FEATURE: Half-day binge drinking course with its roots in Dacorum goes national
An award-winning course that is tackling binge drinking and started in Dacorum five years ago is now helping revellers up and down the country.
Run by Hemel Hempstead-based Druglink, the half-day course is an alternative to a £90 fine from police for being drunk and disorderly in public.
Instead, in a one chance deal, offenders are given the opportunity to sign up to the course for a knocked down price of £45.
The self-sustaining programme, which has government backing, was founded by Sue Green and today, it’s being run in 20 different locations up and down the country.
Sue said: “It is quite a hard hitting programme. It focuses very heavily on offending, the impact on health and their future lives.
“When someone is a binge drinker they don’t think they’ve got a problem. What they do is save their units and absolutely hammer it at the weekend and that’s quite a dangerous thing to do.
“If you don’t educate people at this stage, those drinkers are going to go to the chronic end.
“A decade ago our chronic drinkers were in their 40s and 50s, only a decade on and they’re in their 20s and 30s.
“I think for young people going out there is a lot of peer pressure with drinking because what will happen is one will say, ‘I’m having shots, come and have shots’.
“I don’t think they go out that night to cause trouble.
“Accident and emergency departments are full and overflowing. I was at Watford General Hospital about three months ago and there were people sitting on chairs who had been given sick bowls.”
In Hertfordshire, over the last five years 643 people have turned around their drinking habits after completing the course.
People from all walks of life have been through the scheme. “We have had nurses, we have had a train driver, we had a young lad who was absolutely terrified because he was waiting to go to Hendon Police College,” said Sue.
Among them is Scott Rose, who went on the course during it’s six month pilot stage, after he was discovered by police passed out drunk in the middle of a busy road. His mobile phone, which was just inches from his head, had been crushed by a passing car.
Scott, now 25, was just 17 years old at time - not even legally old enough to be drinking alcohol.
He said: “Initially I wanted to go on the course because it would reduce my fine. But I really remember Sue bringing home to me the amount I had actually consumed, and the fact it would have been in my system for a long time thereafter. It was a real eye-opener.
“I was drinking quite regularly before that, and not really considering any of the impact. I just thought, ‘I’m young, I’m having a drink with my friends, it’s just what you do’.”
Sue, who still remembers Scott, said: “He said it changed his life completely. I think that is testament to what it can do for people’s lives.
“A lot of people have said to me that until they have sat there talking about it they had never thought about binge drinking.”
Today, Scott still drinks but not to excess. “Beforehand I would keep on drinking and drinking. Now, subconsciously, I think about how much I am actually consuming and I know I have got limits.”
And he admits: “I stopped being a bit of a prat.
“It’s easy at that age to think there are no consequences, but there definitely are.”
The scheme was recently recognised by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith through his Social Justice Awards, which recognises people and organisations that achieve effective outcomes and change.
It has also been commended in the past by Hertfordshire’s High Sheriff.
Most recently, schemes have been launched in Durham and Manchester.
To find out more about Druglink visitwww.druglink.co.uk