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alcohol health alliance uk

Soaring numbers drinking more

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Posted 15/09/20

Balance has responded to alarming new figures out today (Tues 15 Sept) which suggest soaring numbers of people in England are drinking more during the pandemic.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ new analysis of Public Health England’s latest data on the indirect effects of Covid-19 found that over 8.4 million people are now drinking at higher risk, up from just 4.8 million in February.

The college warns that addiction services in England are not equipped to treat the soaring numbers of people drinking at high risk during the pandemic and must receive a multi-million-pound funding boost in the upcoming spending review. It comes as individuals and organisations this week highlighted the harms of alcohol in the separate Harms Commission report and called on the Government for a new alcohol strategy.

A major survey in the North East published in April found more than one quarter of North East drinkers (26%) were drinking more since lockdown. And while one in three (37%) had cut down or stopped, it was the heaviest drinkers who were drinking more, risking their health.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “This is incredibly worrying and suggests our nation’s drinking problem could be getting worse. We have seen reports of people stockpiling alcohol and while some people are cutting down, for others their long term habits may be turning into addictions which will harm their health and affect the people around them,.

“Times are tough and many of us are anxious but using alcohol to cope is not the answer. In the short term alcohol can harm our immune system, cause weight gain and can make us feel more tired and depressed, and in the longer term it can raise our risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke.

“As a nation, and as a region, alcohol is not just harming individuals but the families and communities around them. Alcohol is too cheap, too available and too heavily advertised and we urgently need a new Government strategy to tackle this.”

He added: “We need to recognise that the harm caused by alcohol goes far beyond individuals but lies with the product. The alcohol industry blames drinkers who do not “drink responsibly” when most of their revenue is from people drinking at risky levels.”

Psychiatrists are calling for the Government to use the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to reverse the cuts and enable local authorities to work towards investing £374 million into adult services so they can cope with the increased need for treatment.