Team:Manchester/Human Practices/Charities

Manchester iGEM 2016




Alcohol Academy

picture for Alcohol Academy

The Alcohol Academy is a charity based in London, United Kingdom, which aims to promote effective alcohol harm reduction by working with and supporting local alcohol roles and commissioners. We had a Skype conversation with Alcohol Academy’s director, Mr. James Morris, asking him about his opinions on the potential impacts the AlcoPatch might have on our society. He mentioned “brief interventions” where doctors or other health professionals would try to spot and motivate people to change behaviour patterns which might become harmful to them. He suggested that an alcohol awareness patch like ours might be useful to health professionals who are trying to make people more conscious of how much alcohol they consume. He also said:“Maybe the AlcoPatch is something that they could give, or build it into a project to see whether people who are receiving brief intervention would like to receive the AlcoPatch and found it useful thereafter.”

He then explained the “multidimensional aspects” to alcohol consumption and how an awareness tool would have limited impact in reducing alcoholism. He suggested, rather than talking about how our patch can reduce alcohol consumption, it would be more appropriate to discuss how our patch could help make people more aware of how much they are drinking. Furthermore, our patch does not directly measure intoxication levels but instead the amount of ethanol present in sweat. There are many other factors that affect the actual level of intoxication of an individual. He explained: “[Your] Tolerance to alcohol, [is affected by] your size, your weight, how tall you are, how much you’ve eaten, any medical conditions”.

Addiction Dependency Solutions (ADS)

logo of ADS
picture for ADS

Addiction Dependency Solutions (ADS) is an addiction charity based in Manchester , United Kingdom (UK), which provides a range of drug and alcohol recovery services across the North and Midlands of UK. They believed that the AlcoPatch would be beneficial for the public. However, members of the public who have intentional addiction would choose not to use it. It is for this reason that they believe the AlcoPatch will be more successful in raising awareness of alcohol consumption rather than a prevention tool, similar to the earlier suggestion by Alcohol Academy. ADS thought our patch would be effective in early intervention; where efforts are made to prevent addiction before it takes hold. Introducing the AlcoPatch in health kits and making them available in bars and clubs was also a suggestion.

ADS told us that in their opinion the Cell-free Mechanism would be cheaper to produce as it does not use any living cells. However, this would mean that a colour gradient would exist and therefore result in misuse as a drinking game. It would also have a much longer shelf life than the Inducible Gene Switch mechanism alternative as there would be no living cells to expire. However, Inducible Gene Switch would not indicate ethanol presence in gradients, it would just appear as distinct colours which would eliminate the possibility of competition amongst some users. The downside would be that the patch would have live cells inside which would need to be kept at a fairly constant (probably) cold temperature to avoid the cells from perishing.

ADS suggested that we use colours which people would identify certain emotions with. An example is the ‘traffic light’ colour system, where ‘red’ would indicate severe intoxication and ‘green’ to indicate light/no intoxication (click for more information: Inducible Gene Switch page). Alternatively, using a colour gradient which measures the amount of alcohol consumed would be a good way for people to measure their intake of alcohol and set targets to consume less over time.

Alcohol Anonymous

logo of AA

The Alcoholics Anonymous was founded as a fellowship of individuals who share their experience in the engagement of unhealthy drinking habits. After explaining about our project, the Alcoholics Anonymous members believed that our patch has the potential for individuals who are thinking of cutting down on alcohol consumption and those who are on alcohol-related probation. However, they postulated that most people would not want to use it as it could be an embarrassment. Specifically, they addressed the limitations of our AlcoPatch towards alcoholics - they mentioned how alcohol consumption is always lingering in the mind, it is a psychological condition where one actively tries to reduce their awareness. They believe that alcoholics do not keep track of how much they are consuming.

However, they suggested that students might benefit from such a patch as it would help them keep track of their alcohol consumption. It would make them aware of how much they are consuming before an addiction has the opportunity to take hold.