Dr Paul Jordan, Research Associate in the Violence and Society Research Group at Cardiff University, writes about his night at the Alcohol Treatment Centre on Charles Street, Cardiff.
In December 2012 James Brewster-Liddle, who was heading the Alcohol Treatment Centre in Cardiff along with Wayne Parsons, gave a very interesting presentation to Cardiff University’s Violence Research Group about the work of the centre. I was interested in seeing the place in action and so one Saturday evening before Christmas, I visited the Alcohol Treatment Centre in Cardiff (not as a patient I should add!).
Set in an old church hall, it’s not the most likely setting for dozens of intoxicated people and yet situated in the very heart of town, the ATC is perfectly placed to accommodate those in need. When I arrived, shortly after 11pm, the night was just beginning. Several people were lying in bed, attached to drips, unconscious. It was bizarrely quite a peaceful place, although as I would soon see, it was indeed the calm before the storm. Of those who were already in the centre, three had been brought in from a flat party, presumably drinking so much that they passed out whilst another had decided to take her shoes off and walk the streets of Cardiff. Not a good idea when there’s broken glass around.
I stayed at the ATC chatting to staff for an hour or so before I felt that it was time to move on, the night was getting busier and I didn’t want to distract the staff from their important work. The use of the drips certainly sped up the recovery process of those on the receiving end. On the surface it might seem an easy way out for people who are intoxicated (they largely escape hangovers thanks to the saline!) but winding up in the ATC can have a powerful effect on those sobering up, providing a wake-up call and a turning point. One of those brought in from the flat party was distressed when he woke up, unaware of where he was or how he got there. He was remorseful and embarrassed and said that he felt fortunate that he had received the treatment that he needed. It was a powerful moment and a testament to the excellent work that the staff there do.
All the people who visited the ATC would have potentially ended up in A&E, taking up time, space and money. Most of those in the centre just needed to sober up and sleep. If they had been in a rowdy waiting room in A&E they would not have been able to do this easily, and would have potentially become involved in incidents of violence. If anything my visit to the ATC reminded me of the dangers of drinking to excess; not only do people make poor decisions when drunk, they’re so much more likely to become victims themselves. Initiatives like the ATC, in my opinion, alleviate pressure on the NHS frontline services whilst providing quick, effective support to those in need. Cardiff’s population as a whole are safer for having this excellent facility.