Millions of lives could be improved by better understanding of alcohol dementia, Swanswell says

21 May 2014

Millions of lives could be improved world-wide by increasing investment in research, treatment and awareness-raising of a form of dementia caused by regular alcohol use, says Swanswell.

It’s Dementia Awareness Week from 18 to 24 May 2014 (organised by Alzheimer’s Society), and the national recovery charity – which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use – is using this week to raise awareness of alcohol dementia.

It’s a condition similar to other forms of dementia, often making diagnosis difficult, but if 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).

Research suggests alcohol dementia affects around 10% of all dementia cases in the UK (Lishman WA, 1990) , but 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 case was 27.

However, the charity’s concerned that people aren’t as aware of the condition compared to other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. Alcohol dementia was also missed off the world agenda at the G8 dementia summit in London last December.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘At least 80,000 people in the UK alone are affected by alcohol dementia – and potentially millions more globally – according to research.

Yet, we rarely hear about alcohol dementia and it’s often missed off the world’s health agenda, even when Alzheimer’s and other similar forms of the condition are discussed at high level meetings, such as the G8 dementia summit.

Alcohol dementia is caused by regular or prolonged alcohol use, so there’s every chance we can stop it happening in the first place, by ensuring people have access to better education and clearer information about the long-term risks of drinking.

‘We also know that with early diagnosis and effective treatment, those already affected by the condition could see the effects reversed or relieved, with many being able to continue living independently following treatment.’

Swanswell’s developing a model of treatment for alcohol dementia, which could help people return to independent living and improve their quality of life.

Debbie added: ‘With proper investment in research, diagnosis and treatment, decision-makers could help make alcohol dementia a thing of the past, but we all have a part to play – it’s not something anyone can tackle on their own.’

To find out more about alcohol dementia or for more details about Swanswell's model of treatment for alcohol dementia, see our alcohol dementia page.

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