Swanswell to take warning of alcohol-related ‘silent epidemic’ to Labour and Conservative Party conferences

01 October 2012

Up to 80,000 people in the UK could be affected by a condition caused by prolonged alcohol use and dubbed as a ‘silent epidemic’ – but the effects can potentially be reversed with the right treatment.

That’s the message Swanswell – a national charity which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use – is taking to MPs at two party conferences this week to raise awareness of alcohol-related dementia.

It has a range of symptoms similar to other dementias including memory loss, balance problems and irrational behaviour, making diagnosis difficult.

The condition is brought on by prolonged, significant alcohol consumption and has appeared in people as young as 27.

There are about 800,000 people with dementia in the UK - studies suggest that around 12.5 per cent of dementias in the under 65s are alcohol-related1 and alcohol-related dementia accounts for ten per cent of all dementia cases2.

Swanswell will be hosting fringe events at two big political party conferences calling for more attention to be paid to the growing problem of early onset alcohol-related dementia.

Swanswell Trustee Seema Malhotra MP (Feltham and Heston) and Cllr Donna Green (Kingstone Ward, Barnsley), will be helping to raise awareness at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester on Wednesday 3 October.

Jeremy Wright MP (Kenilworth and Southam), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice, will join new Swanswell Trustee and former BBC journalist Clarence Mitchell, to lead a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Sunday 7 October.

Chris Robinson, Swanswell’s Director of Services, said: ‘Some academic studies suggest that around an eighth of dementias in the under 65s are caused by alcohol and only a small minority of people affected by alcohol-related dementia are those we might class as heavy ‘street drinkers’.

Despite the condition affecting so many lives, it’s not featured in the Government’s recent national Alcohol Strategy, the national Dementia Strategy or the national Carers Strategy – we think it’s a big issue that should be paid more attention.

What’s more, if caught early enough, the effects of alcohol-related dementia could be reversed. Studies suggest that with treatment, a quarter of alcohol-related dementia cases recover completely and another quarter recover enough to lead independent lives3.

Only a small proportion of alcohol-related dementia sufferers are what we’d consider as high-risk drinkers. A growing number of those affected are women and it can happen at any age – we’ve heard of cases involving people as young as 27.’              

After conducting research into the condition4Swanswell’s developed a model of treatment for alcohol-related dementia and has gained ethical approval to roll out pilot studies in South Yorkshire, which will involve carers of those affected by alcohol misuse in the delivery of the intervention.


1. Harvey RJ, Rossor MN, Skelton-Robinson M & Garralda E (1998) Young Onset Dementia: Epidemiology, clinical symptoms, family
burden, support and outcome
. London: Imperial College Dementia Research Group

2. Lishman WA (1990) Alcohol and the brain. British Journal of Psychiatry 156 635–644 and Harvey RJ, Rossor MN, Skelton-Robinson M
& Garralda E (1998) Young Onset Dementia: Epidemiology, clinical symptoms, family burden, support and outcome. London: Imperial
College Dementia Research Group.

3. Smith I & Hillman A (1999) Management of alcohol Korsakoff syndrome. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 5 271–278.

4. Swanswell (2010). The development of a multi-disciplinary programme for the treatment of alcohol related brain injury. Advances in
Dual Diagnosis, Volume 3 Issue 2, May 2010: Peer Professional Ltd







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