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Gateshead supports day of action to tackle alcohol misuse

Posted 05/09/14

Councillor Peter Mole will be joining community and public health specialists to visit Changing Lives’ Gateshead-based abstinence treatment service today (Friday 5th September), to talk about what action is needed to reduce alcohol harms.

Chair of Gateshead Community Safety Board, Councillor Peter Mole, will be meeting members of the staff team at Changing Lives’ alongside service users to hear about their personal experiences of alcohol and the impact it is having on the local community.

The visit is part of today’s National Day of Action on Alcohol Harm, organised by the Alcohol Health Alliance, which brings together a range of partners including Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, to highlight the problems caused by alcohol misuse.

It also aims to increase support around a range of measures to reduce the levels of alcohol-related harm - including the introduction of a minimum unit price, measures to make alcohol less available and greater restrictions upon alcohol marketing.

Eileen Ronan, Assistant Director at charity Changing Lives, said: “Our staff team and volunteers work with some of the most socially excluded and vulnerable people in our communities who are dependant on alcohol. We hear about and see, day-in, day-out, the real harm and negative effects that alcohol misuse can have on those who have experienced addiction, and their families and loved ones.

“We want people to understand that addiction is a health issue which can happen to anyone at anytime and it’s often symptomatic of other trauma which has happened in people’s lives. At Changing Lives, we know that with the right support, people can and do recover from addiction and we’d like to ensure more people receive the treatment they need directly from specialist services like ours, as well as reduce the stigma attached.”

In the UK one person is killed every single hour by alcohol. Annually 1.2 million people are admitted to hospital due to alcohol, and it also costs the British economy £21 billion every year. In addition, alcohol causes huge problems for individuals and families across the country – in England, nearly 80,000 babies under one year old live with a parent who drinks problematically and 74% of child mistreatment cases in the UK are alcohol-related.

On a regional level, the North East continues to have the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions, the highest rate of under 18 alcohol-specific hospital admissions and the highest rate of under 18s in alcohol treatment. Alcohol is a factor in around half of all violent crime and it costs the North East economy around £1.1bn each year.

Councillor Peter Mole said: “The drinking culture that the North East has built up over generations has had, and continues to have, a major impact on the lives of so many people. Binge drinking in particular remains a big issue and we need to change the way that we think about alcohol and the harm it can do.

“Too many people in this region are drinking their way to major health issues and shortening their lives because of their relationship with alcohol. This centre is doing very important work with some of the people who have been most affected by the damage that alcohol misuse can do to lives. But, we must do more to reduce the number of people getting to this stage in the first place.”

Sue Taylor, Partnerships Manager at Balance, added: “It’s extremely positive that so many North East partners are supporting the National Day of Action on Alcohol Harm.

“We need Government to prioritise tackling alcohol-related harm and to commit to evidence-based action. Here in the North East we continue to suffer at the hands of alcohol. The fact is that too many people are drinking too much too often and it is having a devastating impact across the region. This is driven by alcohol that is too cheap, too widely available and too heavily marketed.”

For further information on the National Day of Action on Alcohol Harm visit www.21billion.org. You can also contact your MP directly and ask them to prioritise tackling alcohol harm by visiting www.writetothem.com.