UK Politics

Number of high-risk drinkers has ‘doubled since lockdown’ as millions more turn to alcohol

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The number of people drinking at high-risk levels has almost doubled since just before the UK's lockdown, experts have warned.

An estimated 8.4 million people drank "high-risk" amounts of alcohol in June, compared to 4.8 million people four months earlier, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) said.

The college has raised concerns that many addiction services would be unable to treat the "huge numbers" of high-risk drinkers after being "starved of funding" for years.

Image: The NHS advises not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week

Dr Adrian James, the RCP's president, said the government needed to commit "substantial" investment in public health to prevent more lives from being "needlessly lost" to addiction.

A report by the college has called on ministers to reverse cuts and help local authorities work towards investing £374m into adult services to address the increased need for treatment.

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Dr James said: "Addiction services have been starved of funding in recent years meaning many are not able to treat and care for the huge numbers of people who are drinking at high risk.

"More lives will be needlessly lost to addiction unless the government acts now and commits to substantial investment in public health, including adult addiction services, in the spending review.

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Professor Julia Sinclair, chair of the RCP's addictions faculty, said COVID-19 had shown "just how stretched, under-resourced and ill-equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness".

She added: "There are now only five NHS inpatient units in the country and no resource anywhere in my region to admit people who are alcohol dependent with co-existing mental illness.

"Drug-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions were already at all-time highs before COVID-19. I fear that unless the government acts quickly we will see these numbers rise exponentially."

The men were said to be dependent on alcohol
Image: Addiction services have been 'starved of funding' for years, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said

The NHS says both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.

One unit of alcohol is about half a pint of beer or a single measure (25ml) of spirits, while a small glass of wine contains about 1.5 uniRead More – Source