Drinks Meter v3.0 Disclaimer

Drinks Meter does not diagnose any medical condition and does not replace a face-to-face health care professional’s clinical assessment of an individual. If you are concerned about any aspects of the feedback or advice provided within the Drinks Meter tool please consult your family doctor.

The Drinks Meter is designed to raise awareness of the harms associated with the consumption of alcohol and how individuals, by virtue of their unique constitution and behaviours may exhibit greater vulnerability to such harms.

The Drinks Meter is not a treatment for any alcohol use disorder inducing dependence. Drinks Meter signposts the need for further assessment with a health care professional who can determine the need, if any, for investigations, referral or treatment.

By agreeing to complete the Drinks meter you also consent for your data to be used to produce data reports (using pooled anonymous data) and scientific publications.

If you have any suggestions on how to make the Drinks Meter better please email infro@globaldrugsurvey.com

The advice on how to cut down drinking and risks associated with consumption is based on the scientific evidence and the creator’s clinical experience working in the field of drug and alcohol for over 20 years as a senior clinician and researcher (see below)

In addition, Drinks Meter states unambiguously the following:

  • Drinks Meter does not encourage any person to consume alcohol
  • Drinks Meter does not diagnose any mental health or substance use disorder
  • Drinks Meter cannot tell you if your use of alcohol carries no risk of harm
  • Drinks Meter does not tell you if your use of alcohol can be considered safe
  • Drinks Meter quantifies the amount of alcohol you consume based on your estimates and conversion to your country’s standard drink / units
  • The tips provided for cutting down should only be implemented after discussion with a local health care professional.
  • The tips provided for reducing your use do not in any way ensure that you will be able to reduce your use, nor guarantee that you will not experience withdrawal symptoms which in some cases may be life threatening.
  • If you are concerned about your alcohol use or mental health, we recommend you consult your local drug and alcohol service or family doctor

Data use and General Data Protection Regulations 2018

  • All data is anonymous and confidential. In order to provide accurate personalised feedback on risks related to alcohol consumption we collect data on age, gender, location, occupation type and Body Mass Index. We also collect data on personal and family health histories. E-mail address are not required for completion of the Drinks Meter and are only requested (and subsequently encrypted and stored) if individuals wish to receive an e-mail copy of their unique identifier which is provide to all those who complete the Drinks Meter.
  • If an individual provides their unique ID that they are offered at the start of the Drinks Meter, should that individual request that their data be deleted we can do so through means of their unique ID, without this information we are unable to complete this request since all data is pooled and anonymous. If they provide their unique ID, we can comply with their request. Encrypted email marks are tied to unique ID’s and associated data.
  • In cases where a person provides their e-mail and asks for a reminder of their unique ID this request will only be agreed to should further proof of identity be offered. This statement demonstrates compliance with The EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679.

About the creator of the Drinks Meter

Professor Adam R Winstock is a UK and Australian trained Consultant Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine Specialist. He trained as a physician, before becoming a psychiatrist.

Frequently the people he sees suffer from mental health problems and concurrent physical health problems and often have numerous other challenges both in their past and present. Most people with alcohol dependence never receive treatment (perhaps only 10-15%). It is the most under treated psychiatric in the world.

The Drinks Meter was developed based on feedback and research conducted as part of the annual Global Drug Survey (www.globaldrugsurvey.com) and experience of the barriers to delivering brief intervention and screening to the wider population outside specialist services. We wanted to offer an engaging, personally meaningful tool to allow people to reflect on their alcohol use anonymously and at a time that suited them.

There were a few other things than underpinned its development that sought to overcome some of the universal barriers we all hold on to when it comes to thinking about changing our behaviour. We tell ourselves ‘fairy stories’ to make us feel OK about the ‘less smart’ decisions’ we make. There are 4 common narratives are almost universal, that we chose to address within the Drinks Meter.

  1. Overestimation of personal invulnerability. We all like to think we are smarter, luckier, more blessed, more naturally (genetically) protected from harm than other people. Overestimating our personal invulnerability to harm means we do risky things and what’s worse we fail to put things in place to protect ourselves (e.g. stop smoking/smoke less, wear seats belts and drive slower, use a condom). The Drinks Meter dismantles this barrier to behavior change by considering individual risk factors such as age, poly-drug use patterns, co-morbid mental / physical illness or receipt of a prescription medication and adjusting a person’s level of use upwards to reflect their increased vulnerability to harm. It makes the feedback truly personal, making it more difficult to dismiss as ‘that’s about other people, not me’. Our apps make sure that ‘it’s all about you’. This can increase cognitive dissonance and create ambivalence – the fuel that drives motivation for change. Because we rarely if ever suggest users stop their use, offering instead suggestions for a reduction or a changed pattern of use we feel that most users perceive themselves of capable of change. When capability and motivation meet opportunity, change becomes a real possibility (see the Wheel of Change by Michie S & West R).
  2. When it suits us, we think we are just like everyone else (normative misperception). We often choose our friends because they like doing the things we like to do. We look to our friends to ‘normalize’ the risks we take. If we get drunk often or use a couple of grams of cocaine every week it suits us to think that other people who drink or use cocaine, use those substances in the just the same way we do. We take comfort in thinking we are just ‘one of the herd’, ‘a face in the crowd’. Of course, ‘our herd’ is special and not representative of the wider population of drinkers and cocaine users. The Drinks Meter dismantles this barrier to behaviour change by allowing people to compare their last week’ alcohol use or last month’s use of cannabis, cocaine or MDMA for example to tens of thousands of other people who have either taken the drugs meters or completed the Global Drug Survey. You can also compare your use of drugs to other people in your country or age / gender groups. Of note heavier drinkers and drug users tend to under estimate their use compared to other people and most are interested in how they compare to others (Garnet et al 2016, Shiner and Winstock 2015)
  3. We accept the fact that using drugs and drinking can be nice. By taking a non-judgmental approach to peoples’ use of alcohol and other drugs we are able to engage people in a dialogue about their use that is not driven by the need or want for them to stop.
  4. Having a problem with drink or drugs can be a source of shame and stigma for people. When activities are illegal or frowned upon by society as immoral or stupid, most people feel less inclined to seek help for fear of being judged. Disclosure to health care professionals, family or friends can becomes yet another hurdle to overcome in a person’s journey towards adopting positive behaviour change. As with many other health care problems the longer people wait before seeking help or getting advice the more difficult drug problems can be to treat. The Drinks Meter dismantles this barrier to behaviour change by allowing people to anonymously and confidentially assess their level of use and determine its impact upon themselves free from the fear of having their details documented in their medical records or being passed onto other agencies.

The Drinks Meter can help you reduce your drinking by raising awareness of how much you are drinking and by showing how small changes today can lead to big differences in the long run.

We hope you found the Drinks Meter useful.

Professor Adam R Winstock

May 2019