Alcohol Use Disorders (64) Do people understand the harms of alcohol? (14) How can they be better informed? (7)

18 February, 2024

Dear Joseph,

A few days ago you wrote: "I feel that the advice misses a crucial starting point, which is abstinence, that is 'no aclohol at all'. It may sound draconian and impossible to some, but actually a no alcohol status gives the person a 'no risk' position, better than 'low risk'...

no drinking of alcohol is the best advice ----' and therefore the Public Health advice on Alcohol use should be revised to start with emphasizing the fact. It may not be easy to stop for those who drink already, but the public health advice should state the facts fully."

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My understanding is that if a person does not drink alcohol, there is certainly no reason to encourage them to start, even if only small quantities. But as a general public health message, especially in countries where alcohol is socially embedded, then it might be more effective to say "*If* you do drink alcohol, be sure to limit your intake to 14 units per week". Alongside this, it is important to make people aware of the health risks of alcohol, especially the link with cancer (we should be moving from a situation where 10% are aware of the link, to one where 90% are aware).

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: