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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 15:23 GMT
Alcohol 'nearly killed me'
Peter was drinking 400 alcohol units a week
Alcohol misuse is costing the NHS up to 3bn a year, with more than 28,000 hospital admissions caused by alcohol dependence or poisoning.

Peter is a 31-year-old reformed alcoholic whose drinking habits began when he was still at school.

He started drinking at the age of 12 and ended up in a mental hospital by the time he was 23 after an alcohol-fuelled fit, which nearly claimed his life.

This is his harrowing story.

"At the age of 13, I would drink before going out to discos.

"I would get my Dad to buy cider for me and say it was for me and my friends and then drink it all myself.

"By the age of 16, I was down at the pub every Friday and Saturday and I would have a few cans during the week.

"When I got my driving licence at 17, I was drinking and driving.

I was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day and that's when I started to get ill

Peter, former alcoholic
"I got caught twice, once aged 20, when I got an 18-month ban and then when I was about a week away from getting my licence back, I got caught again and got a three-year ban."

By the time he was 18, he was regularly drinking 12 pints a night and often driving home from the pub.

He worked during his gap year before starting university and spent most of his earnings on alcohol.

By the time he reached the University of Exeter he was spending his grant cheque and any extra money from his father on booze.


He ran up a 6,000 debt during his time there and in his final year reading politics, he was drinking round the clock.

He said: "I was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day and that's when I started to get ill.

"I was underweight because I wasn't eating much and I was having hallucinations.

"My gums would always be bleeding and I used to have a pain like acid indigestion which meant I couldn't sleep lying down at night. I had to prop myself up.

"My mental state was deteriorating. As I got towards my finals I felt suicidal.

"I was drinking before exams in the morning."

On leaving university, he started work, but the drinking continued and it began to affect his mental state with frightening consequences.


He said: "I would have auditory and visual hallucinations and terrible fears that people in my office were the devil.

"I had delusions that the company I was working for was full of vampires.

"I was drinking about 400 units of alcohol a week.

"One day I went on a huge drinking spree in London and my Dad came to rescue me and take me home.

"I woke up the following morning and had an extreme case of DTs, delirium, massive hallucinations and a heart rate going through the roof.

My sister said it looked like a scene from the Exorcist

Peter, former alcoholic
"I was literally climbing up the walls.

"The ambulance crew wanted to section me, but they agreed to take me to hospital.

"The doctors told my Dad if I had arrived four minutes later I would have had permanent brain damage and seven minutes later and I would have been dead.

"I was in A&E, strapped onto a trolley.

"My sister said it looked like a scene from the Exorcist.

"When I started screaming out 'whiskey' they knew what had happened.

"I was taken from there to the local mental hospital where I was dosed up to the eyeballs with medication."

He was diagnosed with alcohol-induced psychosis, but walked out after a week.

Alcoholics Anonymous

His GP put him on Diazepam - a prescribed drug used to treat anxiety disorders.

He was saved from his spiral of alcoholic destruction by friends, who suggested he attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

He had one drink after his first meeting in November 1995, but has not touched a drop since.

Looking back on his health during this time he said:

"Sometimes I felt that I was dying and if I had another fit, I would die in Broadmoor.

"Physically I had no obvious problems, but there were times when I was bleeding and found blood in my underwear.

"It would terrify me, but I wouldn't see a doctor.

"I would be aware my kidneys were aching like crazy when I wasn't drinking.

"I had lots of shakes and I was coughing up blood at times."

He says his health is now "A1" and a scan showed his liver has not been damaged despite the abuse.

He is now looking forward to staying clean and with the continued support of AA, he hopes he will never be tempted to go back.

See also:

17 Aug 01 | Health
Concern over alcoholism care
02 Jul 01 | Health
Drink linked to hospital visits
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