Swanswell calls for better alcohol dementia awareness ahead of G8 summit
05 December 2013
Swanswell’s calling for better awareness and increased investment in treatment for a form of dementia caused by regular alcohol use that can potentially be reversed, ahead of special G8 summit next week.
The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol use, is raising awareness of alcohol dementia – a condition similar to other forms of dementia, often making accurate 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). Swanswell’s youngest sufferer was 27.
It comes as new figures from Alzheimer’s Disease International suggest the number of people living with dementia worldwide is set to treble from 44 million currently to around 135 million by 2050, with a surge expected in poor and middle-income countries (BBC News).
The analysis was released in the run up to a G8 dementia summit in London on 11 December, where ministers, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and charities will meet to discuss research, prevention, treatment and improving the quality of life for people with dementia (Department of Health).
Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Research suggests that alcohol dementia affects at least 80,000 people in the UK alone and we’ve heard of cases involving people as young as 27, yet it’s entirely preventable.
‘It’s caused by regular alcohol use, so by making more people aware of the long-term harms of regular drinking through better education and clearer information, we could reduce the risk of this form of dementia happening in the first place.
‘We also know that, 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.
‘We hope that when the world’s decision-makers meet at the G8 summit next week that alcohol dementia will be among the topics prioritised, because it’s a problem we can treat effectively and prevent with the right education.
‘With proper investment in research, diagnosis and treatment, alcohol dementia could be a thing of the past.
‘Ultimately though, tackling problem alcohol use is not something any single government, organisation or individual can do on their own – we all have a part to play.’
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.