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Alcohol-related brain damage - new guide

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, said:

"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 individuals.

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 psychiatric wards.

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.

 

Mary Mowat

Mary.mowat@mwcscot.org.uk

0131 313 8777

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