Information for the public
What should happen when you see care staff
If you think that your care does not match what is described in this information, please talk to a member of your care team in the first instance.
When you first see any care staff (see box below) about your drinking, they may ask you questions about your drinking (such as how long you have been drinking and what problems you may have had), whether you have any other mental or physical health problems and any social problems, whether there is a risk to yourself or others because of your drinking, and whether you need urgent treatment such as planned withdrawal from alcohol (see treatments for moderate and severe alcohol dependence). Knowing more about your drinking can help care staff understand your problems and plan your care with you. If you see your GP or a hospital doctor or nurse, you may be referred to a service that specialises in treating people who misuse alcohol (see specialist alcohol treatment centres).
Which care staff might I see for treatment and support for my drinking problem?
Care staff you might see include your GP, a hospital doctor or nurse, a specialist alcohol worker, a psychologist or psychiatrist, a key worker or a social care worker.
More than one of these people may be involved in treating and supporting you.
Care staff should be aware of any sensitive issues relating to alcohol misuse and should build a supportive relationship with you based on trust and understanding. They should discuss the treatments described in this information with you and help you to better understand your problems related to your drinking. They should encourage you to believe in your ability to change, and to make positive changes in your drinking.
Some people find it difficult to discuss their alcohol misuse, so your confidentiality, privacy and dignity should be respected at all times.
Care staff in specialist alcohol treatment centres should ask you about your drinking and your health, as described above. They should then discuss and agree a treatment plan with you, taking into account your preferences and whether any treatments for alcohol misuse have helped you in the past. They should also discuss and agree the goals of treatment with you – these goals may vary from being completely alcohol-free to a reduced level of drinking that is agreed between you and care staff. If you need to stop drinking as part of a court order or sentence, care staff should take this into account when agreeing treatment goals.
If you have moderate or severe alcohol dependence, care staff may ask more about your drinking, problems you may have related to drinking and your life situation. This will help them to advise you on what kind of treatment you may need. They may ask about:
your drinking patterns (both recent and in the past)
any problems related to your drinking such as difficulties with work, education and relationships, including whether there is a risk to yourself or others
any problems with drugs (including prescribed medication, non-prescribed medication and illegal drugs)
any physical or mental health problems
whether you are ready and able to make a positive change to your drinking habits.
With your agreement, your family or carer may also be asked about your drinking. You may also be asked about your drinking and other areas of your life.
Care staff may suggest that you have a blood test, to help identify any physical health problems, and a short memory test, because alcohol misuse can sometimes affect a person's memory.
Care staff should give you information about local support networks for people who misuse alcohol and about self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. If needed, they should help you to participate in such meetings by, for example, arranging for someone to take you and support you.
Questions you could ask care staff
What kinds of treatment are available to help with my drinking?
Will I have to stop drinking completely?
What will happen if I stop drinking suddenly?
What may happen to my physical health if I continue to drink?
What help can I get from my local alcohol support service?
Do you have any information for my family/carers?
Why might people with alcohol problems need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist?