More people are using online treatment for alcohol misuse since the start of the pandemic, according to a leading charity.
The health and social care organisation Turning Point, which treated 60,000 people with drug and alcohol problems last year, have called on the government to keep the momentum going by directing money toward treatments.
At the start of the pandemic, Turning Point moved much of their drug and alcohol support online due to lockdown with telephone support, video conference group work and online sessions or modules.
March 2021 saw a 32% increase in referrals for alcohol treatment compared with the previous year.
Over half of these were self-referrals, a 44% increase on the year before, meaning more people are contacting the services for support rather than going through a professional or loved one.
More non-dependent drinkers have accessed the service and Turning Point is urging people who are worried that their drinking is starting to become a problem to contact their local service.
There was a 650% increase in the number of people engaging with the ‘My Turning Point’ digital tool this year compared to last (pre-pandemic).
Since March 2020, their self-directed online alcohol modules were used over 4,500 times, more than double that of the next most used (1,839 people accessed the cannabis module).
‘When treatment moved online we saw a very clear interest and engagement from people who wouldn’t normally walk into their local drug or alcohol service,’ said chief medical officer, David Bremner.
‘There are obvious differences in those who seek support once their life has been impacted from years of heavy drinking and someone who isn’t yet dependent on alcohol but is still suffering physically and mentally.
‘Online work suits some people more than more traditional models, which we continue to deliver as part of our broad range of treatment options.’
Nat Travis, national head of Operations at Turning Point, added: ‘We’re incredibly proud of how quickly our staff and people we support were able to adapt to treatment online. Thankfully Turning Point already had well-developed, evidence based, digital systems in place last March that we have continued to build on over the last year.
‘We’d like everyone who may be thinking about reaching out for some help to take that step and realise treatment has advanced enormously in the last decade. We want to challenge the stereotypes of who should or shouldn’t get support for their drinking problem. We don’t want anyone to have to wait for their life to fall apart before they get help.’