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More alcohol awareness is needed in the workplace

31 January 2013

As ‘dry January’ ebbs away, Action on Addiction calls for greater alcohol awareness in the workplace

To mark the close of ‘dry January’ – a month of abstention from alcohol that has seen many employees across the UK turn down that after-work drink – the charity Action on Addiction is calling for greater awareness of the impact that drinking in the workplace can have the whole year round.

A recent Action on Addiction survey of the UK public* revealed that 1 in 10 people aged 18-54 regularly drink too much to cope with work-related stress, suggesting that today’s working culture is contributing to people drinking more than they should. While the charity welcomes efforts to cut back on alcohol in January, it is urging organisations, and employees, not to lose sight of the potential problems associated with drinking throughout the year.

The same survey also found that workers aged 18-34 in particular struggle to resist drink culture at work, and that events with free alcohol are regularly responsible for a quarter of 18-34 year olds drinking too much. With many formal office events – also often opportunities for networking and team bonding – revolving around alcohol, Action on Addiction is encouraging employers to think carefully about their workplace drinking culture and watch out for any signs of problem drinking amongst employees.

Nick Barton, Chief Executive of Action on Addiction, commented: “Over the past decades excessive alcohol consumption has become increasingly part of the fabric in all sections of British society and social life. And in the workplace, a combination of high stress levels and alcohol-fuelled events appears to be leading to an over-reliance on drink as a coping mechanism.

“It has been encouraging to see so many people taking part in an alcohol-free month, and many workplaces will have seen an improvement in productivity, punctuality and general mood as a result. However, now that ‘dry January’ is coming to an end, it is important for workplaces to be aware that alcohol is an addictive substance and consumption can all too easily move from habit to dependence for some people, with devastating effects on their wellbeing both at work and at home.”

Action on Addiction is advising employers and HR teams to:

• Help to reduce stigma and misunderstanding by ensuring information is readily available about the risks to mental and physical health associated with heavy drinking, and by encouraging employees to be open about any concerns they may have
• Ensure that help and support is available for people who might be concerned about their drinking, and that they know how to access it
• Think carefully about work events involving alcohol: ensure that a range of interesting soft drinks are available and take an active stance in dispelling perceptions of alcohol as a necessary tool for networking and ‘fitting in’
• Keep an eye on stress levels and ensure that employees displaying signs of stress are given the opportunity to discuss any problems and helped to find ways of coping
Action on Addiction is encouraging organisations wanting further information about alcohol in the workplace, or anyone concerned that they or someone at work is developing a problem with drinking, to visit the website for further advice and support: .

*Figures taken from a survey conducted by Vision Critical on behalf of Action on Addiction. 2004 members of the UK general public participated in the survey on October 17, 2012.

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For further information please contact:
Sarah Savage at Four Colman Getty on:
T: 020 3023 9092

Notes to editors

About Action on Addiction:
Action on Addiction is the only UK charity working across the addiction field in research, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, professional workforce development, professional education and support for families and children.

One in three people suffer from an addiction. It breaks up families, damages communities and destroys lives. In some way it touches us all. Action on Addition believes that it is important to take an integrated and dynamic approach to improving the understanding of addiction and people’s responses to it.

Action on Addiction has treatment centres throughout England as well as a specialist family support service (Families Plus) and an expert training centre for the treatment of addiction. They fund important and innovative research into addiction, working closely with the National Addiction Centre (part of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London) and the Mental Health Research and Development Unit at the University of Bath.

Action on Addiction has been helping people with addiction problems for over 25 years. In January 2012 HRH The Duchess of Cambridge became patron of Action on Addiction.

For more information on Action on Addiction, visit the website:
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Action on Addiction is a company limited by guarantee registered in England | Company Number 05947481 Registered Charity Number 1117988
Registered office: Action on Addiction, Head Office, East Knoyle, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP3 6BE