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CARDS - Alcohol Use Disorder

Volunteer Befriender Michaela, who herself has lived-experience, presented us with information about Alcohol Use Disorder at the February meeting.

Michaela a volunteer befriender for the CARDS alcohol befriending service

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

The NHS defines alcohol use disorder as, when someone loses control over their drinking and has an excessive desire to drink, it’s known as dependant drinking (alcoholism). Dependent drinking usually affects a person’s quality of life and relationships, but they may not always find it easy to see or accept this.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describes it as a medical condition characterised by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse consequences.

Alcoholics Anonymous describes alcoholism as a physical compulsion, coupled with a mental obsession. A desire to consume alcohol beyond our capacity to control it, in defiance of all rules of common sense.

LEAP (Lothian & Edinburgh Abstinence Programme) defines addiction as a ‘Stress induced, Biological, Psychological, Social Disease’.

What causes Alcohol Use Disorder?

This will differ for everyone; however, some generally accepted causes include:

  • Biological factors

  • Social factors

  • Psychological factors

  • Trauma

  • Drinking at an early age

  • Family History with alcohol addiction

  • High levels of stress

  • Peer pressure

Alcohol Withdrawal & Tolerance

The body attempts to compensate by producing certain brain chemicals. The more a person drinks, the more compensation is required to keep up. This creates what is known as tolerance. A person who is becoming tolerant to alcohol needs more of it to maintain the same pleasurable effects of drinking.

Dopamine – Pleasure & reward neurotransmitter.

(we know that this molecule is also implicated in bipolar disorder - perhaps why those of us with bipolar frequently have addiction issues).

diagram shoewing the effects of high-risk drinking

For more of the presentation including about Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD), then download here:

CARDS Presentation
Download PDF • 707KB

What is CARDS?

We next heard from a volunteer befriender, Catherine, who also has bipolar.

Volunteering at CARDS has really helped her with her mental health and sense of purpose. She was really nervous at first but the training and support that she has received from the CARDS team were just what she needed and she now loves her role.

Catherine explained that CARDS (Community Alcohol Related Damage Service) is a befriending service (Plus) for individuals who have been affected by or continue to suffer damage from excessive alcohol consumption.

They do not prescribe to any recovery model, and accept that their clients may continue to consume alcohol.

"We do not try to save fix or rescue and we do not tell people what to do. Rather we listen, support and empower, we work in a person-centred way."

"We believe that healthy relationships and connection to others and to the community are vital to overall wellbeing. That everyone, regardless of their circumstances are entitled to be treated with care and respect."

Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong | Johann Hari | TED:

If you or someone you know have an alcohol use disorder:

CARDS Referral process:

In regards to referral, people can self-refer, the number to call is: 0131 229 7554, they would then meet with a member of staff and go through an informal assessment process. Please note that we do not diagnose people with alcohol related damage, this is done by medical professionals.

An ARBD diagnosis is not a requirement for using our service, a long term damaging relationship with alcohol is.

Individuals can also be referred, a typical referral may come to us through, GP's, Social Work, Hubs such as Turning Point or CGL. Referrals may also come from any organisation working with an individual who may benefit from our service.

We are a small service, our waiting list is quite long, though this is currently being reviewed and is likely to shorten in the near future.

I enclose a link to our website which should provide further information on our service.

Volunteering at CARDS

On a different note, we are always looking for volunteers, so if any of your members are looking to give up an hour or two a week to volunteer for us they would be more than welcome.

Please contact Michelle if you'd like to find out more about volunteering at CARDS.


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