Lack of alcohol dementia focus a cause for concern, says Swanswell

11 December 2013

Swanswell’s concerned that a form of dementia which can potentially be treated now is being missed off the world’s agenda, as experts meet to discuss how to deal with ‘one of the biggest health problems in a generation’.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding as ministers, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and charities meet at a G8 dementia summit in London today.

They’re discussing research, prevention, treatment and ways of improving the quality of life for people affected by dementia, with much of the focus on Alzheimer’s Disease – one of the most common forms of the condition.

It comes as Prime Minister David Cameron’s announced that the UK aims to double its annual funding for dementia research from the current target of £66 million by 2015 to £132 million by 2025 (BBC News).

However, Swanswell’s concerned that alcohol dementia – similar to other forms of the condition and brought on by regular alcohol use – isn’t getting the focus it should.

Research suggests alcohol dementia affects around 10% of all dementia cases in the UK (Lishman WA, 1990) but what’s even more alarming is that it accounts for about 12.5% of all dementia cases in the under 65s (Harvey RJ, Rossor MN, Skelton-Robinson M and Garralda E, 1998). Swanswell’s youngest sufferer was 27.

But if it’s caught early enough and with the right treatment, the effects can potentially be reversed and in many cases, people can return to independent living (Smith I and Hillman A, 1999).

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘While we’re pleased to hear that funding for dementia research is increasing, we’re shocked that more isn’t being done around a form of the condition that can actually be treated now

Research suggests that alcohol dementia affects at least 80,000 people in the UK alone – we’ve heard of cases involving people as young as 27, yet it’s entirely preventable in the first place through clear information and better education about alcohol use.

'With early diagnosis and effective treatment, the condition can be reversed or relieved, so that up to 50% of people who develop alcohol dementia can continue to live independently.

‘Focusing a larger proportion of investment in to research, diagnosis and treatment for alcohol dementia, could help make the condition a thing of the past.’

Swanswell’s currently running a clinical trial to identify people affected by alcohol dementia and to test a treatment it’s developed, which could help people return to independent living and improve their quality of life.  

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