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Aluston Health in the News - Northern Echo


A couple from the region believe they have found a way of helping problem drinkers get back on the wagon.

Health Editor Barry Nelson reports.

A NORTH-EAST businessman who says an Eastern European clinic saved him from alcoholism wants others to follow in his footsteps.

Forty-four-year-old Russell Hughes, from Sunderland, runs a number of successful businesses, including an international company which supplies electrical goods around the world.

But a few years ago he was battling a serious drink problem which was threatening to derail his career. He started off in his 20s as a “normal” drinker, having a few pints with friends in pubs and clubs.

But as he become more successful, years of boozy liquid lunches, entertaining business clients and colleagues took its toll and turned him into what he described as a functioning alcoholic.

“I never had a hangover because I never sobered up,” says Russell. “I would organise my whole life around having a drink, holding meetings at lunchtime in a pub or only ever going anywhere where I knew alcohol was available.”

He said drinking started off being pleasurable but had got beyond the enjoyment stage. “Eventually, it was just how quickly I could get the alcohol down my neck.”

First, Russell was convicted of drink-driving and lost his driving licence.

Next, his work began to suffer.

“I was drinking before important meetings and it was all getting out of hand,” he recalls.

Eventually, his doctor warned him that he was getting perilously close to developing cirrhosis of the liver.

“At that stage, I knew I had to do something.”

Russell’s Ukranian partner, Darya Dyugel, also realised she had a drink problem and was desperate to do something about it. “I was drinking every day. We realised together that we had a big problem,” she says.

It was during a visit to the Ukraine to see Darya’s family that the couple first heard of “The Code”.

This treatment involves a detoxification followed by an injection of a special chemical compound which blocks receptors in the brain – in a similar fashion to the way the drug Champix helps to stop you wanting a cigarette – in order to reduce the craving for alcohol.

This is followed by the surgical implant of a drug called disulfiram, a drug widely used in the UK in tablet form, but not available in a slow release form which can last up to a year.

Disulfiram is used as a deterrent to help alcoholics break their dependence.

If someone drinks any alcohol after taking disulfiram, the drug produces very unpleasant symptoms, ranging from headaches, nausea and palpitations, possibly even unconsciousness.

INTRIGUED by good reports of this treatment, the couple contacted a private clinic in Riga, capital of the Baltic republic of Latvia, which offers this form of treatment for alcoholism. Impressed by the set-up, the couple decided to take the plunge.

“The disulfiram implant goes in at the top of the leg through a very small incision. It lasts up to 12 months and completely stops you from drinking,” says Russell.

“It is brilliant and nobody else is doing this in Britain. I have spent the last 18 months researching all of this. They treat people from Russia and Poland, but not from the UK.”

Russell’s business brain soon began to consider the opportunities available.

“I realised there must be thousands of other people in Britain who could benefit from The Code,” he says.

The result is his recently launched company, Aluston Health, which offers £2,000-a-head packages covering flights, accommodation and treatment at the Riga clinic.

“We made the decision to take people to Latvia because it is in the EU, with high standards of medical care and many staff who have been trained in the UK,” he says.

“If you have an alcohol problem in this country it really is difficult to get treatment. There are massively long waits to get into a detox facility – if you can find one – and they are extremely expensive if you are paying privately.

“At the same time they often involve a long stay whereas this treatment takes five days and has absolutely remarkable results.”

Darya was also impressed.

“It is the best thing I have done.

It helped me mentally and physically and sorted loads of problems out.

I have felt much happier and been much healthier since the treatment.”

Mr Hughes sums it up: “I felt that I was in a darkened room but after the treatment I feel that I am in the light again.”

This article was originally published by the Northern Echo at

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