Judith Halter is head of the Addiction Counselling Zug. She answers questions about alcohol addiction and alcohol abstention.
It is estimated that there are around 300,000 people in Switzerland who are addicted to alcohol, and around one million people who consume alcohol at high risk level. Five part-time consultants work at the Addiction Counselling Service in Zug (Suchtberatung Zug), which is part of the Health Directorate (Gesundheitsdirektion).
Department head Judith Halter answers questions about alcohol addiction.
How many people does the Addiction Counselling team advise each year, and how high is the proportion of alcohol addicts who come to you?
Judith Halter: About 500 people are counselled each year, with around 1,500 conversations being held. About half of all the consultations are on the subject of alcohol. We offer information, advice and addiction therapy. Anonymous e-mail consultation is also possible via the Safezone platform.
Why do so many people struggle with their alcohol consumption?
Because it is a legal and socially accepted substance, and is an integral part of our togetherness, for example, when it comes to invitations. Alcohol relaxes people and relieves anxiety, and the consumption is generally accepted without much reflection. It should also be noted, however, that a large proportion of consumers do not drink excessively.
Judith Halter, Head of Addiction Counselling for the Canton of Zug
Photo: Stefan Kaiser (Zug, 8 January 2021)
What strategies are there to avoid becoming dependent?
There are many methods. For example, those affected can keep a diary of their consumption, develop targets, consider alternatives, or analyse and try to avoid risk situations.
What advice would you give to relatives?
When relatives come forward, they have often already been through a great deal of suffering. Many of them have already tried everything: reproaches and a defensive reaction from the dependent person are the rule rather than the exception, however. It’s important that relatives consider where the limits of what they can do are. It’s also important to take your own needs seriously and to look after yourself.
Many people abstain from alcohol for a month in January. The "Dry January" originated in the UK, and a campaign has now been launched for the first time in Switzerland. Does an alcohol-free month make sense?
Such a break can definitely be useful. It’s above all a matter of rethinking one’s behaviour. To realise that things can be OK without alcohol. And it has been proven that sleep quality, the skin and the energy balance improve. As part of the Swiss campaign, there is an app on which you can track your success. It's still worth taking part: it might not be a "Dry January" anymore, but at least a "Drier January"!
However, it's important that this campaign is not aimed at people who are addicted to alcohol: it could even be dangerous for them to stop drinking from one day to the next.
For more information, please visit the Zuger Health Directorate's website and www.dryjanuary.ch