29 January 2019
The Mental Welfare Commission today published
a new guide aimed at helping professionals treat and care for
people with alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD).
ARBD is a condition where there are changes to the structure and
functions of the brain as a result of long term heavy alcohol use.
It can result in problems with memory, judgement, and a person's
ability to live independently.
It can be fully or partially reversed if a person stops using
alcohol, but it will often progress with ongoing use.
Alcohol-related brain damage is often not recognised, and is
under diagnosed. Patients can be stigmatised, with a perception
that they are difficult to help, and a feeling in some cases that
their problems are self-inflicted.
A further difficulty for medical staff, social workers and
addiction workers can be balancing the rights of individuals to
live as they choose, with their rights to get help that could
improve their quality of life.
Colin McKay, Chief Executive of the Mental Welfare Commission,
"Working with specialists in this condition, we produced this
guide because we know that diagnosing and treating people with ARBD
can be a complex process.
"The guide discusses these issues and also addresses the
assessment of a person's capacity to make their own decisions, once
they have a diagnosis. It also reviews the legal powers available
in Scotland, and the use of those powers in particular settings and
situations, using case studies.
"We hope this information will be useful and will lead to better
care, treatment and support for people with ARBD."
Dr Roger Smyth, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist at the Edinburgh
Royal Infirmary, added:
"ARBD is a condition which can have devastating effects on the
lives of sufferers and their families. We know that medical
practitioners can find it a challenging condition to diagnose and,
even after diagnosis, professionals can be unsure whether and how
to intervene. We hope this guidance will offer useful help to
professional working with sufferers and their families."
A copy of the good practice guide is available here.
Notes to editors:
1. Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is present in 1.5% of the
general population, and almost 30% of alcohol dependent
The average age of people referred to specialist services is 55,
and three quarters are male.
The number of hospital admissions for ARBD is comparatively low,
with people more often being treated in general wards compared to
2. While the guide is written for professionals, patients,
relatives or carers may find it useful in describing available
resources and approaches.
3. This is the first time the Commission has produced a good
practice guide on this subject. The Commission is keen to get
feedback on how useful it has been, and will conduct a survey later
in the year.
0131 313 8777