A word from our friendly local addiction specialist dr

Hello there, a brief update from my world as an Addiction Psychiatrist.


There have been big changes to how NHS services are providing support to people with alcohol and drug problems in Bristol over the last year. We are now providing services as part of ROADS (Recovery Orientated Alcohol and Drugs Service). This is a partnership between organisations in Bristol and aims to provide a seamless service so that when a person contacts ROADS they should not notice that the element of support they need can be provided by one of 5 different organisations. The aim being that all providers focus on the care provided rather than being passed between different organisations.


One of the big aims for ROADS was to improving the numbers of people receiving treatment for alcohol problems. Alcohol is the substance that causes the most harm in the UK but it has not had equivalent resources as traditional services focused on illicit drug treatment. There is no distinction between alcohol and drug services now in terms of funding and where people are seen. This is particularly important for young people as many more young people die or come to harm as a result of alcohol problems than for all other substances put together. We have seen a massive increase in the numbers of people referred for alcohol problems, in fact this has been such a success we are struggling to meet the extra demand which has exceeded our expectations.


We are still closely monitoring changes in patterns of substance use locally and nationally. An important area is Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), sometimes called ‘club drugs’ or ‘legal highs’. Although these substances are often less harmful than alcohol or other more traditional drugs, there are new substances emerging to exploit legal loop-holes which are often more harmful that substances that have just been made illegal. Also we are seeing problems as drugs are not being sold correctly. For example we have several people running into problems, and some deaths nationally, with substances sold as MDMA/ecstasy which in fact contain other more harmful substances such as PMA or PMMA. This is particularly a problem as people take a substance they think is MDMA but think it’s week so take more and then overdose on these more harmful substances.


Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, stay safe, and be respectful of any substances that you put into your body,


Dr Tim

“Avoid using cigarettes, alcohol and drugs as alternatives to being an interesting person” Marilyn vos Savant

Ah the mountain air, the snowy views, the sound of skis whooshing across the piste, the sight of the blood-wagon transporting another skier who has enjoyed too much vin chaud at lunchtime…

Yes it’s that time of year again, and I’m off to La Plagne for a week. And it leads me to think about all those accidents on the slopes and how much alcohol might be involved. We know that small amounts of alcohol can be good for your heart, but it’s so easy to have just a little too much, to be a little more relaxed, a little less focussed, and before you know it you’re in A&E. It’s not just skiing either. Alcohol related illness or injury leads to 1.1 million hospital admissions a year in England! The cost of this is £2.7 billion of NHS funds a year…

So, as students, does this concern you? Surely alcohol is just part of the culture, nothing to get too worked up about?

Well our latest figures here at Students’ Health suggest that around 4000 students are probably drinking at a level that is ‘higher risk’, of which up to two dozen could be diagnosed as alcoholic, though there will probably be more we haven’t met yet.

What’s higher risk you ask? For men it is more than 3-4 units a day, and for women it’s 2-3.

And what’s a ‘binge’ then? Binge drinking is defined as men drinking more than 8 units on a single occasion and women drinking more than 6 units. (A pint of lower strength beer/ lager or a standard glass of wine equals 2 units).

 So does it really matter? You’re young and healthy; won’t your body just deal with it?

Well the problems arise from both acute and long term drinking to excess. In the short term we see lower condom use, more unplanned pregnancies and more incidences of ‘regretted sex’. Binge drinking is associated with a higher rate of contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Anxiety and low mood deteriorate (alcohol is a depressant, not stimulant), and accidents are more likely. Forty percent of patients admitted to A&E are seen for alcohol related injuries of illness. Alcohol is the biggest single cause of accidents in the home. One in 3 fires is caused by people under the influence of alcohol.

In the longer term we see weight gain, liver damage, depression, gastric ulcers, impotence in men, and higher risk of breast cancer in women. To name but a few…

 I suppose what I’m saying is don’t just drink… think!

Alcohol comes with a cost, not just to your bank balance, but to your health and to the NHS.

We do want you to enjoy your time at uni, but we hope you can enjoy it without any serious health consequences! If you would like to discuss any worries about your health then please do come and see one of our doctors or nurses.

 Anyway, I’m off to catch the last chair lift, then time for a healthy (!) hot chocolate!