Alcohol Use Disorders (106) Alcohol industry and misinformation (13)

28 February, 2024

Dear HIFA colleagues,

We have noted that DrinkAware, the leading alcohol charity in the UK, funded by the alcohol industry, appears to be encouraging heavy drinkers (42 units per week) to continue drinking heavily.

I have identified another self-evaluation website (whose financial support is not revealed) that does the same:

Like DrinkAware, Auditscreen is based on the AUDIT tool.

Like DrinkAware, if I enter that I drink 42 units per week, the result is: "Your score is 6 and places you in the low risk category for alcohol problems. Congratulations"

This is clearly misinformation, and it is likely that huge numbers of people are being misinformed.

The same is true of a third site, Alcohol Change UK: - I enter that I drink 42 units per week and am reassured this is fine: "Drinking at this level means that you are unlikely to be putting yourself at risk of alcohol-related harm." Unlike DrinkAware, Alcohol Change UK is not funded by the alcohol industry.

Compare the above with a personal health check. If I said to my doctor that I am drinking 42 units a week, s/he would rightly remind me that the recommended upper limit is 14 units per week. They would tell me rightly that 42 units is defined as 'heavy drinking' and that this level of consumption will predispose me to cardiovascular disease, cancer and many other medical conditions. The doctor would strongly encourage me to reduce my alcohol intake.

Incidentally while considering 'what my doctor would say' I searched on "rapid advice to reduce alcohol intake" and I could not find it. I had assumed there was a package of agreed "rapid advice" that all health workers should apply, but I found there is a plethora of sites that give a multitude of different suggestions. Very confusing. I'm sure someone will be able to point us to the official consensus advice, but it's notable that I had such difficulty. The implication is that any health worker who had heard about rapid advice, like me, and wanted to check about it, would have difficulty in finding the information.

Please keep your contributions coming:

Meanwhile, we encourage also your contributions on this week's focus question: Q4. Do public health professionals and policymakers have adequate knowledge to prevent and treat alcohol use disorders in their country? What are current national policies and what more can be done to fully implement those policies?

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: