Professor Gareth Roderique-Davies and Professor Bev John
Experts at the University of South Wales (USW) have played a leading role in the development of a first-of-its-kind national action plan to support and treat alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD).
The framework for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support for ARBD has today been published by Lynne Neagle, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing.
Working closely with Public Health Wales (PHW), the USW experts involved in developing the framework include Professor Gareth Roderique-Davies, Professor of Psychology at USW; Professor Bev John, Professor of Addictions & Health Psychology, and Dr Robert Heirene. All three are members of the Addictions Research Group at USW.
Also involved were Dr Raman Sakhuja, Consultant Psychiatrist specialising in Addiction Psychiatry and General Adult Psychiatry with special interest in Neuropsychiatry, of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board; and Dr Julia Lewis, Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. Both are Visiting Professors at USW.
Professor Simon Moore of Cardiff University was also one of the report’s authors.
ARBD is an umbrella term used to describe a spectrum of conditions characterised by chronic cognitive impairment due to changes in the structure and function of the brain attributed to excessive alcohol consumption over time.
Launched during Alcohol Awareness Week, the aim of the new framework is to raise awareness of how ARBD can affect people, and highlight the support they need. It is designed for health and social care providers to give guidance on how they should respond to those affected by ARBD. It also focuses on how wider parts of the community can support those with ARBD. Key to this will be awareness and training in support of the new framework.
The long-term aim of the framework will look to establish dedicated ARBD services within each health board which will have access to a range of services, including psychologists and occupational therapists.
The support of social care and third-sector organisations is also vital in the care of individuals who have ARBD, in order to provide those who need it with good accommodation and wider community support.
A public consultation on the framework was held earlier this year.
The Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing said: “Supporting those with an alcohol-related brain damage is something that needs involvement from a wide range of organisations. We want to raise awareness across communities and organisations to ensure people have access to services and are treated in a timely manner.
“The framework provides guidance and a joined-up approach for all those involved in helping those with ARBD. I would like to thank Public Health Wales and the many experts in the field for their input into this piece of work.
“It’s important that we also raise awareness of the harms alcohol can have on individuals and their families and for them to recognise support is available if needed.”
Josie Smith, Head of Substance Misuse in Public Health Wales and one of the report’s authors, said: “We very much welcome the publication of the Treatment Framework for Alcohol-Related Brain Damage in Wales. We know that this condition has to date been under-diagnosed in the UK, is non-degenerative if the patient is able to stop drinking alcohol and, with the appropriate support, the majority of individuals can achieve some degree of recovery.
“In addition, and with the right preventative and early engagement initiatives, fewer individuals and their families may be affected. This guidance represents a comprehensive and innovative pathways to achieve these outcomes.”
Professor Roderique-Davies said: “We are pleased to see the research we have carried out over a number of years being used to help guide the Welsh Government’s framework and highlight the many challenges around diagnosing and treating ARBD.”
Professor John added: “The Minister rightly highlights the immense damage the condition can cause to not just sufferers, but also their families and friends. Putting the focus on awareness raising, education, and training; the vital role of preventative action and early identification; and the need for dedicated and regularly evaluated ARBD Services, will bring the condition to the forefront of specialists’ attention and ensure it gets the recognition required.”