohol to help them cope with other underlying physical and mental health conditions, and some will be in denial about their addiction, detecting the actual number of those reliant on alcohol is challenging, meaning the numbers are likely to be widely under-reported.

Christine Husbands, commercial director, RedArc said: “We have found that people drink because of many issues, and it takes time for people to open up about it. Once they do, we’re able to help them deal with the main cause, as well as the secondary issue of drinking.”

Many groups affected

In RedArc’s experience, there are many groups affected by alcohol dependence or who mask their issues by drinking.

For instance, those working in professional roles: addiction can be difficult to detect but can also be a significant problem. Those in high-stress, high-powered, highly paid roles can use drink as a coping strategy, and be adept at masking their addiction for fear of losing their credibility and their job.

RedArc believes a high number of professionals may not consider themselves ‘alcohol-addicted’ but may feel they simply have a drink to wind down after a busy day. However, drinking to deal with stress can conceal a more deep-rooted issue that may need to be addressed. High-functioning alcohol-dependents are at no less risk from serious illness than those who acknowledge the misuse.

In addition, the move to working from home has exacerbated this issue for some. With hybrid working, there are fewer employer-employee touch points, and less time spent with colleagues. This brings its own pressures for some, and in addition, employees who work from home have more opportunities to disguise any reliance on alcohol, and can be tactical about when and how much they consume.

Serious financial strain is also be linked to excessive drinking. This cuts across all ages and demographics and has been exacerbated by the recent cost-of-living crisis. A first-time home buyer, a middle-income family with lifestyle expectations, or someone nearing retirement can all be affected.

Alcoholism does not discriminate, and can impact anyone regardless of age, gender or income. It can surface quickly or arise over a long period of time, and because drinking is generally socially acceptable, an over-reliance can be easy for people to disguise.

Support for alcohol-related issues

In RedArc’s experience, people are often guarded and only reveal the true extent of their drinking after a number of follow-up calls they have with them, once they feel safe and not judged.

It’s helpful for those who are dependent on alcohol to build a therapeutic relationship with a trusted third party over time in order to feel able to disclose their problem. This usually requires long-term support from clinically trained experts who not only understand and support the individual’s presenting condition – be that physical, mental or financial – but can also advise on secondary issues such as alcohol misuse.

Support may involve providing emotional assistance, helping that individual to navigate support within the NHS, charities such as AA, as well as providing therapies or counselling if required. Support also needs to be extended to family members who can also be affected as a result of alcoholism.

This support is often available via employee benefits such as EAPs, group risk and PMI benefits, and in many cases does not require a claim for the support to be accessed.

 Christine Husbands, continued: “Reaching for the odd drink to try and de-stress is not unusual but if this becomes the norm rather than the exception, then there may be other issues at stake. We see drinking affecting many different groups for many different reasons, and ensuring the right support is available is crucial in tackling the underlying cause as well as the substance misuse itself.”