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New sessions offer alcohol help for Outer Hebrides communities

Joe is leading a series of drop-in virtual recovery sessions for people in the Outer Hebrides who feel they have an alcohol problem.
Joe is leading a series of drop-in virtual recovery sessions for people in the Outer Hebrides who feel they have an alcohol problem.

A lack of local pubs combined with the cost of going out has left some rural areas with a “history” of binge drinking to be tackled.

Due to its widespread and rural population, many residents in the Western Isles don’t have a nearby haunt to socialise in at weekends.

And between these geographical challenges and the extra cost of ordering pints, some prefer to stock up and drink at home instead.

This tendency towards “excessive” drinking has forced chiefs to think of different ways to tackle the topic and support those in need.

Alcohol problem ‘history’ in Outer Hebrides

While problems with alcohol, and a need for help with them, are by no means limited to the Outer Hebrides, there are specific factors at play there.

Joe Wilson, the recovery community officer for the area’s alcohol and drug partnership (ADP), said: “From experience as a frontline addiction worker, people drinking at home is less due to geography but more to do with the additional costs of going out to drink.

Joe Wilson, recovery community officer for Outer Hebrides Alcohol & Drug Partnership.
Joe Wilson, recovery community officer for Outer Hebrides Alcohol & Drug Partnership.

“In some cases on the mainland, a week’s supply of alcohol to drink at home is equal to one or two nights out drinking in a bar.

“However, access to licensed premises is limited in some communities on the islands and we have a history of binge drinking patterns that can mean that excessive drinking is more prevalent.”

Sessions to ‘break down stigma’

In Scotland there were more than 1,000 alcohol-specific deaths reported in 2019, with more than 23,000 hospital admissions.

And last week we revealed three-quarters of people are unaware of health guidelines, which say we should not exceed more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

The ADP is now hosting weekly online sessions every Tuesday from 2.30pm to build people’s confidence before heading to a meeting in person.

They often include a quiz or fun activity to help “lighten the mood,” with no pressure for anyone to contribute.

Joe added: “It may be that attending an online meeting is an initial step to build up the confidence to attend face-to-face meetings which we are now looking to offer in addition to the online meetings.

“In time this will break down the stigma of being in recovery and empower people to be open about their recovery journey.”

People in the Western Isles looking for help with alcohol can visit the Outer Hebrides ADP website, or contact Joe directly on 07773 004229.

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