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UK to develop its first-ever alcohol misuse clinical treatment guidelines

The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, a part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), plans to develop clinical guidelines for alcohol misuse treatment. As the first-ever guidelines of this nature, this department is working with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to get something viable on the table.


At present, there are directions on the treatment of drug misuse, but none for alcohol abuse. The UK government believes that the ‘Drug misuse and dependence: UK guidelines on clinical management’, commonly known as the Orange Book, was crucial in creating and sustaining sound approaches in the clinical treatment of drug misuse, and wants to establish equally valuable guidelines for alcohol abuse.


To achieve this, the government selected senior clinicians across the UK to supervise the development of these alcohol misuse guidelines. These are those with personal experience and professionals specialising in the treatment of alcohol misuse and dependency.


Objectives of the alcohol misuse and dependency clinical treatment guidelines


The goal of these clinical guidelines is to establish uniform standards and best practices for treating alcohol misuse and dependence. They contain recommended interventions in line with the recommendations of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and provide:


  • A comprehensive framework for specialists to support high-quality treatment.
  • Guidance for commissioners on how to inform service specifications and check the quality of services rendered.
  • Guidance for health and social care staff working with alcohol-dependent patients and their loved ones.
  • Treatment pathways and networking protocols between places and authorities, such as hospitals, prisons and communities.
  • A reference point for national service inspections.


Keys to the success of the alcohol misuse and dependency clinical treatment guidelines


These proposed guidelines call for the involvement of competent specialities in the treatment of alcohol misuse and dependency. This puts nurses at the centre of these strategies.


For example, a specialist inpatient withdrawal unit for the treatment of alcohol dependency requires registered mental health and general nurses. The relevant guidelines also underpinned the importance of having nurses with specialised skills and experience available to assess and manage complex cases.


Nurses not only play a pivotal part in withdrawal admission centres, but also bring hands-on knowledge and practical skills to any treatment initiative, even if it is just weekly meetings.


Similar to drug treatment programmes, the success of alcohol treatment relies on initial and continued testing. These guidelines will not add any value to practice if alcohol testing is neglected.


Types of alcohol testing that support the alcohol misuse and dependency clinical treatment guidelines


Matrix Diagnostics’ Intoximeter Alcohol Breathalyser is a quick-screen method that can assist authorities, such as the police, in identifying persons under the influence of alcohol. These spot checks can form the basis of further enquiries and referrals if necessary.


It is also a valuable asset in units and clinics as professionals can run a quick test to see if patients relapsed or not. Workplace alcohol testing also helps to motivate patients to stay ‘dry’ and enables employers to identify when a recovering alcoholic needs an intervention.


Once rolled out, the clinical guidelines should help to treat those with alcohol misuse and dependency issues.

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