Health Mental Health NHS Poverty Val Waldron

‘Take A Drink’ A review of Darren Loki McGarvey’s Addiction series. part 1 Alcohol by Val Waldron

A review of Darren Loki McGarvey’s Addiction series

Part 1 Alcohol

‘Take A Drink’

‘Take A Drink’ the encapsulation in three familiar words our shared history that runs through Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.

We’re hooked immediately by the series introduction, which promises a broad spectrum look at addiction; food, drugs, gambling and alcohol. Somewhere along the line these issues touch so many of us or our loved ones. In this first episode Darren looks at Scotland’s relationship with alcohol and alcoholism

We’re quickly reminded that Darren aka bestselling author and rapper Loki is good with words and can easily and articulately summarise a situation, whether within its historical context or the starkly brutal experiences of some of his interviewees. We hear about Darren’s introduction to alcohol aged 16 via tonic wine and the avalanche of chaos that followed on from escalation. He talks briefly about the early death of his mother due to alcoholism and the feelings of growing up with ‘…no sense of connection…why don’t I feel safe?’ but while this places Darren as an empathetic narrator, it’s not all about him. Far from it.

‘Take A Drink’, he says, encapsulating in three familiar words our shared history that runs through Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. There are statistics; 1190 alcohol deaths in 2020 directly related to alcohol abuse, Scotland’s death toll being twice that of England and Wales, with Glasgow’s doubling further. Maybe the most shocking statistic of all is that Scotland has one NHS funded residential rehabilitation project, Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP).

The cost of not providing intensive support to addicts amounts to billions over time to the NHS and related support services. The cost to lives and loved ones is unquantifiable, as Darren illustrates via a series of interviews.  Michael, an Army veteran, lives precariously on the cusp of survival. One drink could cost him everything, not least his health, he is warned. 32-year-old Adam didn’t get a 2nd chance, as his father recounts the distressing event of Adam’s death by withdrawal  seizure, his body unreachable behind his bedroom door.

The Temperance Movement, Rab C. Nesbitt, Groundskeeper Willie, the shared memories of passing members of public reminiscing over their first drink at 9, 12, 14 years of age. Cameos of our struggles, acceptance and image of drink and drinkers over the years. In 1850, we learn from a historian, there was a pub for every 160 residents of Glasgow. There was never an occasion when you wouldn’t have a drink, she adds.

Against this backdrop the complex question of ‘choice’ runs as a compassionate theme throughout Darren’s presentation. We make our own decisions to take the advice of liver specialists. We are relieved to find that Darren’s own liver is clear, that this amazing organ can regenerate itself to health within limits. We also learn via an ‘Attention Bias’ experiment that his brain is still drawn to images of alcohol 3 years after his last drink. We are reminded of the ongoing and self-regulated drinks industry control over our viewing patterns; the domination of the Guinness logo on a football pitch, the lifestyle-choice Tennant’s advert, the purity of the outdoors that signifies a good malt whisky.

We ultimately make our own decision whether to risk everything on just-one-drink, but at LEAP society’s fault in the struggles of addiction are acknowledged.  Addiction is a multi-faceted mental/physical health issue which needs much more governmental focus. Darren illustrates this well throughout, while welcoming some progress in the area.

A privileged snapshot of a LEAP groupwork session begins to illustrate the power of peer to peer emotional support and the value of and need for such resources. In their absence, though, Darren advises ‘Take action now…get good people around you.’

The series continues on Tuesdays 10PM BBC Scotland.

Val Waldron






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