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Would strong health warnings on drink labels reduce addiction to alcohol?

22.02.2018 - Addiction, Articles

New proposals may only be part of the solution, say experts

A leading public health body in the UK recently called for cigarette-style health warnings on alcohol packaging – but how effective would this be for tackling alcoholism?

A report by the Royal Society for Public Health made the case for mandatory warnings about consumption levels on all drinks labels. These would potentially include details of alcohol-related diseases and calorie counts.

Certainly, the evidence against alcohol is strong. According to the World Health Organization, harmful drinking accounts for over three million deaths a year and causes immense damage to society at large. However, whilst the proposals for tougher warnings obviously have merit for promoting greater awareness, taken in isolation the measures won’t necessarily tackle the underlying causes of alcoholism.

Most experts believe that chronic alcohol misuse is actually a symptom of a much deeper problem, which is typically linked to an individual’s genetics along with other physical and / or psychological factors.

Dean Gustar is the Head of Clinical Operations at the world’s most exclusive treatment centre, The Kusnacht Practice in Zurich. He sees the proposals as positive, but also identifies a need for greater understanding of the causes of alcoholism. “Health warnings clearly have a role to play for those who are able to heed the advice, but an individual doesn’t typically become an alcoholic due to too much partying,” explains Mr. Gustar. “Instead, alcoholism tends to result from complex underlying causes that can be linked to factors such as genetics, neurochemistry, underlying psychological issues, family dynamics, and trauma. As a result of these factors, the grip of alcohol on some individuals can be almost impossible to break through willpower alone.”

Many experts therefore believe that health warnings should form part of a wider strategy that recognises that some individuals are simply more susceptible to addiction. “It’s important to understand that addiction is a complex brain disorder, not a moral issue,” added Mr. Gustar. “Alcohol can be highly addictive to individuals who have underlying issues that prevent them from controlling their intake. For these individuals, alcoholism is chronic illness that causes immense harm to them and to their loved ones. Those who are susceptible to alcohol in this way require professional help. We achieve this at The Kusnacht Practice, by looking beyond the symptoms to identify and treat the underlying causes of any issues.”

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol we encourage you to contact The Kusnacht Practice here.

Author: Gary Thompson