Treatment centres offering wine ‘on prescription’ to alcoholics being planned for Scotland

Staff pour wine at Canadian centre (Mario Carlucci/CBC)
Staff pour wine at Canadian centre (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

ADDICTION experts in Scotland hope to trial treatment programmes for alcoholics which give out doses of wine “on prescription.”

Managed alcohol programmes, which have been operating in Canada for two decades, aim to get homeless drinkers off the streets by providing a safe place to stay – as well as supplying controlled measures of alcohol.

An expert from Canada visited Scotland earlier this year to deliver a presentation on the scheme to parties including alcohol policy officials from the Scottish Government.

And discussions are under way to look at the feasibility of introducing such programmes in Scotland and setting up a pilot project.

The programmes typically give out around 12 drinks over a 12-hour period to residents. In most cases it is wine, but it can also be beer or spirits and the dose depends on what each individual needs to cope – without them becoming intoxicated.


Cider sales have slumped since introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol

Dr Bernie Pauly, a scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, said the aim was not necessarily to wean people off drink.

She said: “These are really programmes that want to reduce the harms of unsafe drinking.

“Methadone or heroin prescription programmes would be a good comparison, where you are stabilising someone on a substance and connecting them to other health and social services.”

Dr Pauly said research found people on the programmes have fewer harms to their health and drastically reduced contact with emergency services. She said they also drink less than when on the streets.

She said: “Scotland has been so progressive in terms of the minimum pricing policy. Managed alcohol programmes should be part of any alcohol strategy.”


Minimum pricing: “People have stopped buying cider so much… Some are switching to whisky, some to vodka”

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “We continue to work with various partners about how we address Scotland’s often troubled relationship with alcohol and we will consider what we can learn from managed alcohol programmes underway elsewhere.

“Our world-leading minimum unit pricing policy ensures no alcohol can be sold below 50p per unit and I am confident it will make a significant difference to the harm caused by alcohol.”